As the summer holidays come to an end, Monpazier sheds its holiday makers and becomes a normal village once more - and we’re free to enjoy the everyday life we all had at the end of June. But before the school run starts again, there’s the annual dash to buy all the equipment the kids need. The supermarkets are stuffed with row upon row of rentrée dedicated stuff - paper, pens, bags - everything and anything your children may need (and loads that they don’t) for the new term.
In our earlier years in France, one of the terrifying things I remember was being handed the dreaded form. Wildly complicated and seemingly endless, it was filled with things such as ‘feuilles de classeur double format grands carreaux A4, trieur en plastique 12 intercalaires incorporés’. Well, that’s clear then. When your French is still pretty basic, these lists are near impenetrable - and when you actually get to the supermarket armed with them, the stuff you’re supposed to buy doesn’t match the labels on the shelf. Mums eagerly armed with pens are ready to start crossing out items and swiftly bored children wander aimlessly up and down the aisles, normally choosing the most expensive pencil case or the agenda with the most appealing picture on the front. Which, naturally, is also the most expensive. Occasionally a cry of ‘youpi’ is heard as some lucky mum has managed to locate and cross off an item and parents flock around to see what it is in the hope that perhaps they need one as well.
The secret to this chore is to start early and get something every time you go to stock up on food - which if you are feeding a teenage boy is almost every day. Slowly build up your stock of goodies before the holidays proper and keep the form in your handbag - the shops aren't yet full of holidaymakers and the staff are happy to help - and share in your delight as you tick something else off your list.
And once it’s all over, you can quietly smile to yourself and take great pride when asked for the umpteenth time if you are ready for the rentrée by replying ‘mais oui’.