Monday, 1 September 2008


As the hairdresser's window reminds me in its inimitable fashion, 'La rentrée' is upon us. After a pleasingly unnecessary 5 am wake up call from our satanic, possessed alarm Clocky and the cheerful 5:30 bin men I went downstairs to grind my teeth and fretfully inventory the giant mountain of school supplies. I have, as ever, been having fun with the school supplies list. It is the demonic brainchild of the school staff, who ensure that each year without fail they demand the following:

i) An item that does not actually exist. Ideally they will start a rumour that there is one far flung outlet that sells it. This will be a lie but you will not know that until you have taken several buses/trams/walked along miles of cobbles in unsuitable shoes asked for it haltingly and been laughed at cruelly.

ii) An item so ridiculous it makes me doubt my understanding of Belgian French - like, say, a snakeskin toga. I will anxiously check with many people that it is, indeed, a snakeskin toga. My sources will confirm that yes, indeed, it is a snakeskin toga. I will source and provide a snakeskin toga, only to learn that no, it isn't THAT kind of snakeskin toga, anglo-saxon fool. Once he learns that his snakeskin toga is sub-standard and it is all my fault, Lashes has perfected the art of wailing despairingly "But WHY maman?" in an existential fashion, to which I can only reply "I do not know, but you might as well get used to it. 12 more years of this torture and I can tell you with confidence that I will continue to get it wrong for every one of those years. Feel free to hate me as much as you feel is appropriate".

iii) An insanely specific branded type of something totally generic, like, crayons. Why must they be Staedtler? Why? Why? Whhhhyyyyy (are you getting an inkling of how deeply this whole thing wounds me in its futility? Are you? I can try harder if you need me to)?? Are you on commission? Do you like the colour of the box? Or do you, as I begin to suspect, really really hate me?

iv) Le mouton à cinq pattes (five legged sheep) as the francophones have it. A thing so rare, so precious, that it takes on mythical status. Say, for instance, an abacus made from volcanic obsidian and unicorn horn. Sweat blood. Use all your physical and mental energy to hunt the fucker down. Fail. Try again. Fail again. Eventually locate in Bhutan at price of a five carat diamond. Order on internet from Bhutan, sending many thousands of used dollar bills to PO Box. FR.AUD. Feel smug and superior. Once you have it in your sweaty grasp, you will see them everywhere. In the supermarket, in the corner shop, in the kitchen cupboards, lying in the road, dancing in your dreams.

I have my suspicions as to what the staff actually do with this monumental pile of stationery. It's a tie between 'sell on Ebay' and 'pile in middle of staff room, throw at each other and laugh demonically until mildly nauseous'. Any teachers able to enlighten me?

Anyway, off they went, weighed down like wrestling tortoises with their huge bags. I give it, oooh three days before I am summoned to the headmaster's office for the first time this year. Don't bet against me. You will lose.


Persephone said...

You forget the final humiliation: "Oh, that's just on the standard list. I don't really use those. What he/she'll really need is...."

zoe said...

It's so much easier in secondary school - I give them the money and let them get on with it ALL. And that includes covering the fucking books.

Dani said...

oh crap. this will be my life beginning next year. at least it will all be conducted in drawling, dipthong ridden Australian English, in which I am fluent.

Jaywalker said...

Persephone - Yes; you are right. Also 'really? that's on the list? I have no idea why'
Zoe - this gives me some hope. But don't they just run off with the money? I would if I were them.
Dani - I'd suggest you stock up already, but there's no predicting what they'll put on there. It defies all logic.

tartetartan said...

I am glad to hear I am not alone in my suffering - sorry! Great post. Am off to read some of your others now.

Helena said...

I went to five shops today to find a navy blue gym bag, for my fucking niece. I am replacing an errant nanny for a month and my sister had already given up on this particular impossible find. How she must have laughed when she thought "I know, I'll ask Helena to pick one up tomorrow morning."
We still don't have one, but if she's like the rest of the family she won't need it anyway. She'll be too busy hiding in the toilets or claiming she has forgotten her trainers.

Jaywalker said...

Oh Helena. Why oh why? I mean, if it's not navy fucking blue will the world cease to turn on its axis? I hate this. Hate with pointy spiky hate.
Also - yeah. Gym class. When my son's gym kit request came through I was all 'you poor bastard, here begins 12 years of torture'. He has my remedial sport genes.

TT- hell, I tell you. The CFO has decided he is going to secretly disseminate a 'leaked' list for next year, including Rolex Oyster 1956, 35g of weapons grade plutonium, Guthenberg bible 1545 and three fragments of the thigh bone of Christ.