13 October, 2009

Plumb children.

The plumber slash electrician came by today to resolve an issue with the radiators, as helpful as he ever has been in all the time I have known him. I still have some trouble understanding him, because he has such an impenetrably thick accent--when he talks it sounds like a dialect unto itself. I remember how diligently I avoided any telephone conversation with him in the early years, as there was simply no way for me to make out most of what was being said. You can only say "sorry?" so many times before one or both of you looks the real fool.

From the beginning, he would regularly show up for repairs with one of his sons in tow. It took me a good while to figure out he had two, because they are identical twins. They were then six or seven years old, the most adorable little boys you could imagine. Now they are fifteen, as charming but a lot taller than me--which isn't saying necessarily that much. They are taller than their father--which isn't saying that much more.

Anyway, I was surprised to see his son Vincent today, during school hours. Vincent was at my house because he's decided to go for the bac pro, or vocational baccalauréat. This means that during his apprenticeship period, he will go to school for two weeks, then apprentice for two weeks, until he has accumulated sixteen weeks worth of on-the-job training. He is going to take over the family business, and the bac pro option will leave open the possibility for advanced training, putting him somewhere between a skilled, degreed worker and a qualified technician. Suddenly this fifteen year old is sawing away at my radiator pipes, and I find myself offering him a cup of coffee, and all but "vouvoyer"-ing him (vous being reserved for his father, whereas he was naturally always tu). People are slower to move to the more familiar and intimate tu in the mountainous province, also as a matter of respect. I beg some locals to tutoyer me, but they keep forgetting. It's that ingrained. Vincent would never tutoyer me.

I think in the meantime he has more important issues at hand, what with juggling school and on-the-job training--the boy cannot even drive a car yet. The bac pro, around since 1987, was developed to meet a market need and to avoid dead-ending those few young who still aim for the skilled trades. On the face of it, innovative enough.
Only in this country, however, can you find kids in the Guérande going for their bac ostréicole practical training, which translates to oystering and the culture thereof.


  1. I wish they had those "bac pro" in the US. They even stopped to teach kids how to fix cars in high school. There used to be so many great programs that have been cut because of a lack in money.

  2. There are similar issues in France, namely that the skills and old ways are dying with the old craftsmen. Kids here, as everywhere, would often rather work in the city, and behind a desk, than with their hands.

    The pity is that in any country, including France, education is woefully underfunded.


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