Darker Fables

Writing and reviews. Adventures, maybe? Exciting, definitely.



I’m Going to India!

The past few months have been messy. I haven’t blogged in anything but the most cursory sense since I don’t know when, and I seem to have been living underwater, surfacing for air once every few weekends, but otherwise living submerged in a mindless rhythm of churning out words for my dissertation.

It has reached a stage where I no longer know what it means. I write and rewrite, edit and re-edit in a vain search for meaning, understanding those authors who seem unable to finish their series. I think, like me, they get so caught up in the vision of the story that to write it becomes impossible.

In one clairvoyant moment when I lifted my head, I sent an application. I think it was more to break from the slog than because I thought there was any hope of hearing back, but hear back I did. And then in rapid fire succession there was an interview, and now though I’m still reeling from the surprise of it, it seems I… got it?

Wait. What?

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I’m going to India for two weeks of summer school! Hooray! Everything but travel is funded by my scholarship! Hooray! I’ll get to go on another adventure, just when my current one comes to an end! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

Excuse me if that seems a bit sarcastic. It isn’t, not at all, but I’m still waiting for it to feel in any way real. Flights are booked, my visa is approved, and all the confirmation emails have been sent and received, but the only word is surreal.

I will be studying at Amity University in Uttar Pradesh for two weeks, then flying south to Bangalore to meet my Indian family for the first time. Afterwards I shall arrive home a more cultured, international person, and a better blogger. Goodness knows I’ve made that commitment many times, but as part of the scholarship, I have to document my trip, and share it with the world.

Updates soon!

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So You’re Going to be an Au Pair…?

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I have some thoughts on the subject. Having just completed a year and three months long stint of childcare work in France, boy do I know what you’re letting yourself in for.

This post is dedicated to anyone going into the childcare profession, specifically those entering language instructor/nanny positions. These are some things I wish I had known when I was starting out.

1. Children behave differently when their parents aren’t around.

If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll go through a childcare agency, who will take a look at your CV and match you with a family. You will then visit the family, see what’s what, and decide whether you want to take the contract.

A great idea, except that those angelic cherubs, showing you all their toys and twirling around in their princess dresses under maman and papa’s admiring gaze, are not an accurate portrayal of what you’re going to be dealing with.

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2. The parents may be unaware how bad their children can be.

Your predecessor is long gone, so there’s no one to give you the low-down. You’ll just have to gamble, hope for the best.

Now, day one. Cut to you sprinting down the street after a laughing eight-year-old who is trying to lose you on the way home. Cut to you wrestling them for the house keys outside the apartment. Cut to you trying to make the lunch, and them throwing toys out the sixth floor window…

This is likely to be the general flavour of your first few weeks. Only now will you understand what you’ve taken on.

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3. Discipline is difficult.

Their rooms look like the aftermath of a natural disaster. They’ve turned the sink into a potions table, and are pouring glue down the drain. Tomato sauce has been trampled into the carpet, they’ve broken the bathroom door, and the youngest one is screaming loud enough to summon the police.

What can you do to avert the next stream of crises?

Not a lot, because you are one in a long line of ‘nounous’ who have been in this position, and like all before you, you’re being tested. The children have the upper hand – they can communicate with each other in a language you don’t completely understand, and this is their territory.

The one line that will save you? ‘Stop that now or I’m going to call maman.’

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4. The parents will help you, but you have to ask.

Nothing stings a child worse than anticipating maman and papa all evening, and then experiencing them arriving home angry because they’ve been informed of bad behaviour. The parents have powers that you do not, and effective wielding of their assistance will ensure you soon gain the upper hand.

That being said, I don’t think you should tell the parents about every infraction. My method was three strikes and ‘that’s it’, but you have to stand your ground. Decide where your lines are based on the children’s general behaviour, and if you can deal with it yourself, do.

In time, the children will accept your authority, but you need to fight!

5. It’s a physically exhausting job.

A well-behaved child is an entertained child, and you are the entertainment. That means endless rounds of hide-and-seek, a new game at least once a week, and an all-singing-all-dancing show, every minute of every day. You’ll become a master at voicing teddies, and will hear ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ echoing in your head until you fall asleep.

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6. It is an emotionally exhausting job. 

Leave your heart at the front door, because it’s going to get bruised. Perhaps they wish to vent a subconscious rage at the fact you are a usurper in their parent’s role (I theorise), perhaps it is simply because children will be children. Whatever the reason, there is no denying some will say and do mean things. The youngest, because they don’t know any better, the oldest, because they know it hurts.

This is not true of all children. A few will see you as the friend you are trying to be, but a lot will lash out. During my time in the job I was kicked by a little boy until I had bruises on the backs of my legs, and told by a little girl that I was ugly every day of every week.

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7. Communication is difficult. 

Especially if you are working with children who speak a different language, keep the dialogue simple.

If they want you to go away, don’t always ask why. Just give them some space. Children do not have an adult’s ability to articulate their emotions, and find it especially frustrating when they are tired. Sometimes it’s best just to go, and let them come to you a while later.

Complex emotional issues are for the parents to help them with. You should just try to diffuse the situation and restore a state of calm. Don’t take it personally when you don’t understand. It’s not always your place to.

8. You may not agree with the parents’ parenting techniques.

This can be one of the hardest things, in my experience. Seeing these children day-in day-out forges a bond between you, and whilst you might not love them, you will come to care.

It may be difficult to watch as the drawing you and the children worked on all afternoon just to show maman is airily dismissed. You may find it hard not to say something when you are again told that the children can eat ‘whatever they like’ for snack, although you’ve mentioned they’re constipated.

Because you’re working in so intimate a setting you’re going see things that you don’t agree with, but you have to hold your tongue. They are not your kids, and no one asked for your opinion.

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9. Maintain a professional distance.

Yes, be the children’s friend. Yes, laugh and play together. But remember, things can end abruptly. The family are not always obligated to give you a notice period, if it seems you’re not what they were looking for.

And while it can be nice to chat with the parents when they come in from work, always remember that they are your employer. In most cases they will not welcome you as one of the family, but as house staff. A necessary support in their lifestyle, who can soon be replaced.

10. It gets easier.

I have worked for six different families during my time in Paris, some temporarily, and some for longer contracts. The children have ranged from 1-12 in age.

The first family I ever worked for was by far the most difficult. Two children, one of whom was a Veruca Salt character prone to nuclear tantrums and public masturbation. I more than once arrived home in tears.

But then it got better. I don’t deny it took a long time, but eventually, I found families with whom it was possible to build warm, respectful bonds. I became authoritative, and settled into a rhythm which worked for me. Looking back, I think this job made me tougher than I thought I had it in myself to be. Now, I can handle anything.

So if you’re starting out, this is going to be one of the hardest things you have ever done, but you can do it. I believe in you ❤

Paris in Colour

It’s been so long since I last wrote a personal blog post that it seems a bit insincere to return to this journal format, but this is an important anniversary, or it was, two months and ten days ago, which is when I reached the one year mark since arriving in Paris, and started to consider the awful truth that soon I will be leaving.

In just a few short weeks I will be busy with whatever comes next, so if there’s an appropriate time for reflections, I guess it must be now.


My expectations of this experience were monstrous in scope, and orbited a single, dangerous idea: that I needed to come away from this someone new, quite distinct from my former self. It was, I admit, not only a depressing aim, but an odd one, since Paris is not, in my opinion, a city of any change.

After centuries of relentless artistic analysis, Paris is as Paris was, and as Paris will be. To step onto the metro is to breathe stale air that has washed over a thousand other people, and to be any kind of artist here is not to founder in uncharted waters, but to drink the rich history of the many who went before.


I have not changed. At least not in the ultimate, irrevocable fashion my immature self hoped. Instead of a sudden metamorphosis, I think I instead underwent something closer to a personal evolution. All there is of me is all there was of me, but I wield myself with a better knowledge of my own nature, gained from my experiences.

It is tempting, of course, to bleat out every story I have lived, to pen down every struggle and success so that I can show how much it was all worth, but I understand better now that all stories have a time when it is best for them to be told, and that not all stories survive being written.


Life has chapters, and my time in Paris has been a chapter in mine. In a month and a half I shall turn to a new blank page, only it will not be quite blank, because it will be thin enough to show the shadows of old letters on the page behind. There are no fresh starts, but I no longer think I need one. As I discovered when I came to Paris, whatever you leave behind does not leave you, but follows on the wind.

So when I go, as I must, this will not be so much the past, as a part of the present in which I am.


I promise I am winding up to a point, which is that I have come to the conclusion that rebirth is a lie. Going somewhere new will not make you new. It will, however, give you the space to lay down some roots that reach further than before.

Words are a petty medium, says the woman who left her country to write, but I don’t think I need to write every detail. I need only to say that for so many, many reasons, this has been the best year of my life.

Back to Blogging

As ever, a lot has happened since I last wrote.

I went on holiday, to Normandy (my first trip away with my boyfriend, henceforth to be known as N), and we crossed the five month mark, which makes him seem strangely new, when in truth I can no longer imagine a future with anyone else.

And there was snow! After making a bid to become the next Atlantis, Paris was then covered in a real blanket. To my surprise, the trains kept running. A few lines have been closed because of the flooding, but for the most part, the systems that hold Paris together are less delicate than they seem.


At work, with my most challenging four-child all-boy family I was engaged in a to-the-death snowball fight (which did not go well for me), and then another, the next day, with the half-Russians – who, given their upbringing in a land of snow and ice, I am inclined to believe had an unfair advantage.

The snow has melted away now, throwing us back into grey skies and the threat of rain, but I am happy. In a few weeks I am sure it will start to feel like spring, and then I’ll be able to shed my (leaking) boots for pumps, and walk about the city without gloves.


It’s not all good news, since if I am honest I am struggling with university. Getting a distinction at masters is looking increasingly difficult. I didn’t do badly in my first semester, but I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped I would. This threw me into a dismal state of self-loathing, which has been a drain on my inspiration for my new pieces this semester. But I’ll get there, and hopefully with time I’ll learn to be less cruel to myself.

Certainly I’ve had no shortage of experiences to draw upon these past few weeks. Our trip to Normandy was breathtaking (and a topic for another post!), never mind the weather, and Paris is, as Paris ever was, one of the best places a writer can be.


January Blues

The world can be a dismal place at this time of year, and even the romance of Paris can’t distract from driving rain and howling wind. The grey bricked paths that line the Seine, which I walked along in sandals during the summer, have vanished beneath rising water, and the trees are stark silhouettes against a white sky.

But the year is now well underway, and with Christmas a distant memory, it’s time to look ahead, past this grey season, into the spring to come.

In a little over two months it will be the first anniversary of my moving here, and after that it will not be many more months before I return to the place I came from, hopefully a little more savvy, sage, and chic than I was when I left.


The reality of living in Paris is not as glamorous as the movies might have you believe. This is a city of great contrasts. I have worked in more than one bourgeoisie apartment, and peered into the glowing window of many a boulangerie. I have taken the air on long city strolls, and sunned myself on the banks of the Seine, but I have also seen homeless children sheltering under cardboard. I’ve seen ugly demonstrations walled in by lines of police, and I’ve learnt to watch the pavement for the dog filth and drunken piss.

Paris is not always the wonderful picture photographed for the postcards, I admit, but it has been home to me, and given me a taste of the independence I longed for. I have been changed by this city, undoubtedly for the better, and that I am grateful for.

Whatever happens hereafter, I do know there will always be a part of me that is at home here. I will never be French, but like the house cat, Sasha, I feel comfortable. For now, and the for time left in this particular chapter of my life, this is exactly where I want to be.


Songs for Writing: January

It’s been five days, and when it comes to my resolutions, I’m pleased to report that so far, so good.

I traipsed my way across the city yesterday to visit The American Library in Paris, and withdrew three books. I’m already halfway through The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine. B, and I’ve made another valiant stab at Ivanhoe (this will mark my fourth attempt to finish it).

I’ve also been writing, every day. If I’m going to make it a habit I think I’ll need more than just my willpower, however.

I am often in need of inspiration, so here are some songs I’ve found to write to.

1. Trevor Something – ‘Enjoy the Silence’

It can be a rather controversial thing, to admit you prefer a cover to the original, but damn me as you will. This has a darker sound than the original Depeche Mode release, and, in my humble opinion, the sultry, hypnotic vocals give it added depth.

2. Ryder – ‘Pretty Little Gangster’

This one has been on my playlist for a while, but it retains its position as one of my favourites. I think it’s especially appropriate for orchestrating scenes in which badass female characters do their thing, gangsters or not.

3. Julien Doré – ‘Le lac’

I guess you can’t live in France without getting a taste for French music. I discovered Julien Doré by listening to RTL2. It’s not something I regret.

4. ‘Pookkal Pookkum’ from the movie Madharasapattinam

If you’ve been paying close attention to my personal updates you’ll be able to make a good guess about how this came into my life. I’ve been watching lots of Indian movies lately thanks to a certain someone, and none of them are without songs. I haven’t actually seen Madharasapattinam (yet), but based on this song, I want to. Just don’t ask me for any translations. At the moment my Tamil is basic, to say the least!

5. Rae Morris – ‘Push Me To My Limit’

Surprise! My favourite singer is back! Her new album comes out next month, and based on what snippets have been released so far, my expectations are high.

So, that’s that, and it’s time I was writing my writing, rather than writing about the writing I plan to write… I’ll leave you to figure that out. Goodbye and à bientôt! 🙂

My New Year’s Resolutions

It’s time to make some promises.

2017 was probably the best year of my life. So many things happened that I didn’t even have the time to write about all of them, which is something I will probably regret when the day comes for me to look back on my life. But I don’t think I’ll ever really forget the momentous events that happened.

I wrote more poems than I knew I had in me, and became a little wiser from the benefit of experiences both good and bad. I made some new friends, met the man I love, and most importantly, I proved to myself that I am capable of making a life for myself in the great wide world beyond the places where I grew up.

I don’t imagine 2018 is going to top it, since I had it so good, but I know that even if circumstances can scarcely be improved, I can, so here are my goals for the year ahead.

1. Write every day.

And I mean every day. I’ve really lapsed since I finished my undergraduate in terms of discipline, so it’s time I took myself in hand. I’m not going to set a daily word count, since previously I have found this promotes an attitude geared towards achieving, rather than exceeding, the limits of my expectations, but I am going to write something each day, be it a story, a scene, or just a sentence, and go from there.

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2. Read every day.

I set myself a target to read 100 books last year. I managed about half of that, which was rather disappointing. This year I’m going for it again. It’s roughly two books a week, so if I allocate some reading time every day (and steer clear of 500+ page monster novels), I think this is achievable.

3. Become more proficient in French.

If I’m going to get anywhere near fluency, there’s no opportunity better than the one I have right now. I’ll be living in Paris until the end of July, so the next seven months will be a concerted effort on my part to really embed this language in my head.

4. Become conversational in Tamil.

Before I moved here, everyone was joking about how I would have a spectacular love affair with a Frenchman, but it didn’t quite work out like that. My boyfriend is from southern India, and if I’m really going to make it work I need to form good relationships with the rest of his family. This means learning to communicate. It’s going to be considerably more challenging than the French, I think, given that I’m really starting from the beginning, with a new alphabet to boot, but I am determined.

So, here we go. My 2018 started last night with a distant view of the fireworks thundering over the Champs-Élysées. Today I started to read Ivanhoe, and I wrote this post. Not a bad beginning. I hope it will be a great year for us all ❤



Dear Lord! Where did those sixteen days go?

I have been a crappy blogger so far this month. Literally as crappy as crap gets, because prior to today I wrote a grand total of zero new posts for December.

But in my defense, I did say December was going to be busy, and I was right. It’s been an eventful month so far. My little brother turned eighteen, so I went home for a weekend to see him (and to put up the Christmas tree – because no one was willing to do it without me). It meant getting up at four on an extremely frosty morning to catch a flight, but it was well worth it.


There have also been some interesting developments in my professional life. Through some major bluffing I managed to secure a little extra work doing translation, and I didn’t botch it, so maybe I’ll even get some more. If I could stop being a nou-nou I really wouldn’t mind.

University is also going well, and… I’ve now been in a relationship for several months, which is, I think, a major success, since I’ve never made it this far without getting bored or beginning to go insane before. To my great surprise I’ve found out that there is nothing wrong with me. I can actually be happy with someone, and this is easily the best lesson Paris has taught me.

I hereby pledge to actually write some stuff for the rest of the month. I guess I know what my New Year’s resolution is going to be…

Winter Comes to Paris

It’s the last day of the month, and tomorrow Advent begins, but it seems the weather is ahead of itself here, because after a faint and disappointing flurry this afternoon, it is now full-on snowing in Paris.

And the stars have aligned for me, because tomorrow I don’t have work until four, and am free to spend the day reveling in it!


I think I’ve been a better blogger this month than I have been in some previous months. Hopefully I can keep it up over December, but since things are going to be busy (special highlights include a coach trip towards and through London the day before Christmas Eve – madness!) I can only promise to do my best.

For the record, bringing a wool coat to Paris is among the best decisions of my life. I’ll need it tomorrow, when I intend to go for a long long walk and hunt for inspiration in the snow.

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