Claire King


Prepare for Re-entry

Posted on: September 3rd, 2012 by Claire - 12 Comments


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?


12 Responses

  1. Peggy says:

    Ah, rhythm. I have no rhythm this year. All summer I’ve had my head down, writing like a fiend. I’ve missed summer. If we had it, it passed me by. I tell myself that next year I’ll have summer. And I’ll probably say that next year, too. This is a lovely reminder that there are seasons to attend to, even when there’s no one to send back to school. I may buy myself a new notebook today, just to pretend.

    • claire says:

      I hope you do! A new notebook is so full of promise! And now, after scraping out time here and there over the summer, I have a whole, generously proportioned afternoon for writing! Hurrah!

  2. Alison Wells says:

    As you know I’ve just sent my fourth and last child to school this year so it really feels like a new start. I’m here for the first time today at the desk ready to get into a proper writing routine and get all those projects out. From this vantage point we can also judge the progress we’ve all made as a family and feel proud. I feel very content at this moment. Plus the sun is shining.

  3. Charlie says:

    France has hung on to her seasonality, despite global pressures not to.

    That’s a Good Thing.

    None of your winter strawberries here, flavourless and devaluing their summertime counterparts. Soon the peaches, ubiquitous in summer, will be remembered in jam as the apples take their turn.

    Since moving here, I have rediscovered the seasonal excitement of asparagus, artichoke, aubergine and then local peppers coming into the shops. Now it’s time to anticipate ‘collier de boeuf’, and the Bourgignon stews that will warm our autumn evenings.

    Cèps and chestnuts, too, if you like that kind of thing.

    Today was all about the promise of unopened packs of felt-tip pens and virgin notebooks, the reassurance of a new pair of shoes, and the giddy excitement of new stories to tell to new friends yet to be made.

    I loved it, vicariously.

    Plus, of course, we might finally get the roof done.

  4. jo says:

    Here too, in Spain, seasonality is retained. Nothing gets done in august and I too have put off many things until la vuelta al cole although
    we still have a week to go. A friend of mine who moved here recently was bemoaning the lack of melon in the supermarkets a few months ago. I said be patient, the melons will come slowly, then there’ll be a glut, the prices will tumble and then theyll disappear until next year. With year round hotness and sunshine, I now take my seasonal cues from the fruit and veg on sale here. No tasteless winter strawberries here either 🙂

  5. martha says:

    Non, je ne suis pas prêt pour la rentrée — je suis tout juste prêt pour l’été…

    French for panic?

  6. Pete says:

    Wish we could bring some of that French attitude to the UK.

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