Vive La Rentreé!

Yes folks, it is that time of year again. Up and down the country, mothers everywhere are getting out the gin and celebrating the imminent incarceration of their darling children during daylight hours. No more endless requests for lifts here, there and everywhere, no more being unable to get in the bathroom because there are strange teenagers using the shower, no more self-emptying fridge and best of all, no more lack of bandwidth because 'someone' is downloading the last series of True Blood.

All in all, a bit of a result. But before that happy state - la rentrée or children back at school - can be achieved, there are various hoops to be jumped through. The first, and this one starts early, right at the start of the holidays, is the bloody inscription. Or re-inscription. It doesn't make a lot of difference because French school secretaries do not seem to be terribly au fait with either A) computers or B) photocopiers. As a result there are umpteen forms to be filled in. All containing more or less the same information. This year I calculated that I filled in our home phone number 18 times, my mobile number 9 times and James's mobile 12 times. Which is a bit of a joke as he never answers it anyway. Add in a few emergency contact numbers and that is a whole load of numbers. Then there's my address, the children's address (and yes it is the same, there was just no facility to point that out), James's address (ditto), the GP's address, the mutuelle and secu numbers and then the insurance policies (address and policy numbers). Generally, by this stage I have lost the will to live and start randomly making stuff up.

As a result the girls have become very good at form filling (they will make great civil servants one day) and tend to do the bulk of the paperwork, just presenting me with the completed forms for a final signature. Or eleven.

Then there's the school list. Primary is bad and secondary is way, way worse. Last year Tilly was in a college where the students were mainly drug dealers and thus not likely to turn up with any equipment. Actually, they were unlikely to turn up to school full stop but that is another story. The school provided standard issue exercise books, files and folders. It was blissful. This year she is at lyceé and Max is not going to the drug den so I've spent a few happy hours trailing round supermarkets looking for a "cahier avec petit carreaux, 24 x 32, sans spirales, 96 pages" or a "classeur souple, 21 x 29.7"..... and woe betide anyone who gets it wrong.

Then there is the whole bus stop and bus timetable issue. Bus stops and timetables are a well kept secret. I always thought it was me being A) dopey or B) English but last year the neighbour's 17 year old son spent the first term being collected by his Mama as even they were unable to discover where the bus left from. On one famous occasion, I got it so wrong that Daisy was left stranded at the far side of the village and was eventually brought home (in tears) by a passing motorist. Fail!

And with that amount of stress, the only solution is more gin. Which interestingly enough, is "en promo" at our local Intermarche. Hmm. Thank you nice M. Hollande for increasing the Allocation de rentreé scolaire and thus enabling me to stretch to Bombay Sapphire rather than Old Lady.

So, if any of you have any 'Rentreé Survival Tips', I would be eternally grateful if you could share them?

But on the upside, all this effort does provide a sense of optimism. There is something about new pens and clean agendas that is wonderfully cathartic. You get to make New Year's Resolutions without the hangover. Vive La Rentreé!

I am about to experience the first real rentree as my daughter only started at school last year, aged 2 1/2. Luckily our maternelle is only 200 metres away and they need pupils! Tomorrow I go to Mr Bricolage to buy materials to repair the damage she has done at home during the holidays. The corridor redecorated professionally in March has to be recorated but luckily I have enough of the Farrow and Ball to do that. The floor restained a month ago has to be redone after she tipped a whole flask of nail polish remover over it. I have to plan all tasks so that painted areas dry before she returns from school. Some of my seedlings taken from collected seeds have been "renversed" so I will probably have to wait a year for those. I can't find my cuff link box and I know where I put it! The fridge is raided even at that age, but she's not very good at removing tell tale evidence yet. A sign is frequently a chair near the worktops or fridge. I have just bought over the internet two movement sensors which will shriek at huge decibels to warn us that something amiss is in course. The sons of my first marriage went to boarding school in the UK but alack that's not a runner!

Have just sent some of your insights to my friend who is a dep. head at a uk primary school. My girls are all grown up but the next generation are just starting primary. Reading this I am so glad that they are within the UK system. Just a book bag and lunch box - loads of room at school for personal belongings and every thing else provided by the scchool. Fill in the forms once for each of the two schools they will attend (Uni is another matter). There are points for each side of the Channel - but am happier knowing that Rose will start her first day with a lighter load.

I have one:

Nag your children (the university aged ones) until they submit to your will and organise the things you can't do for them. Still filling in bits of paper and youngest is off tomorrow at 6.30 am!

So are you all ready for your new school year of Gastro?? Over in the UK we're enjoying a lovely round of colds. Delightful.

The rentrée! Hate it! I love having my children (aged 9 and 7) with me for two months! When they go back to school, I have no excuse for avoiding work!

Ah! Yes, the rentrée! Heave sigh of relief - no more will Leclerc's aisles be crowded with noisy kids pulled along by harrassed mothers. At last all the shopping I want will be back where it should be, and not crowded out by rows of garishly coloured cahiers!

And as for the gin? Well, OH and I will be reachig for it too - as ex-teachers we always have ourselves a 'Thank God its not the begininning of Term!' party.

Cheers, all, and thanks Catherine for a brilliant post!

Brilliant post! I lose the will to live in the aisles of Carrefour every summer, and my two offspring are only in primary!

My tipple, unfortunately, is chocolate. Must do something about that. After the 'pochette plastique transparente 27cmx32cm' has been located somewhere in aisle 7, that is . . .

So, a light one Lynn!

I once wieghed our daughters college cartable, full with all demanded for the day, it was over 9kg!! can that be good?

Totally agree with you Catherine, all sounds very familiar. this year I had two different lycees to deal with! As you say gin helps. The other good thing about the rentreé is there is a break in 24 hour feeding - I love to cook, but during the holidays the house becomes a non-stop canteen. No wonder my boys are towering over me.

I have just weighed the pre-loaded cartable, to which several kilos of books will soon be added, and realise that weight training is clearly going to be added to the national primary school curriculum.

For maman et moi, the reams of repeitive forms are already heaping up. Subscription to judo club, upgrading the size of pony that can be ridden at riding classes, increased lung sizes meaning more air will be inhaled, the list is endless and then, and then, comes the school paper mountain. School secretaries, as Catharine so sagely says, do not know about modern technology. The biro pen, invented by Lazlo (?) Biro just before the Second World War is as advanced a technology as many of them require. Many of the pens have run out of ink and thus a pencil is required although an obscure loi printed in 2pt type on the bottom of page 16 says a black ballpoint pen must b used or the form is invalid. Oh well, if you are going to be a parent then grin and bear it.

At least there is no need to cater to a bleary eyed offspring at midday, demanding breakfast when you are about to take lunch since they are safely locked away in stalag school between 0830 and 1630. This Wednesday thing must go, since week's work is never a week's work but two days and again two days. But worry not, they will grow up and get their own forms, breakfast, washing and kick their kids out in turn. Rentrée, well still primary school but college will soon be on us. Just another round in the fight to stay sane.

Brilliant Catharine - well written ;-)

Oh no Alison I am with you - I HATE La Rentrée for taking away our blissful summer existence! But more than that I hate the paperwork - as you say Catharine how many times do they need the same info - madness! We have done battle with the other Mothers at the local hypermarket to get the value range cahier with the correct size squares and all the other bits on the list, but no bags are packed - yet! My diary tells me the bus pass is ready from today, but I'll leave it until the end of the week I think!

@Alison, no, you aren't the only one, I loathe it with all my being! All that time spent for nothing, listening to lectures, sitting on uncomfortable chairs and taking down useless notes in longhand. The getting up before it's light, the coming back home at dusk with tons of homework to do and schoolbags to be packed. Ridiculous demands, absurd expectations. Tears, anger, exhaustion. Awful.

I must be the only one who is dreading it !!!! I love spending time with my kids over the summer and they do to. Maybe it's the school run that I hate but I will spend Monday and Tuesday morning in the most foul mood. I can't help myself.

I'll be OK by Thursday and they are back for good, but until then :-((

On the plus side we did all the paperwork in June and I almost got a stamp made up with our name and address, maybe next year.

@ Lynn - oh yes! And then you will have to join the failure camp!! It seems to get less demanding as they get older? Secondary school is the worst I think?

Just wait until you have to find them accomodation in towns at opposite ends of France (Ok, the region!) en plus!!! This summer has been an endless trek of Toulouse and Cahors.

The upside is that Oliver (16) now going to Airbus, was given a list of supplies - a cahier and a pen, plus a very expensive calculator, but that is all! I can't help wondering if I am missing the piece of paper that lists everything else and he'll turn up with others who have their cartables full to brimming!!

You have to be French to understand it all this paperwork and accept it blindly. Ex-pats will fail as we are not keen on state brainwashing policies. In all my French girlfriend will do all this for our children and see nothing wrong with it. I will concentrate on the DIY....