Eldest daughter came home last week with an arm load of forms to be completed for her ‘stage’ or work experience. I have fond memories of (not) doing work experience aged 15. Looking upon it as an opportunity for a week off school, I told my year head that I would be working at the stables.
As this was the very same stables where I kept my pony, you can probably imagine how I spent my time. The year head threatened to visit. I never did see her; probably as a result of the directions I sent, which involved a number of footpaths, fields and stiles.
Stiles are always a good deterrent for women in skirts.
Eldest daughter had been planning to do pretty much the same, until the meeting this week at school. Off we trotted assuming we could just fill in the forms and inform the school that she would be at home with her parents, learning how to be a self-employed photojournalist.
Obstacle number one was the discovery that the French authorities do not recognise photojournalism as a profession. They consider it simply impossible to do the two things. So bear that in mind, all you war zone reporters out there. You don’t actually exist - at least not according to the French authorities.
And of course, bien sur, neither parent has any ‘diplomes’ to wave around as proof either.
Obstacle number two was the meeting itself. It was so excruciatingly boring that I resorted to sorting out my handbag, filing my nails and writing notes to the friend sitting next to me.
Honestly - anything that needed to be said, could have been said within the first fifteen minutes. Instead we were treated to an hour and a half of general pontification about the benefits of work experience, why the children would be doing it, where they could do it, what would happen at lunch time and what they would not be able to do. Bla bla bla.
Everything was repeated twice, if not three times. Mothers took copious amounts of notes and no-one seemed in any hurry to get home. Mind you, this wasn’t surprising as most of them had clearly dressed up for the occasion and one lady had brought her knitting.
The upshot of all this was the discovery that, the kids would not actually be working (they are too young), just observing. They would be allowed to be placed with other family members if there was no alternative and that local placements were the better option.
And that it was better to ask someone you know, as they are more likely to answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘would you like little Jean-Claude to come and stand around the place, watch you work, do nothing and generally get on your tits for a week? Oh and can you feed him at lunchtimes too please?’
As most people round here work on farms and are also related to each other, January will see a whole lot of bored kids standing round on their relatives farms.
February may well see a flurry of court cases where farmers are accused of burying snotty adolescents in the silage.
The daughter refused to be stopped in her tracks by French officialdom and went off to see her teacher the next day. She pointed out that if she stayed at home, she would be allowed to use the photographic equipment (and might learn something) whereas a ‘professional’ studio would be very unlikely to let her anywhere near it. Then in a stroke of pre-teen genius, she argued that as the vagaries of French law mean her step-father has no legal rights over her, he could not be considered a parent and was thus not a close family member.
Result - one resigned teacher, one happy child and parents who have just realised they will be stuck with the child for a week when she could be at school or standing around on a farm somewhere.