At the collège for a parent-teacher interview, I met my daughter outside in the courtyard and she showed me up to her classroom. Her teacher was busy chatting, so we waited patiently in the corridor. When he did come out, he indicated that the meeting would take place downstairs and headed off with us in tow.
Before sitting down, I introduced myself using my first name, and put out my hand to be shaken. He mumbled back his full name as he took my hand, although I suspect he would have been shocked if I had actually dared use it. By this stage, I had already understood that teachers did not expect to be questioned about their practices. Of course, I did—question him, that is; politely and almost deferentially. There was a slight pause, as he dipped his head to better digest what he had heard. Then, with the assurance of a perfect, unarguable answer, he replied, “But you are in France, Madame”.
Some months before, my husband, three children and I had casually unzipped and discarded our comfortable Australian lifestyle and slipped on life in the country of haute couture. On arrival, there was no celebrity designer waiting for us, ready to pin and fit our new life to us; so we threw it on and wore it loosely, tightly, uncomfortably, any old how—until we learned for ourselves how to trim, hem and stitch à la française. This book is testament to the joyous, but not always easy, journey that we took along the way.