School days and Musees

Yesterday, I’d gone with Jake on his ‘sortie’ to an archaeological site and then to the museum at Angoulème. There were a couple of other parents along for the ride as well, and it felt all lovely and small. With a school with 42 children, it’s very easy to know who all the children are, especially when most of the boys seem to be called Julian and their mothers Veronique. Jake likes to call the Julians ‘Julio’ although I realised he only does this at home, opting for the ‘Juli-[an]’ the French say when he’s at school. I think he’s sanitising the names for us, which is nice of him.

The children seem a lot younger, as I came to realise later in the day, and much more ‘childish’, in a good way. Though I am reminded at this point of a very giggly Jordan (the Julian of the English classroom) laughing all the way back from the WWE wrestling about wee and poo. Another mother turned up, and the kids latched onto her – she was surrounded by about ten kids in a huge group hug and then little Sarah, who spent much of the morning revealing how I’d been spotted in various places in La Rochefoucauld, spent the first leg of the trip telling her all sorts of wonderful information. I like this. So many English primary school teachers shy away from hugs and holding hands. I’m reminded of when I started teaching and I went to a primary school up behind the flats in Sheffield, where a boy held my hand for all the lessons. I realised I couldn’t be a primary teacher because I’d get too attached, but somewhere in the last 15 years, it’s now frowned upon to hug the children.

We first went to Mouthiers-Sur-Boeme, a site with a prehistoric grotte, bien sur, and a few cave carvings. The archaeologists who came from the museum were great. The first, a younger guy with a beard and converse, reminded me just how much I love French ‘city’ people – the intellectuals in their pea-coats and tight trousers and converse – how creative they seem, how different from the blueprint-copied ‘salary-men’ in Japan (and England) for example. The second, older guy, was hugely entertaining with his ‘super-cool’ – it’s really lovely to see people who are genuinely excited about the work that they do.

The carvings, however, brought out the schoolgirl in me. At first, it’s kind of a loose frieze of horses. Maybe. But then, once you really look, someone’s decided one of them is pregnant. No, that didn’t make me giggle. Behind that horse, someone has decided the two horses side-by-side are actually inflagrante delicto. Early Animal Planet. And then a horse being born. A life cycle. Still, the school girl in me got giggly that they’d carved two horses rutting. I’m such a child. Still, the kids didn’t find it at all amusing. I was childish by myself.

The tiny Mme Tasty and Mme Delhomme then took us on to the Musée d’Angoulême where we had lunch. The school had brought us a picnic, which included a very straightforward ham and cheese salad sandwich, a babybel and a banana. There was a bit of swapping going on. I realised all the kids talk at Jake as if he’s just completely French. Others asked me why he didn’t talk much in class, but having watched them talking a lot in class, I didn’t really mind that.

We looked at ancient dinosaur bones – as the Charente is the centre of Dinosaur France – and made flints. The enthusiastic archaeologist even cut his trousers as a demonstration of the cutting power of the flint. Très bien. But I bet Mme. Enthusiastic Archaeologist wasn’t so happy when he got home. The kids went mental for flint, and it just made me wonder if they’d be allowed to do something like that in the UK. Both Julians got cut fingers (from silly boy behaviour, bien sur!) and had to have sticking plasters, les sparadraps, but there was no mass panic.

It was a really lovely to spend the day with Jake – just to see how he’s getting on. It’s quite marvellous really that he’s settled in so well. He seemed a little lost at points when he was with less enthusiastic children, but he seems to have a little posse of boys who are perhaps not the most sensible of boys, but who are lovely all the same. And who says boys shouldn’t be boys? So they cut their fingers! They learned about flint, though! So here’s to Jake’s lovely new friends!

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