C’est la rentrée !

Of course there’s not just one ‘rentrée’ but several.

Firstly, there’s just literally getting back home. The annual, self-inflicted punishment, which consists of battling through long traffic jams in high temperatures to get to the sea and then battling through long traffic jams in high temperatures to get home was a particularly gruelling and stressful one this year. The accumulated length of traffic jams broke previous records, as did the temperatures. Perhaps it was a logical consequence that ‘le must’ for beach reading this summer was ‘Le charme discret de l’intestin’, a book about the digestive tract!

 ‘La rentrée littéraire’ will no doubt give us other ‘best-sellers’ to digest, but for the moment the shelves are full of the required books for ‘la rentrée scolaire’ together with innumerable pencil cases, ‘les trousses’ and school bags, ‘les cartables’. Night after night, television news bulletins delight in showing how everybody is preparing for the momentous moment when the nation’s teachers and children will return to school, as if it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. True the summer school holidays are long in France, nearly nine weeks, but surely our memories aren’t that short.

Meanwhile, ‘la rentrée politique’ is already upon us. The prime minister gave a rousing speech at the socialist party’s annual ‘université d’été’. Most commentators seemed particularly concerned about the state of his shirt. It looked at the finish as if he had just emerged from a swim in the local pool. “Ça s’appelle mouiller sa chemise,” he joked as he left the stage, a reference to the idiomatic expression meaning to put in some hard work. Of course, originality not being the speciality of ‘la rentrée politique’, most newspapers and social media captioned their photos with the same phrase.

Then there’s ‘la rentrée’ of the television channels. The new season’s programmes, detailed in ‘la grille des programmes de la rentrée’, seem remarkably like those of the previous seasons. They are nonetheless supposed to make us head for our armchairs as enthusiastically as the summer had us heading for the sea.

‘La rentrée’ also means price rises for certain natural commodities such as gas, new laws, no parking spaces in the cities and heavy morning traffic, to name but a few of the less exciting associations. To take a broader perspective, we can always looks to the stars in ‘l’horoscope de la rentrée’ as proposed in various magazines. Those of a more apprehensive nature can try one of the many quizzes, ‘Êtes-vous prêts pour la rentrée ?’

Finally though, the references to ‘la rentrée’ will disappear. School supplies will be replaced in the shops by bottles of wine in preparation for the various ‘Foires aux vins’. A sure sign that autumn is coming, that ‘la rentrée’ in its many forms is over. So much for this new return, soon we will be in the thick of things once again.

You can find out more about the rhythms of French life in ‘Life in France’, a Kolibri Languages Practical Guide.

Pam Bourgeois



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