School holidays are the same throughout France in the summer and autumn, but in February and at Easter they are staggered. This year it is the turn of our zone to be first, hence we start our holidays today, 9th February. Other zones will start on 16th or 23rd.This can make the terms very unequal in length.
We wondered why the holidays are so early and it was explained to us that it is the result of pressure from the ski resorts who want to extend the skiing period for as long as possible to maximise their income. They are obviously a very influential group.
The second surprising thing happened while I was watching the lunchtime news. On the major TV1 channel there are news programmes at 1pm and 8pm. Very often the first news item will be about how people are coping with the weather, or something to do with the everyday lives of the french. The 1pm news is followed by documentaries about different regions in France, which are very helpful for us foreigners.
Despite this fairly informal approach, I was still surprised at the end of the programme to hear the announcer add a personal comment. He wanted to wish his mother a very happy birthday! Admittedly, it may have been a significant birthday but I cannot imagine the same thing happening in Britain. We found it quite touching.