A pink taxi

A pink taxi

September 18, 2010

Fournitures Scolaires

The title of this entry has to be in French. It means School Supplies. It has to be French because it covers many more items than any other school system. Unless I don't know what the Japanese require, and I could be sure that their list is as intricate as the French one.

The department stores, supermarkets and stationary stores wait till early August before they assail you with the reminder of the ending summer holidays, the ones you dream to be indefinite and endless, as a child (not as a mom). The dreaded word "Rentree" is spelled in large letters on the store windows or even worse can be found in 1950s style cursive in advertisements.

The 1950s style cursive is still required 60 years later and it explains why the list of school supplies is so complex. French students use pencils for their draft. They use ball point rarely (even though BIC is a French brand). Perhaps that is why BIC also does disposable lighters (for Gauloises consumption). A French educated third grader should know how to use an ink fountain pen: Waterman, Pelican are the most famous but there is also Reynolds. (The nostalgic adults end up buying Mont Blanc).

That fountain pen has its paraphernalia: the ink capsules (lucky we don't carry bottles) and its eraser which is a magic white pen that can delete a mistake in ink. The correction must then be written in a certain blue correction pen. Most of us have had inky fingers, inky clothes, inky pencil cases. Indeed we are required to carry our pen and corrector, pencil, eraser, ruler, sharpener, three colored pens in a pencil case. Each colored pen is for a purpose: corrections, under lining, answers etc.

Our handwriting must be showcased and conserved in note books, small format in primary school and large format in secondary. The pages are quadrilated in Seyes, which are lines that are drawn for handwriting. The t must end at the second line up, the j must go down to second line down. The l will go up to the third line and the f will go down to the third line. Capital letters will go up four lines. There is a single millimeter between each line so the handwriting is a work of precision.

These pages also come with perforated holes for folders. French teachers love folders and they make us add our lessons to folders. If we hand them exams or compositions, they require pages to be doubled which means we hand in four pages that open up like a book.

As hand writers, we learn to become picky about the paper we buy because we want our fountain pens to glide on the surface. We often buy Clairefontaine or Canson. We can tell the grain of the paper at the early age of ten.

French brains are trained to be carthesian so we have all the mathematical tools, the rulers, the compass, the "equerre"(T square) and the "rapporteurs" (protracters). We measure angles and draw circles from the early third grade. Often we are required to perform these geometrical elaboration on milimetered paper.

We are not all fortunate enough to go to France to buy these items. My family wasn't for a long time. Perhaps this has made me "self conscious" and ever since I have set foot in France I have always amassed the school supplies, like a squirrel preparing for winter. My parents have given us free reign in that department telling us nothing was too much for school or books. We treat my kids to the same exuberant school supplies shopping. We hoard on notebooks, folders, pens etc.

When I walk into a stationary, the smell of paper sends me on a rush. I either look for the special personalized item ie a decorated notebook or the ultra classic, simple Clairefontaine paper.

2 comments:

  1. If you happen to be in France during the last week of August,you will hear nothing on TV,and will read nothing in theseious political papers;except about the overwhelming excitement of the French about the "Rentree"in general and the "Rentree Scholaire" in particular!The French who worship their long July-August holidays;get very nervous when they have to scuttle to purchase their children's "Fournitures".They start discussing in details the prices of their pens and their fountain pens,and the ever rising cost of their famous "Clairefontaines" .
    Till this day Baron Bich who revolutionized the disposable pen,lighter and shaving blade in 1945 could not bring the French teacher to accept his ballpoint pen in lieu of the fountain pen!Alas the generation after our grandchildren will not need to write anymore since they will be using the new generation of the touch IPad or the verbal command technology!

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