In the first of a new col­umn, mum-of-five re­flects on the highs and lows of life with bilin­gual, cross-cul­tural chil­dren

Gil­lian Har­vey

Living France - - Property Directory -

Mummy, don’t read it to me in French, I want you to read it in anglais!” whines my six-year-old daugh­ter, Lily, as once again, we at­tempt to read her weekly li­brary book.

She hates it when I speak French – partly be­cause I don’t sound like ‘her mummy’ and partly be­cause I don’t sound... well... par­tic­u­larly French.

As I strug­gle through the book, trans­lat­ing a French story about four rats into English (which is both as easy and fun as it sounds), I can’t help but re­flect on the other mo­ments when it’s been brought home to me that I’ll never be quite as ‘French’ as my chil­dren.

When it comes to food, for ex­am­ple, as much as I like to think I’ve adopted a more con­ti­nen­tal diet, quaffing coffee and a pain au chocolat for break­fast and lac­ing my hari­cots verts with vinai­grette, some­times the pull of cer­tain tra­di­tional Bri­tish treats is just too strong.

This time of year, I tend to crave but­ter­drenched hot cross buns, and the kind of Easter treats my mum used to make: choco­late cake gar­nished with Mini Eggs, or rich, golden fruit cake with marzi­pan and ic­ing. And, al­though we en­joy a tra­di­tional French Easter lunch of roast lamb, I can’t re­sist adding the Bri­tish favourite of mint sauce (a com­plete ‘ non­non’!). Un­for­tu­nately, as even larger su­per­mar­kets in my area of­ten only stock a mi­nus­cule (and of­ten bizarre) se­lec­tion of ‘Bri­tish favourites’ in their ‘spe­cially Union Jack’ sec­tions, the only op­tion since our move has been to roll up my sleeves and bake.

Al­though I’m hardly France’s an­swer to Mary Berry, I’ve learned to make a mean Vic­to­ria sponge, have mas­tered the art of the choco­late fudge cake and – de­spite two soggy-bot­tomed, bin bag-split­ting ‘fails,’ have even man­aged to some­how pro­duce a half-de­cent car­rot cake.

Sadly, even when my culi­nary at­tempts suc­ceed, my Franglais lit­tle ones turn their noses up at many Bri­tish favourites. I’ve lost count of the num­ber of tri­fles, ginger­bread men and scones my long-suf­fer­ing hus­band and I have had to wade through af­ter the chil­dren have re­coiled in hor­ror at the din­ner ta­ble.

So our Easter day feast will con­sist of a roast with all the (Bri­tish) trim­mings, a gâteau de Pâques from our lo­cal pâtis­serie, a heavy doorstop of home-made fruit cake, and, of course the oblig­a­tory eggs (choco­late, I find, is some­thing that tran­scends cul­ture).

In short, we’ll have our cake, and eat some gâteau, too.

Hav­ing kids who are slightly cul­tur­ally dif­fer­ent to your­self is both a bless­ing and a curse. On good days, they’re your bridge be­tween Blighty and your new French home; on bad ones they re­mind you that you’re dip­ping your toe into uncharted wa­ters.

And, as for my ac­cent, while Lily might some­times com­ment, “That was re­ally good mummy, but it wasn’t quite français,” on a bad day, she will sim­ply roll her eyes with the kind of in­cred­u­lous de­spair more be­fit­ting of a 15-year-old.

It’s enough to drive me straight to the cake tin.

Some­times the pull of tra­di­tional Bri­tish treats is just too strong

Gil­lian Har­vey is a free­lance writer who has lived in Li­mousin for six years, to­gether with hus­band Ray and their five young chil­dren

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