Springtime in Paris. The daffodils, roses, magnolias and linden trees simply bursting with heavenly colours and smells make April in Paris so perfect that not even an attentive and loving husband could ruin it. It reminds me of the first enchanted spring days of my childhood at La Paumardiere, when I used to watch my father caring for the horses, rams and bulls, and I'd hop up and down like a little bunny and beg "Papa, please let me use the emasculator." And it has been a stellar time for France, with victories at home-Nicolas' triumph over a creepy foreign enemy at the National Livestock Show (Foreign Enemy: "Don't touch me, you soil me when you do." Nicolas, ever the grand statesman: "So get lost, mother fucker." (www.youtube.com/watch)-and abroad: after conquering America with an Oscar, we conquered England with a brilliant visit in late March, and I haven't felt such a bounce in my step since last year's fashion week in Paris when I saw American Vogue editor Anna Wintour's ten-foot black pashmina get caught under the revolving door at the Ritz and watched her being dragged around repeatedly to bloodied unconsciousness before finally being spewed out onto the place Vendôme during the garbage strike and I rushed to her and said "Why bangs?"
I hadn't been to England for several years and was rather surprised at how the land of pomp and circumstance has so quickly turned into a land of binge-drinking louts who'd just as soon slit your throat as look at you; and that's just the royal family. It is, however, perhaps a good thing that the royals-and notably the Queen, who, legend has it, at the tender age of thirteen discovered the Fountain of Old Age-are much less formal than before. At Heathrow, we were met by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who greeted Nicolas with the stirring-the-pot-with-both-hands move and "Lookin' fly, nigga!" Then they started stirring counterclockwise as they turned to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and said "'Sup, bitch?" They accompanied us to Windsor, where we found British officials charming but perhaps a trifle less sophisticated than what we're used to. When Nicolas was introduced to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and said "Bonjour," the archbishop replied "Well, la-di-da, look at Mr. Fancy Pants pretending to talk 'French'!" repeating the phrase as, his miter tilting wildly, he tiptoed with quick little baby steps around the presidential couple.
But perhaps what surprised us most was the fact that, in private, both the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Majesty have Cockney accents.
"Oy! Yew! Come 'ere!" shouted the Queen across the beautiful lawn as we got out of the car in Windsor. As we walked past the black-faced sheep and drew closer, we saw that she and Prince Philip each had a cigarette in one hand and a can of beer in the other. "Well, if it int de froggers," said Her Majesty, whereupon she kicked Nicolas in the groin.
"Yew seen me, dincha?" she said as she looked with doe-eyed affection at the Duke of Edinburgh, who popped open another can of felony-generator, swilled it, then spit.
"Well done, luvvy girl," said the Duke, "ya gived it to 'im roih in de ol power drill." Charles and Camilla had now joined the Queen and Prince Philip and they helped throw Nicolas, Carla and me to the ground, then kicked us and burned us with cigarettes and smashed their beer cans on us and took turns peeing on us as they shrieked "Welcome to Great fucking Britain, you bloody foreign buggers!"
To be perfectly fair, the royal family were probably still under the shock of Prince Charles having been arrested twice within the past month, once for "defibrillating a penguin for non-medical purposes," a serious crime in England, and then again when the Prince was discovered at 2 a.m. at the London Zoo with his entire head inside a zebra's ass, claiming when questioned by police that he thought he'd fallen into a sewer with his sunglasses on, an argument that did not prevail.
I was housed in the most scrumptious room and could almost have been back at La Paumardiere if it weren't for the electric kettle next to the bed and hearing Her Majesty and Prince Philip bickering through the paper thin walls at night over who got to sing the high part on "I'm Glad I'm Not Pretty." The Queen looked in on us and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Her Majesty, her somewhat rustic manners notwithstanding, is bilingual, and she made a point of making us feel at home by speaking French. "Are you comfortabeau?" she asked Nicolas. And then to Carla. "And you are comfortabelle?"
And Nicolas replied, "If only my English were as good as your French!" and this seemed to please the Queen.
And then Her Majesty asked how it was that, being French, I spoke such perfect English. And I told her that I had learned the language at boarding school in Switzerland with the offspring of British and American millionaires for whom l'Etourneau has proudly served for over one hundred years as a dumping ground and an incubator for lifelong addictions, chronic mental illness and careers in the financial services sector. My children, I told her, are all at least bilingual, and two of my sons actually work in London. Thibault-Pepin works for Christie's, where he is head of the price-fixing department, and Foulque-Sixte is a disc jockey, i.e., has his own crack and ecstasy dealership; and my only other child old enough to be out of school, Amboise-Hanus, is also bilingual, which comes in handy, I told Her Majesty, as he sells used châteaux to the Americans and the Japanese in France's suicide mecca, the Cotentin peninsula.
On the other hand, most of my compatriots believe that speaking English fluently doesn't really require learning to do it so much as wanting to do it. Which is why our government’s five official scientific advisers on English are not linguists but two judges, two pediatricians and a transsexual dentist Catherine-Christopher “Nobody Nose” Miller. To prove just how easy it is to master the sub-cultural language of the Americans, one of the judges even gave a lecture in English in which she described her job as "Judges Training," ( /www.pogar.org/activities), proving that English Talking is really just a matter of People Wanting to sound like Charles Barkley and George W. Bush, as do our effortlessly bilingual pediatricians, who summarize their most recent book thus: "This collection deal with the child development and interaction with their environment and with the appearance of thought.". (www.odilejacob.com) (Gullibility is, alas, the wart in the middle of the collective French face. I remember a mailman who once knocked on my door here at 60, rue de Varenne and I had just got up and was sitting at the baby grand in the library playing the twenty-first Goldberg Variation wearing only my rings and so leapt up and grabbed a chinchilla throw off the sofa and held it with one hand fanning out on my chest and a cigarette holder in the other, answered the door and there he was standing between my ball laurels and he said "Are you the concierge?" And I said "Darling, if you believe that, you'll believe anything.")
Nicolas blames his former teacher, Ms. Glatigny (who is still around and still telling children things like "Computers cannot make mistakes," which sounds like something a Sputnik era B-movie scientist might utter right before having his lungs sucked out through his nose by the computer) for the poor English grades that prevented him from getting into the Political Science Institute, which is widely regarded as the fourth greatest institution of higher learning within six blocks of the Café de Flore. But while Nicolas is angry with the English language, he refuses to be bullied by it and speaks it fearlessly, and likes to pepper his conversations with English expressions, such as "Better to have one bird than two bushes," and "Two heads are certainly smarter than one head is by itself," and is even unafraid to serve, in a pinch, as an interpreter. Camilla approached him before dinner and said "Oh Nicolas, I was just trying to tell Mlle. Tour de la Blatte here how much our pichi dwarf armadillo loves crowberries, nannyberries and lint, but I don't know how to say it in French."
© 2008 Louise de la Paumardiere
About LOUISE DE LA PAUMARDIERE It would be difficult to imagine anyone more purely French or a better embodiment of France and French values than polyglamorous Louise de la Paumardiere. Loulou's paternal great grandfather Andre Le Troquer, unfairly removed from office as President of the French Senate in 1958 for having run a pedophile network, and her maternal grandfather General Paul Ausseresses, unfairly stripped of his rank and thrown out of the Legion d'Honneur because of his role as a torturer in the Franco-Algerian war, are but two of her many famous ancestors. Author of From Foreign to French: 100 Makeovers in Stories and Pictures (New York and London: PLB Books, 2006), multi-talented and multilingual Loulou de la Paumardiere first came to public attention when several of the high-profile Paris-based foreign women on whom she performed makeovers committed suicide. Her family operates the majority of the uniquely French institutions known as Centres d'aide par le travail, or CATS, factories in which handicapped French citizens are employed at less than minimum wage because, as Loulou puts it with her typical Cartesian clarity, "they are handicapped." Her ancestral home, Château de la Paumardiere in Boilly-sur-Gui, an hour from Paris in Normandy, has hosted every head of state since Louis XIV and was a favorite haunt of Lully the Sodomite. She continues that great tradition of French hospitality on weekends in Boilly and during the week at her luxurious mansion at 60, rue de Varenne in Paris.