Spring is in the air in France

French morale

“Au revoir l’heure d’été ?” This may have been the last time. A commission is to be set up to advise the Minister on the usefulness of moving the clocks forward every year in March. There have long been doubts as to the real benefits and the French, apparently, find it hard to adjust to the change. Lots of bad-tempered French people getting up and putting their left foot on the floor first ‘se lever du pied gauche’ as the popular idiom would have it? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Hard on the heels of this disruption to sleeping patterns came ‘la chasse aux œufs’. Church bells in France are silent from the Thursday before Easter when they are said to have gone to Rome. When they return on Easter Sunday morning, they bring back bell-shaped chocolates that they drop into gardens for children to find. For the second Sunday on the run, bleary-eyed parents had to drag themselves out of bed at an unseemly hour, this time to hide chocolate eggs of all shapes and sizes in their gardens for their offspring to discover. There was no time to go back to bed either as the traditional Easter meal of lamb had to be prepared, usually for a large family gathering.

The holiday on Easter Monday meant that a trip to buy some plants for the garden could be fitted in. The only problem being that everyone else seemed to have had the same bright idea. Laden with boxes of plants, bags of compost and good intentions, people unpacked their cars to the sound of electric saws and the thuds of falling branches.

 Yes, all the signs are present. Spring has arrived.

“Pas trop tôt”, say those for whom winter has dragged on long enough with its shorn plane trees, queues at the doctor’s surgeries, disappointing economic news and chill Mistral wind.

‘Les giboulées de mars’, April showers, except that in France they occur a month earlier, are gradually being replaced by increasingly warm sunshine. ‘Boules’ players are beginning to reappear in village squares to commence training for lazy summer afternoons rolling metal bowls. ‘Les paysagistes’, landscape gardeners, are busy planting flowers in the centres of roundabouts and in hanging baskets and pots everywhere, for the competition to be recognised as one of France’s ‘villes et villages fleuris’ is fierce.

Everyone knows that there will still be the occasional chilly day. As the pavement cafés fill up again, customers jockey for the tables in the sun and not yet those in the shade. It may continue, for a while, to be a little difficult to wake up with the darker mornings also, but there is again something to smile about. “C’est le printemps. Enfin !”

You can out more about the rhythms of the French year in Life in France, a Kolibri Languages Practical Guide.

Pam Bourgeois



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