A great summer

It's back to work and school in France. Here, they call it la rentrée and treat it as a major event, a news headline even. It is not just about going back to school, you see, but a return to routine for everyone and everything. Families peel themselves away from beaches and close their country gardens, then spend several hours in traffic before plunging into the rough and tumble of early mornings, slog, low pay, long commutes and tired evenings collapsed in front of the telly.

The thinned out summer programming on television crackles back to normal too, though this usually means even dumber shows than ever. Stars and hosts have been sunning themselves among the people. That does not mean the masses, unlike in English. Rather, pronounced "pee-pall", it means other stars. They have been away with each other. With la rentrée, these celebrities look forward to seeing each other again on endless television chat shows hosted by, well, themselves. They talk and giggle emptily to smug, egotistical presenters, with a plastic audience of wannabe pee-pall gawking and applauding in the background. It makes me cry.

Luckily, the rentrée also means meeting neighbours again. This morning on sunny Rivoli there were the usual cheery cat-calls across streets of "ça va, ça y est, ça a été, cet été?" Shopkeepers, shoppers, walkers, parents, children, all sporting healthy suntans.

Rivoli is a busy noisy street most of the week, but on Saturday morning it is a calm and cheery place. It is a great time to wander around the middle of nearby streets, check out the architecture, have a coffee, a chat.

This time, from the middle of Rivoli itself, a chap waved at me. Hey, Dwall... (that's Doyle in the local lingua). Ça va ? Good summer? Great, I said. And yours? Oueh oueh oueh, mustn't grumble. But then he paused and went on: then again, for me, for you, yes. But for others?

He started on a long whining list. "Enfin, it's been a really bad summer, when you think of it. Air crashes, famine in Niger, oil prices going crazy, France's Olympic disaster, London's Olympic delight, then suicide bombers wrecking it all. Then, that poor Brazilian chap, shot in the underground, for nothing. I mean, if that had been French cops... hardly the phlegmatic British anymore, n'est-ce pas? And now, New Orleans, eh? Catastrophe after catastrophe."

We both paused, nodding, saying nothing, watching Rivoli slowly transform into hectic mode. "Then there's all that fighting over clothes from China," he ramped up again. "Bra wars" the British call them, I interjected. "Ah yes, yes, very funny British humour... Anyway, bonne rentrée," he said, saluting and then taking off towards the local shops.

Pottering around the garden in Picardie later on had me pondering about all that. But I was soon distracted by a closer world. The ancient tiled roof was nearly restored, the old house peaceful and the garden lush with bright colours. Then I gazed out around the hilly countryside with its patchwork of fields, haystacks, grazing cattle, swallows darting and gathering, distant sound of some harvest, happy sunny sky. Irlande-en-France, perhaps? It had indeed been a great summer. For some.

©RJ Doyle, Parisian Paddies

blog comments powered by Disqus

Follow us