Tuesday, September 2, 2008

La Rentree

Gay is ecstatic. We have just been out for a bike ride (a 20 kms circuit which is also one of my walking routes). While we were at the highest point, a badger crossed our paths, no more than 5 metres in front of us. We have seen plenty of dead ones here (no wonder, if that is the extent of their traffic sense) but this is the first live one - and so close! Unfortunately, we did not have the French word for badger, so were not able to convey our excitement to people at the cafe where we regularly stop for a drink on this ride. We now know that the word is blaireau - it should be easy to remember that because it is similar to a feeling many people in Britain have had for some years - Blair! Oh no!

I also learned a lesson, or was reminded of one, which will serve me well in VBW. Today is the rentree - the day when kids, large and small, all over France, return to school after a two month break. This particular rentree, various changes are taking place in the education system. One is that they are moving onto a four-day week. Until now they have had Wednesday off, but Saturday has been a schoolday, if only in the morning. You can imagine how that Saturday morning has messed up everybody's weekend - it has been very unpopular, but now it has gone.

They still have Wednesday off. The history of that is quite interesting. When church was being separated from state, just over 100 years ago, the churches obviously felt they were the losers, especially in the matter of access to young minds. So, as a sop, it was agreed that children would not go to school on Wednesdays and the churches could have them then (if they could catch them). This still applies.

But what the rentree reminded us of, in relation to cycling and the Big Walk, is that, although the roads become noticeably less busy at the beginning of September, there is a surge of traffic between 8 and 9 in the morning. So that is a time to avoid. I shall have to carefully plan each day, and each overnight resting place, so that I can start walking at 6.30 or 7, reach a strategically placed boulangerie and a cafe at about 8, stop, mange, drink, read the papers, ruminate, stretch, then set out again en route.

I hope to finish each days leg before lunch, or at least before the end of lunchtime (12 till 2 in France), for similar reasons. I may have mentioned before that it is very common here to have a bottle of wine with lunch. So the road is a more dangerous place in the early afternoon. Visibly it is obvious that many drivers are trying to improve their fuel economy - the number of near misses per litre (of wine) being the crucial measure of success.

I realise that there should be accents in some of the above French words, but I have not yet discovered how to apply them to the script in this format.

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