La Fille has entered the perfectly normal phase of having an imaginary friend. Except in her case it is not one but several and they are not exactly friends but monkeys. I am not sure how many there are as it seems to vary. She has mentioned a blue money, a yellow monkey, a red monkey and a pink monkey. Sometimes a black monkey puts in an appearance. I know very little about these animals except the pink one appears to be her favourite and the yellow one is "a bit mechant" (naughty) and is frequently banished to La Fille's room. (Where does she get it from?) To be honest, I am not sure if this is entirely normal behaviour. I looked up 'imaginary friends' in the French childcare bible, 'How to bring up a good Republican', and was surprised to find it did mention monkeys. It was in the last paragraph and was along the lines of: "if (note: if not when) your child should mention something so utterly fantastical as having seen a monkey in the street, don't say: 'no, I don't believe you', because she may have actually seen a monkey"; the subtext being that if you say "monkey, what monkey? Don't be so ridiculous", you will screw her up for life. Confused about what the French line is on monkey friends, as opposed to those one sees wandering the boulevards of Paris, I have avoided mentioning them at the halte garderie for fear of being referred again to a child psychologist (the reason for my giving up work and starting a blog in the first place).
Having so many new chums makes for a lot of extra work. At breakfast this morning, La Fille demanded I set out different coloured bowls for her, her favourite doll Bébé, Pink Monkey and Snow Bear. Sometimes they all turn up for cornflakes, orange juice and toast and imaginary food just will not do. Exhausted from feeding the non-existent guests, I was about to plonk myself down next to La Fille when she shrieked: "Stop, Mama! Pink Monkey..." pointing at the empty chair. For two pennies I would have said: "For goodness sake, there are no bloody monkeys," but I remembered the book's advice just in time. Not wanting her to grow up a deranged monster because I had questioned the existence of a monkey, I squeezed round the other side of the table; too far to stop Pink Monkey tipping orange juice all over the floor. The other day I left La Fille for a couple of minutes and returned to find her giving Pink Monkey a right old telling off, complete with finger-wagging, for spilling cornflakes on the floor. "That's it! I'm really not very happy with you," I heard her say. "Goodness, do I really sound such a harridan?", I thought. Afterwards it struck me this performance might have been staged for my benefit and that La Fille is a rather clever monkey.
Attempts to keep the monkeys our little secret failed spectacularly yesterday when La Fille decided Pink Monkey and Blue Monkey were coming with her to the halte garderie. Walking along the street pretending to hold a pretend monkey's hand was fine. "Who cares if everyone thinks I'm mad," I thought, but I did casually suggest it might be better not to mention the monkeys at the nursery. "OK," agreed La Fille with a reassuring smile. When I picked her up two hours later, one of the staff took me aside and said La Fille had been chattering insistently about something they could not understand. At this point La Fille grabbed my hand. "Come on, let's take the monkeys home," she said. "That's it, that's what she's been talking about all morning," said the woman. "Oh, um, well, er...that'll be the monkeys, her imaginary friends," I mumbled, grabbing La Fille and fleeing before anyone could call the French equivalent of social services.
The move to France was only supposed to be for a couple of years, not forever. Then I met The Frenchman. Then I had La Fille. Now there's no way back. But La Fille, to whom a horse is a cheval and a frog is just pond life is still half English. So before the Gallic nation claims her for its own, sprinkles her with garlic, sautés her and swallows her up whole we make regular escapes on the Eurostar. And we have discovered the grass is various shades of green either side of the Channel.