It’s been a while.

What can I say? Things got busy and the old head took over – “well, I haven’t written anything today, so tomorrow I’ll have to write something REALLY good” – within a week you are committed to writing something that rivals Holy Scripture and it never actually gets done.

So I guess I’ll just start over and backfill as and when it becomes necessary.

The key novelty in our bilingual life is currently singing; or, more precisely, Piaf singing.

It started with “l’araignée Gipsy”; moved onto “dans la forêt lointaine”; and then, just recently, we have hit paydirt with “mon âne”.  She knows the words to these songs; she requests them; she even knows the gestures. When we sing “lundi matin” on the way to nursery (late as usual) I have to wheel the pushchair with one hand so I can walk alongside her, ready to “serrer la pince” at the appropriate moment.

Of course, as I am not French, most of these songs are as new to me as they are to her; I will see them in a book, or remember a reference to them in a novel I once read, and then have to learn them, music and words, from scratch, before I can then teach them to her.

Not knowing the tune is especially irksome. What I normally do is go onto Youtube.fr and see if someone has posted anything from a children’s karaoke video or a 1980’s kids’ show and then play it practically on a loop while I sing along.

An unexpected find came about this way. I was looking into a song called “auprès de ma blonde”. Sure enough, Youtube had a useful kids’ pop video complete with lyrics and some animation that looked like it had been done with Clip Art.

But another link caught my eye – from the image attached, it appeared to be a grown woman singing this song. Her name was also a mystery – Olivia Chaney did not sound particularly francophone. Perhaps a Canadian? I clicked on it.

Watch it yourself now, if you are somewhere with sound. Ignore the fact that this is an old marching song that has since become a nursery rhyme. Ignore the fact that the scene is the Bishopsgate Institute and that Olivia is not French or even Canadian but very British indeed. Ignore the dowdy dress and tights. Ignore, even, the rolling eyes and involuntary tic-like smile that make her look, frankly, a bit possessed.

Listen, instead, to a woman singing about a husband taken as a prisoner of war by the Dutch and how she would give everything and anything to see him again and then tell me that this single rendition does not tell you everything there is to know about the human heart. Even if you hate folk music, tell me that any composer who omits the human voice from his or her work is not missing a trick.

I dare you.

De moi, papa; de maman; et surtout de Piaf; passez un joyeux Noël.

Regular readers can probably guess what this is about just from the title. Yes, I hold my hands up – I have bought a Peppa Pig DVD in French. Peppa is still called Peppa Pig, incidentally (not Colette Cochon, for example) which you might think would cause problems for young ears, as it means there are three characters called Peppa Pig, Papa Pig and Papi Pig. But not a bit of it.

However, in other respects, it has not been entirely trouble-free. We arrived home to find it waiting for us one evening and, in response to Piaf’s strident cries of “Peppa Pick! Peppa Pick!” I triumphantly put it in the DVD player, skipped through the trailers and sat back.

Piaf watched half the first episode, then … “Peppa Pick! Peppa Pick!” Already, for her, Peppa spoke English. It therefore followed that this Francophone sow could not be her. 

I tried to reason with her. Pointing one by one to the characters on the screen, we established that, yes, that was Peppa; that was George; and there were Mummy and Daddy Pigs. Yet she was still not entirely convinced and we ended up compromising and watching Casimir for the rest of the evening.

The next day, however, she had fully accepted that Peppa, like her, was bilingual, and watched her in French with no complaints.

Here’s hoping she likes the Dim Dam Doum DVD she’s getting in her stocking and that the pig-love is just a blip.

Talking of stockings – or, perhaps, souliers – Piaf met le Père Noël for the first time recently in Balham – and he spoke French! She was a bit disconcerted to see him in the flesh rather than just in a picture and was probably a bit young but, with a February birthday, next Christmas seems so long to wait – she’ll be nearly three by then, practically an adult! French Chistmas songs were also the order of the day, including five full verses of Douce nuit – I don’t know that many verses in English …

I found myself feeling slightly snooty to hear other parents speaking to each other in English. Typical, I thought – let les rosbifs in and they take over …

Today’s treat is a suitably festive number from Johnny who, I was glad to hear recently, is well on the mend. Joyeuses fêtes, Monsieur Smet!

Once upon a time I blogged about TV5 and how it played a part in our bilingual weekends (saturday morning is a very “French” time in our household, because it is maman’s lie-in.) We don’t watch it half as much now, because the children’s programmes are currently a bit rubbish – not only less suitable for children of Piaf’s age, but also a bit try-hard, very Americanised or Japanesised (what a fantastic new word – use it today, I dare you.)

Back in the day, this is what we used to wake up to. Pacha et les Chats – the best thing to come out of French Canada since Rumeurs . Good times.

Bouche bée.

You’ve waited so patiently for a clip, I feel I owe you something really special.

This is one of Piaf’s favourite songs at bed time – indeed, she has recently added “matelot” to her active vocabulary, a word she certainly doesn’t hear elsewhere.

However, as I still have some sort of life, I settle for singing it, rather than building it out of Lego and filming it.

Ohé!

Swinging Sixties à la française. Two cover versions that show why France is, was and always will be  the epitome of cool.

The French will claim to have invented all sorts of things if you let them. A Frenchman may or may not have invented the motor car. They lay claim to football and cricket (yes – cricket! is nothing sacred?) During a drunken conversation, a French student once went so far as to tell me that the French had invented bread. Surely that got a mention in the Bible, I ventured? Didn’t that suggest that the staff of life predated modern France? Or had a Frenchman written that too?

One thing that the French definitely were pretty much responsible for was the pop video. In the 1960s, when Hamburg, London and all points west were an unquenchable market for live bands, France fell in love with the Scopitone, a sort of video juke box found in cafes. At the same time as your record played, a film, normally of the artist “performing” or “interpreting” his or her hit, was shown on a small, built-in screen. 

Knowing and admiring your love of French popular culture, I have unearthed, on Youtube.fr, Sylive Vartan performing La Locomotion, the French version of Little Eva’s hit.

As this charming little “clip” makes clear, the French may have been world leaders in film-making and music video technology, but in the art of lip-synching they still had some way to go …

Like this? Try these. 

Je grimace, tu grimaces, elle grimace … 

Je présente, tu présentes, elle présente … 

J’écoute, tu écoutes, elle écoute …

Whether you want to laugh with Jamel or laugh at Cloclo (again) it’s all good.

Like this? Try these.

Je présente, tu présentes, elle présente … 

Je me moque de lui, tu te moques de lui, elle se moque de lui …

Je fredonne, tu fredonnes, elle fredonne …

A classically understated performance by the young Johnny Halliday. It really is amazing, isn’t it, that the Americans beat the French to the punch when it came to inventing soul music?