September is not my favorite time of the year…at least in the northern hemisphere. As the days grow shorter and colder the list of administrative tasks grows longer and longer and school and everything else starts again with intensity. The end of this scene from the French film Auberge Espagnole (Spanish Apartment) makes me laugh and cry at the same time. It dates back to 2002 but things don’t seem to have changed that much. I have felt like the main character – Xavier – on numerous occasions with all of the paperwork required to set things up such as….changing our postal address, school enrollment, extracurricular activities, etc…
If you’ve never seen the film, I can highly recommend it and its 2 sequels – Les Poupées Russes (Russian Dolls) and Casse-tête Chinois (Chinese Puzzle) – which all focus on western European life. In addition to the great story, the soundtracks are excellent. As with the majority of French films, these works rely on strong characters, good storylines and talented actors and not on expensive special effects and superstars.
The paperwork was worth it because the kids have been going happily to school each morning and tell me that they LOVE the self-service canteen (where they enjoy a choice of 4 entrees, of 2 main courses with side, followed by cheese or yogurt and then a selection of desserts) but they are NOT happy about the new timetable: The former timetable was 8:45-16:45 Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri and the new timetable is 8:55-16:30 Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri AND Wednesday morning 8:55-12:00. In addition, they think that the 2-hour lunch break is a little too long – but they probably need all of that time in order to eat and digest their large lunch!
I’m not particularly impressed by the first poem that our daughter was asked/told to learn by her new teacher which was titled ‘Obeir pour bien grandir’ (Obey in order to grow up well). The lines of the poem promote everything but encouraging independent, creative and inquisitive children. A sort of ‘subtle’ brainwashing in a way, probably with the teacher’s principal goal being to increase his chances of having a quiet and ‘sage’ class this year.
‘Sage’……hmmmmm. I also really dislike the way that this word ‘sage’ (well-behaved) is employed here. For example, it is invariably used when dropping kids off at a party: ‘sois sage’ (be good). NO! I am certainly not denying that it is really important that a child respects those present at the party. But I am questioning if that should be the focus of the parents parting message; I’m willing to bet that in the same situation in Australia there would be a much higher incidence of hearing parents say ‘have fun’ (and just assuming/trusting that their offspring will be ‘sage’).
Speaking of ‘fun’ we took the kids to a music concert this past weekend. The singer was Aldebert and he had the audience (including me) up on their feet jumping and clapping. His songs are aimed at children but he is like the ‘Disney of singers’ because his music appeals to adults too (and not in the annoying ear-worm way of The Wiggles). Like many French singers, the real appeal is usually in the lyrics of their work. Songs that at first might be perceived as just pleasant listening can turn into real gems with closer attention. My first experience of this was when a French teacher asked us to translate ‘Lucie‘ by Pascal Obispo. I am still moved by this song today.