Je Suis Elise, Saga, Laure…

I’d forgotten just how miserable February can be; London is cold and wet, the sky mostly grey. Any cheerful optimism and hope for the new year have long since evaporated, and the daily news ought to come with a mental health warning attached, especially for news junkies like myself.

Meanwhile, social media is awash with people expressing their outrage at everything under the sun. Public outrage has become so à la mode that if you’re not continuously spewing self-righteous opprobrium on your Twitter account, you’re selling out. You’re either with us or against us. Everything seems black and white, and trial by public opinion has become the order of the day for any self-appointed armchair activist.

In this kind of ‘toxic’ climate, there’s only one thing to do – if you’re me that is – fire up the Netflix and TV apps on my iPad and indulge my addiction to crime series. If you fancy emotionally stunted, or psychologically tortured female cops, you’re in luck because they are everywhere. Even Brenda Blethyn’s irresistible Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is a bit messed up.


Laure Berthaud

Initially, I justified my binge watching of the gritty French cop show Spiral (Engrenages, in French) with flimsy claims I was practising my French. But six seasons later, any French vocabulary I’ve picked up from Laure Berthaud, the unkempt, emotionally stunted but brilliant (of course) cop who headlines Spiral is unfit for polite conversation.



Elise Wassermann


Barely had the sixth season ended before I moved on to the last ever series of The Tunnel (the French/British remake of the Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge) and cried so much my face turned red and swollen when troubled cop Elise Wassermann died in a heroic act of self-sacrifice.


I was so choked up by the finale that I neglected to come to my daughter’s assistance when she slipped on the stairs and hurt herself.

“For goodness sake, Elise just died,” was all I could say when confronted about my lack of motherly compassion.

And I wept some more during the last ever scene featuring Saga Norén of The Bridge, feeling wholly bereft by the time the end credits had finished. With both Elise and Saga gone forever, I can’t wait to find out what happens to Laure in the seventh season of Spiral.

With nothing better to watch in the meantime, I’m reluctantly selling my soul to ITV’s Marcella although I struggle to get past Anna Friel’s heavily Botoxed face. There’s Collateral on BBC of course, which looks promising but neither Marcella nor Carey Mulligan’s Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie engages my emotions quite the same way that Laure, Saga and Elise did.

Of course, I could simply turn off the TV, put away the iPad, and engage with the real world instead, but why would I want to do that? February is bleak enough as it is.

Vince and I (forever?)

It’s half-term break, and it feels like all I’ve done is play Top Trumps (the Harry Potter edition), a card game so dull and pointless that I am seriously considering paying my kids not to play with me anymore.

“You’re so boring,” my 7-year old says. “You never play with me.”

I take a few deep breaths so as not to scream out loud, “I’ve been playing with you all week for f-s sake!”

Her older sister is currently hooked on Rubik’s Race, a two-player game based on Rubik’s cube, and I’d probably rejoice if it weren’t for the fact she’s forever badgering me to play, knowing perfectly well that she’s going to win each time.

Four days into the half-term break I’m so desperate for time alone that I practically force my kids to watch Netflix.

Half-term conveniently coincides with one of the most contrived days of the year, Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, everyone in my family except me takes this ‘Hallmark holiday’ very seriously. The bigger the card, the bigger the love, seems to be the rule, so this year I’ve gone out of my way to find a BIG card for my husband.

What I haven’t thought of, however, is buying Valentine’s cards for my daughters. Why would I? When my 7-year old realises this unforgivable omission on my part, she storms off to her room, shouting, “you don’t love me!” Thankfully, my husband has a much better grasp on the etiquette of card giving and has bought cards for the children, which he graciously let me share.

Perhaps it’s something to do with my Scandinavian roots, but I’ve never been a very touchy-feely kind of person, and I’ve never quite understood the British tradition of handing out cards to people at every imaginable opportunity. By all means send a card to someone for their birthday, or even at Christmas if you must, but what’s the point of handing someone a card when you’re with them already?

Ever so eco-minded, my daughters don’t buy ready-made cards these days, they make them from scratch, which is lovely, except home-made cards can’t in all consciousness be thrown in the bin after a week, can they?

For years, I never had a single Valentine’s Card from anyone; yesterday I received four. Two handmade ones from my daughters, a heartfelt one from my husband – and a hand-delivered card, addressed to me personally, from the Liberal Democrats.



I’ve never voted Lib Dem; in truth, I’ve never voted in the UK at all. Since I don’t hold a British passport, I’m barred from voting in national elections although I pay taxes here; as a London resident, however, I’m eligible to vote in local elections, although I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never bothered. And if I had voted, I’m not so sure I’d have voted Lib Dem.

Even so, I can’t help feeling rather cheered by this unexpected Valentine’s card. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn might not give a toss about me, my kids may (justly, I must admit) think I’m boring, but that’s ok ’cause Vince Cable says I’m wonderful.

Cleft Beauty

Cute-Golden-Retriever-Puppy-640x400Some people get a happiness boost from watching YouTube clips with cute puppies and kittens.

As for me, I’ve never quite felt much love for furry creatures, perhaps because I’m extremely allergic to them, cats in particular.

If ever you wanted to kill me off without getting caught, a mixture of cat, dog and hyacinth will do the trick.

My parents and siblings all have furry pets these days, making any visit to their homes a health hazard for me, but perhaps that’s the whole point.

When my daughters ask for a puppy or kitten of their own, I say they’ve got to choose:

“It’s either me or the pet.”

Accepting defeat, they both vow to get not just cats and dogs when they grow up and have flown the nest, but horses and rabbits as well. I get the message.

No, furry creatures don’t make my day, but cleft babies do. Continue reading

Not Another Brick in the Wall

learn-3069106_640I’m trying to teach my daughters not to be good girls.

“You don’t always have to be a good girl at school, just be who you are,” I tell my 7-year old.  She stares at me, shakes her head, and says,

“You’re crazy, mummy. I have to be a good girl or the teachers will tell me off.”

“No, you don’t. Not if being a good girl means obeying every silly little rule, and not standing up for yourself,” I retort.

I’m not out to subvert my children’s school, but I think it’s ok to not know the eight times table perfectly before going to bed if you’re tired after a long day at school and need a bit of playtime before dinner.

And so what if there are a few spelling mistakes in your French homework? You’ll live, daughter dear.

There’s a reason why I am trying to encourage my daughters to bend the rules just a teeny bit at school: I am acutely aware of the personality split they exhibit at home and at school respectively. While my 7-year old is a poster child for good girls at school, her mood does a U-turn the moment she arrives home. Anger, resentment, jealousy take over, and I believe it’s partially a reaction to the pressure of behaving impeccably during the school day. Being a good girl is bloody exhausting.

I have first-hand experience of the damage that being a good girl can do – self-harm, eating disorders and depression – which is why I believe it’s infinitely more important that my kids are happy in themselves than scoring house points and getting straight A’s at school. I don’t give a toss about them being ‘Oxbridge material’. As long as they stay out of jail, don’t harm themselves or others and continue to pursue their passions in life, I’m happy.

I wish my daughters would worry less about getting told off by a teacher and feel a bit freer to express their emotions at school. That way, their dad and I might not have to serve as verbal punching bags when they come home. If you’re angry with a friend, tell them. If your teacher is unfair, speak up.

“So what, if your teacher tells you off for not bringing a pen grip to school,” I say to my 7-year old. “Don’t take it to heart.” Besides, I don’t want something as petty as a pen grip to ruin my entire evening.

To her older sister, my husband lectures about the need to speak up when we’re unhappy about something, such as getting a measly 6-line part in the school play for the seventh year running.

Sadly, we’re both failing badly in our attempt to instil some rebelliousness in our daughters. Unsurprisingly, the last thing they want to do is take advice from their dinosaur parents.

“You don’t understand,” the 11-year old screams and slams the door in her dad’s face, while her sister looks at me with reproach, “do you realise what trouble I’d get into if I were to follow your advice, mummy?”

Oh, help! School is turning my children into little good girl monsters, and I need to rescue them before it’s too late.

“I don’t care if you’re bad and get into trouble with your teachers now and then, as long as you are you,” I shout in exasperation to my daughters and play Pink Floyd to them.

We don’t need no education

We don’t need no thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

Teachers leave them kids alone

Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall