The Friends of the THATLou series is running for the month of November with guest blog posts from just that, Friends of THATLou:
Public 1st-Sunday-of-the-month THATLous are funny, because sometimes I have too many people and have to set a limit and sometimes it feels like a bloodbath of people dropping out last minute and I have to struggle to find people to make sure it’s fun for those playing. I found Janine on one of those occasions this summer. We’d been in touch on Twitter, and so I emailed her with a more solid hello than the 140 character limit, asking her if she’d like to join. Little did I know the enormous resource she had at her finger tips – her impressive magazine The Good Life France – nor that she wasn’t based in Paris, but had a verdant garden at her fingertips out in the countryside of France. With huge open arms and a lovely warm welcome she received my email and without a second look posted the THATLou event – which ended up being a hit – on her FB page. We haven’t looked back since, she’s a tried and true Friend of THATLou. So enough with me and on with the Guest Post series, without further ado I am pleased as punch to let Janine speak for herself on her introduction to France:
Janine, of The Good Life France
My name is Janine and I’m a Londoner who now lives in France.
Sounds like the start of an AA meeting doesn’t it and in a way this is my introduction to a lifetime addiction almost, to all things French.
Janine. That was the start of it all I think. The day I was born my Dad was not at my Mum’s side holding her hand or seeing her through the drama and emotion of the stress of her first child being born. He was at a horse race meeting in Brighton in the South of England (that’s how they did it in those days!).
When he returned home, he was flush with excitement and happiness. Not at the birth of his first child but at the win he’d had that day. Five hundred Guineas (a Guinea was one pound and one shilling) which he’d won on a French horse called Janine.
My mother informed him that she wished to call the baby girl Ethel after a beloved aunt. He insisted that they call the baby Janine telling my Mum “she will always be a lucky filly”.
I have very early memories of being told my name was French and it piqued my interest in France from being a small child. I was an avid reader (my Mum tells me I was reading The Times at three years old) and loved to read French history books and learning French at school was never a chore for me because I was so happy to be able to say the words.
When I was fourteen I was offered a chance to go to school in France on an exchange system. I was completely thrilled.
I arrived in Paris and was met by host family matriarch – she was late collecting me, therefore late getting home and drove like a complete maniac to their home in a smart part of the 15th Arrondissment. I was terrified and enthralled in equal measures. She was oblivious to the shouts and screams of other drivers and pedestrians whose vehicles or feet she missed by inches and we screeched to a halt outside an apartment building with gorgeous wrought iron balconies at every window and tall trees lining the avenue.
The apartment was small but terribly chic. I was introduced to the rest of the family, Monsieur, Dominique and Babette the daughters, Edouard, their son, Marie-Claire the sister of Madame and her boyfriend Louis. I had to be kissed by all of them three times and kiss back – I was enchanted.
Madame sent her daughters and me to the Patisserie a short walk away to fetch a cake for dessert that evening. I can still remember all this time later, how “French” I felt going into this wonderful shop, the cakes and pastries all laid out in a glass cabinet – just how a jeweller lays out his diamonds and gold. We bought an apple tart and a baguette. They were beautifully wrapped and we walked home with them passing dozens of other kids also carrying small paper packages of cakes and baguettes tucked under their arms.
After dinner, a formal (by my London standards) affair with all of us sitting together for hours at the table, everyone talking ten to the dozen, noisy and terribly cosmopolitan, we shared the apple tart. The meal was accompanied by wine – I’d never have been allowed alcohol back home and was exhilarated by this grown up treatment. Then we finished with coffee – in a bowl. No cup and saucer, no handle. It was SO French.
I adored the French family, Paris and everything about my visit and so began my love affair. One that has been on-going for decades and for which my husband forgives me. It is a love affair with Paris and France and it will last a lifetime…
Janine is the Editor of The Good Life France (www.thegoodlifefrance.com) an online magazine about France and all things French. You can find her at The Good Life France, on Twitter @LifeFrance or on Facebook.
See here for a generous article where Janine interviewed me about THATLou.