Today was the day of the Kermesse, otherwise known as the school fête. A day filled with bonhomie, bonbons and “ah bon?” (what really?)
The day started early, and at approximately ten this morning – my ‘otherwise-asleep’ adolescent was clamouring for his croissants in order to meet up with his friends in the school ‘cour’ (playground). They had a basketball stand to manage!
The school has devised a pretty neat system for paying for activities and refreshments, a large ‘welcome’ tent manned by parents selling booklets of ten tickets for ten euros, and thereafter a money-free day for children and parents alike. A second row of parents selling ‘ticket repas’with a choice of two possible menus, budget and gastronomique!
Today as I headed into the crowd to find my children with their meal tickets, It did occur to me that I might be being a little over ambitious – After being confronted by the following stalls, it was pretty self-evident that by lunchtime they wouldn’t be hungry!
Une toute petite (?) boule de Barbe à Papa!
A little ball of Candy floss – otherwise know as Grandpa’s beard!
No really, there aren’t enough to chose from….
Mais oui, Madame, ily a un autre rang. But yes, Madame, there’s another row!
Ah bon? Really?
Did I mention how French parents are natural crèpe makers! No shortage of parent helpers for this stall! No lemon and sugar for the French, but a huge bowl of molten chocolate to spread over…liberally!
Under the trees thirty long tables are set out to await the parents, Maman qui ne mange pas entre les repas – French maman who doesn’t eat between meals – et papa qui a grand faim – And French papa who is a gastronome! And me, well because the menu gastronomique has been cooked by a French chef and it’s good.
A midi, the parents discard their children and seat in huge gregarious groups n’importe ou (no-one minds where), the length of the tables, pulling in extra chairs for stragglers, serving friends, husband, wife, mamie (granny)or papie (grandpa) glasses of wine or sparkling water in gobelets (plastic cups – it sounds better in French doesn’t it!) whilst tucking into the menu budget, or gastronomique.
Frites merguez for the impoverished, (chips and spicy sausages)
Melon, dressed salad, Paella (chicken, mussels, merguez) and of course frites for the discerning!
Finally, a good hour and a half later, the parents rise, replete with bonhomie, a year’s worth of conversation and a contented stomach to search out their wandering children. Let the afternoon begin!
Monsieur ‘La chasse’ is once more on the scene. The hunt, an essential part of the French lifestyle is introduced early, and a necessary feature of the school fête, even though one wonders about the presence of authentic air rifles and lead pellets passing any sort of ‘health and safety’ guidelines.
I had already noted the stripey ‘Police – Do Not Cross This Line’ tape surrounding the sweet stand – curiously absent here!
Monsieur La Chasse turns away to help a six year old handle the rifle, leaving my nine year old wielding his!
The day is not complete before all the classes of primary have entertained their parents under the ‘Grand Preaux’
The space men sing us a little ditty. The performances last all afternoon and parents come and go to watch their ‘petite pousse‘ (little ‘growing thing) do his bit!
Enfin, the tombola; first prize, dinner and a night for two at the 5 star Renaissance Hotel Bourgtheroulde in Rouen (complete with spa and underground swimming-pool). It is of no great suprise that I don’t win!
A last throw of the basket ball…
and we head home happy, our pockets full of silly 1€ plastic toys that will probably only just survive till the morning!
Another fab read. It all looks and sounds so wonderful. Nice to see the sun shining too. Guns at a school fete! You would never get that in a state school in England would you?!
Since we have been here in NZ it has really made me realise how risk assessment crazy the UK is. Get the cotton wool off our children and let them live I say! Jude goes to school every day without shoes and climbs trees and monstrously high play structures at lunch times – even in the rain!
And candy floss, endless rows of sweets and other tooth rotting substances……..Surely that’s what school fetes should be about. It’s called childhood isn’t it…….
And by golly – wine and parenting abandonment. I’ll have some of that right now! Xx
It was so fab, and so French to be sitting at those long tables with parents we knew and those we didn’t. A great opportunity to meet new people and enjoy the ambience. Keep those shoes off and play in the rain, and shoot a few targets Jan, That would never have happened at JB!
Ah The Kermesse. I remember those days. Glad you had a good time and the weather looked good. 🙂
I remember the Kermesse at the bilingual school I went to. 🙂 Elementary schools in the US also have school fairs every spring. Though we call the candy floss cotton candy. They were lots of fun!
Glad to see that you keep on writing and sharing your experience of french immersion.
I am working on an article about how foreign people (tourists, students, workers…) feel about the french hospitality. Looking for a family settled in Rouen, I thought you might like to tell us about your story, or if not, maybe you know another family who would accept to help?
Thanks a lot. A bientôt j’espère.
Hi Sandrine, with pleasure, and I can introduce you to another family too! Best regards, Miranda
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