French retreat to give Sarkozy a clean break
Most countries like to have 12 months in the year. Not the French. The official French year lasts for 11 months. It begins in September and ends in July. August is not just a time for holidays. It is a time of mass exodus from reality; a hiatus; a pause in the immutable rhythms of normal life; a time to leave home and go and sponge on Grand-mere in her house in the country.
For President Nicolas Sarkozy, the end of the month cannot come too soon. He hopes that, by the end of August, when France reopens for business, the country will have had its hard disk wiped clean by chilled rose wine, suntan cream, cheap novels, byzantine family quarrels and dense traffic jams. The French will return to their ordinary lives with only a vague memory of the "Affaire Bettencourt" and its wonderfully convoluted suggestions of hypocrisy and greed and envelopes stuffed with cash in high places.
In France, September is not just called 'septembre'. It is also called 'la rentree', or the 'great return': the true start of the year.