I love La Fille to bits. A couple of days ago I would have said I would do anything for her. After spending much of the previous 48 hours preparing a fancy dress costume for carnival celebrations at her nursery, I am having a rethink. It was the butterfly wings that did it. With her eye-patch I felt she made a natural pirate. I would jag the legs of an old pair of jeans, top them with a stripy t-shirt and tie a scarf around her head. Easy peasy. I could do all that before breakfast. Accessories such as toy cutlasses and swords were banned, but I felt sure we had an old balsa wood parrot in a cupboard somewhere. No girlie frou-frou fairy or princess costume for La Fille, I thought smugly.
But of course she did not want to be a pirate.
"How about a ladybird?" I suggested after a rummage through her clothes; black leggings and a red t-shirt, perfect. All I needed was a cardboard oval cut out of a cereal packet that could be painted red with black spots perhaps if not before breakfast then certainly between dinner time and breakfast without losing much sleep.
She did not want to be a ladybird either. She wanted to be a butterfly.
In London, I would have probably succumbed to Competitive Parent Syndrome and bought a butterfly costume. Here in our corner of Paris, this would have been a faux pas of walk-on-the-moon proportions: not in keeping with the spirit of things; worse, Mum a bit of a show-off. Besides, how difficult could butterfly wings be? Stupid question. For starters I assumed making papier-maché was easy, the sort of thing any handy mother - and I am pretty handy - could do. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I put the newspaper IN the paste instead of the paste ON the paper so I ended up with a sodden mess that stuck to everything except the butterfly wing-shaped coathangers, then the finger-paint refused to cover the newsprint, then the glittery sequins and the strips of metallic sweet paper I had stuck on for decoration fell off and finally, after hours of carefully painting butterfly patterns on the wings, I used the wrong varnish, the paint ran and everything began cracking. At one point I nearly threw the whole lot in the bin and wondered if I could borrow my stepdaughter's silver stetson (don't ask). "She can go as a one-eyed cowboy," I thought.
I gritted my teeth. "If she wants to be a butterfly, then she will be a butterfly." The next morning La Fille got up, saw a pair of lovingly crafted wings and went: "WOW!" A couple of orange ping-pong balls stuck on pipe cleaners attached by safety pin to a ski hat and voila, La Fille was a butterfly; A sort of Orange Admiral. It was worth the effort for her reaction; I am just not sure I would do it again. There is now a battered pair of butterfly wings in the back of the cupboard with the balsa parrot.
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.