Actually, I’m a bit behind the times. La rentrée (end of holidays, back to school, work etc) really started last week. However, you notice its continuing effects for a while afterwards. It’s more of an institution in France than in the UK.
I wrote a post a couple of months ago, about summer in SW France. In many ways la rentrée is just a reversal of that. Holidaymakers mysteriously disappear overnight; the number of stalls at the market halves between one week and the next; you can find a space to park in the village; the supermarket hasn’t sold out of milk or the boulangerie out of bread by 11 am; and the number of fêtes and other events has reduced drastically.
I won’t go into detail about all that. But every season has its rituals and symbols. La rentrée, the beginning of autumn, has some hallmarks without which we would be lost, even if we don’t like some of them.
TV Adverts and Magazines
The French advertising industry realises that there is no longer much call for ads selling sun cream. So what better way to while away those darkening evenings than to take up a new hobby? For example, for “€2.99 seulement” you can buy the first issue of a magazine that will take you through every step of building a model Spanish galleon, complete with essential parts and paint.
And Que Choisir (the French version of the UK consumer watchdog magazine, Which) resumes its assault on the SF. He receives at least one communication per week exhorting him to take out a subscription, always wrongly addressed but it gets here anyway.
Unsolicited Sales Calls
Have you got a problem with woodworm, draughts or hard water? Do you want to install double glazing or solar panels? Don’t worry, every day aux heures de repas (mealtimes) you will receive a call from a company that has the solution. You answer, thinking it was the call you were expecting, to be greeted by a stream of machine-gun fire French. It still takes me a while to penetrate this wall of sales-speak before I decline their kind offer.
Although EDF (Electricité de France) are good in a crisis, they are offensively persistent when it comes to trying to sell us solar panels. They are not interested if you are over 70, since the payback time is presumably so long that you won’t be around to benefit. I have resorted to telling them that I am a septuagenarian to get rid of them. Somehow the message doesn’t get passed on. They still call.
Supermarket merchandise changes overnight
Two weeks ago, barbecue equipment and swimming pool products were in your face. Now they have disappeared or are relegated to an obscure shelf that you scour the shop to find, even though the temperatures are still easily high enough for barbecuing and swimming. Instead, back-to-school equipment and winter clothes have replaced them. Want sandals, swimsuits or T-shirts? Too late. You’ll have to make do with boots and winter coats.
La chasse starts up again
Go into any sports shop or garden/agricultural equipment supplier and you will see weapons of mass destruction on display. Everything you need to wage war on the local wildlife, plus essential accessories. One weekend soon a salvo of shots will mark the start of the hunt. Around here has been a réserve for the past three years, i.e. no hunting is permitted to allow the game to regenerate. We don’t yet know if that designation will continue this year.
We’ve cut and stacked all our wood
And here it is during and after.
We got through rather a lot during the cold spell in February. So we decided to order eight cubic metres, which we hope will tide us over. Our supplier delivers it in metre lengths and we cut it into 33 cm logs so it fits in our woodburner. Cutting and stacking is hard work and it took us five afternoon sessions this year. It’s very satisfying, though, seeing it all neatly piled up and ready for use.
Which reminds me, we must get the chimney swept. Our chimney sweep, M. Garcia, is a charming man who always replaces the flue of the woodburner the wrong way round. He got his first name, Erly, because he was a premature baby. His parents asked the doctor to choose the name, but his English was a little wayward (I know: why did he choose an English word?).
It might have its annoyances, but I love this time of year here. I like the freshness in the morning followed by still-hot days. I like seeing the fruits and nuts ripening on the trees, even if the nuthatches and woodpeckers get all our hazelnuts before we do. And even though summer has finished, autumn represents new beginnings and fresh pleasures to enjoy here in France.
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