The first few weeks

There’s school, with it’s ‘unimaginative’ playground. A concrete oblong. I think about the parents in the UK who’d complained about the playground at the girls’ school there. That it was boring. It was actually pretty great. But the French playground? A blank canvas. Into which the children bring imagination, skipping ropes, clap hand games, diablos and hop scotch. Just like we did as children. Nowt wrong with it.  I happily knot two curtain tie backs together for the girls to use as a skipping rope until a real one arrives in the post (we traipse all over town but no skipping rope can be found). I wish I’d known – there are two lovely almost unused wooden-handled skipping ropes somewhere in our storage unit back in the UK…

Within a week the girls know that their after-class activities are called TAP. Daisy is understanding every time her teacher mentions a ‘régle’ and Isla is uttering frequent ‘oui’s. I’m hopeful.


Thursday morning of week two Isla has a huge meltdown. Like – enormous. I suppose it’s to be expected. It’s a doozy. The ‘I’ll scream and scream and scream until I make myself sick,’ kind of meltdown. She is, literally, retching. I feel horrible. But she’s done it before – she has a gift of theatrics…

When I pick her up later her teacher is almost unbearably kind. She’d talked to Isla, discovered that Isla was really nervous about eating in the school canteen for the first time that day, and the fact that it would mean not seeing me all day long. So she’d organised it that the girls could eat together. And all was well. I feel incredibly grateful and fortunate that Isla has been gifted such a teacher.

On the way home I ask Daisy how lunch was. She begins, “Well, for our starter….”  Need I say more?!

The next day it’s Daisy’s turn for a meltdown. Totally different style. Moochy in the morning but okay by the time we reach school. But at lunchtime (I’m not plunging them into canteen lunches every day – I’m soft, me) her teacher tells me she’s not been herself, and at our usual indoor picnic spot she doesn’t eat much at all. I fear taking her home for the afternoon – what kind of a fit is Isla going to throw when she sees that happening? But she’s calm today and doesn’t bat an eyelid . Phew. Daisy spends the afternoon mooching and resting, and rallies.


Then there’s the first time since our arrival that we take the girls out skiing. It’s the Saturday before Isla starts a week of morning lessons with school so we’re keen to get them out there for a warm-up session. The weather isn’t great. Three quarters of the way up a long chairlift it becomes clear it’s a lot worse than that.

Driving sleet. Pretty much a white-out. Yuck.

Suffice it to say we don’t make it down en famille. It takes forever to get down this one blustery, bumpy, dastardly blue run – with a distinctly red ending.

James gets Isla down by hook, crook and portage, and she throws in a dose of awesome girliness to pull herself together and get back on her skis. I get Daisy down with patience, cajoling, being yelled at, shutting up, letting her sort herself out and find her strength and amaze the heck out of me.

Then we jump on the bus two stops and go home to eat chocolate.

Chocolate is already becoming too big a feature of my life in France…



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