I have arranged to meet Mr Frog outside the front door of
our my apartment building at 08.45 am, and Tadpole shrieks with delight as soon as she catches sight of the familiar figure striding towards us, Vespa helmet swinging from his left hand.
After one rapturous greeting (Mr Frog, Tadpole) and one slightly more awkward one (Mr Frog, me), we set off towards our common goal. Today we are meeting Madame D, directrice of one of the two local maternelles in our catchment area. Judging by the rasp of her voice on the telephone, I suspect Madame D has long nurtured a forty-a-day Gaulloise habit, and until she helpfully mentioned that her name was Brigitte, I wouldn’t have been able to assert with confidence whether I was conversing with a male or a female.
Of the two schools on the fiche de préinscription obtained at the town hall just before Christmas, I have opted to visit this school first, largely for the simple reason that the other school, a mere 100 m away, currently has a large poster stuck on its front door, proclaiming:
LES POUX SONT DE RETOUR!
Alongside a cartoon depiction of some head lice executing a merry dance. That, along with the fact that the building the other school is housed in is a rather less attractive brick structure dating from the 1970’s, was research enough for me.
We climb the stairs to the headmistress’s office, passing a row of pegs where a rainbow tangle of coats and scarves hang under pictures bearing the names of their owners. The most popular names would still appear to be Léa (for girls, pronounced like the Star Wars princess) and Lucas (for boys, with a silent ‘s’). Through an open classroom door, I spy a group of children seated on the floor, listening intently to a story, remarkably well-behaved. In a larger room on the ground floor, children not much older than Tadpole teeter on makeshift stilts, fashioned from upturned buckets on strings.
Of course the ironic fact of the matter is that Tadpole will probably not be attending either of these schools come September. If all my plans come to fruition, my daughter and I will be living in the centre of Rennes by then, and her local school will be a stone’s throw from Lover’s house, and the local park. However, as schools in my arrondissement of Paris are notoriously over-subscribed, just in case anything goes wrong, bets must be hedged, and Parisian directrices must be courted. Better to be safe than sorry.
Mr Frog still wanted to come along, even though we were only going through the motions. I’m not sure why. The stated reason was that he wanted to feel involved, and have a point of comparison when I describe the school in Rennes at some time in the future. There may also be some denial involved. Either way, it transformed a visit which should have been vaguely exciting into a rather tense affair, both of us skirting hesitantly around the real issues for fear of igniting a row or unintentionally causing pain.
Happily, Tadpole remained blissfully unaware of the undercurrents, saucer eyes taking in every detail of the school.
Something tells me I will be spending this evening threading string through buckets and listening to the clattering of makeshift stilts on my parquet floor.