If I hadn't noticed the wind and the rain, I'd still know it was autumn from the display in the local Bricotruc. A brilliant montage of choppers, wedges, hacksaws, chainsaws, gadgets mallets and axes. All arranged on a lovely pile of neatly chopped wood. It'll be there until precisely October 15th when they will replace it with their Halloween display which in turn will give way to Santa's sleigh. Just so that we all know where we are..
The second harbinger of autumn is the sight of the hunters' dogs wandering round the village looking confused because the bins have been taken away and hidden.
But the biggest clue is the deluge of ludicrous paperwork from the schools. Requests for material that wasn't on the list, notes informing parents of school rules and regulations, asking for confirmation about school lunches, complaining that pupils were absent when they weren't, asking for photocopies of insurance, health certificates and all the rest of the doo-lally stuff.
It's rather worse than usual this year though because sadly, one of the Junior Members has Monsieur S for French. He's well-known in the town, renowned even to people like me who've never met him. Infamous, even. Yep, this is the teacher who can't control his classes. For years, he has spent his working week yelling and screaming as school-children play music, climb on the desks, eat crisps, chat, fight, do their make-up and make mobile phone calls.
I know this is true because I've seen the photos, sound recordings and videos made on those mobile phones.
I'm sure all this is fun for the kids and that they enjoy messing Monsieur S about - but it does mean that they effectively lose a year's French lessons and have to catch up as they can the following year. Given of course, that they get a different teacher the following year.
It's so bad that last year at least one family withdrew their child from French classes, and used the CNED (learning by post) instead.
Which points up a problem with the French schooling system. This teacher can't be sacked. He turns up, he does his best. The fact that his best is pathetic in the extreme simply has no relevance. He's a fonctionnaire and therefore has a job for life.
Frankly - watch out, here comes the rant! - frankly it's scandalous that someone can be paid to teach and not do it. He has all the advantages of job-security, on-going teacher training, long holidays and a full package of benefits and he can't get his arse in gear.
If you or I did our jobs are badly as he does, we'd be out on our ears. And worse, the victims of his incompetence are the kids. Because make no mistake, we're talking normal kids here, not monsters. They behave in all the rest of their classes. The other teachers can maintain order in their classrooms.
So we're into the usual round of letters, meetings, parents phoning each other to complain and discuss what can be done... yes, a meeting with the head teacher, yes, a letter signed by a group of Concerned Parents, yes, a petition, yes, eventually a letter to the Academy... but in the meantime, I do keep looking at that Bricotruc display.
Those axes are a serious temptation.
Next column will be uploaded around 1st Oct.
This article is protected by all international copyright agreements, and reproduction is prohibited without permission of the author.