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!