In September 2002, after our first summer here, people began to ask us “Êtes-vous prêt pour la rentrée?”
We were confused because:
a) We didn’t have any children back then and
b) Our French wasn’t very good.
We were missing the huge cultural significance of La Rentrée which goes far beyond the ‘Back to School’ idea of September in the UK (where we came from).
La rentrée in France is a re-entry into the rhythms of day to day life after a general slow down that has lasted all of August and much of July as well. Many businesses close completely, politicians go off on long holidays, schools shut for 9 or 10 weeks…things just don’t get done over the summer and everyone knows that.
September is back to business. A new year begins. Life seems like a fresh notebook. Things get done that people have been putting off over the summer – “I’ll take care of it à la rentrée” – and routines fall back into place.
For book lovers there is also the excitement of the literary rentrée – la rentrée litterraire – which sees the mass publication of new books between August and October, including 646 novels this year.
Ten years on from that first summer and it’s time for la rentrée once again. We now do have children and, since my husband and I are both self-employed, we don’t work during the French summer-time, spending it at home together.
Today, after a summer of bare feet and at most sandals, we are putting our feet into socks again and for the girls there are new shoes and satchels. I’ve just dropped them off at their new school and I’ve a bouquet of sharpened pencils up here in my garret. The air smells of ripened grapes and it’s cool enough to let the morning air in through the windows. I’m all set.
And you? Êtes-vous prêt pour la rentrée?