Talk about being at the right place at the right time. I was in the bank on Friday afternoon, sorting out something to do with a savings account, when my advisor, Julie, busy on the computer, said she’d just had an email saying that our Benj was overdrawn. Now, overdrawing in France can be a very serious matter. Benj was only €20 down, and it had only just happened. I quickly authorised a transfer of a tiding-over sum from his savings account to his current account and once I was back outside, instantly got on the phone to Apparently Profligate Son. This took a bit of doing because I’m still not totally au fait with my Smarter-Than-Me Phone. I was texting Benj since I couldn’t get into my address book to find his number to call him so the only way I could get in contact him was by replying to a previous text. (And nope, I don’t know his phone number off by heart. I’m a Bad Mother.) He was phoning me back but I couldn’t remember how to answer a call on my new machine. Seriously. By chance I eventually swiped the screen by mistake, on his third or fourth time of ringing me, and we finally had a conversation. We were both rather stressed by now. New technology sucks!

He was as astonished as I was and the reason it’s happened is because his grant hasn’t come through. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to the French government for subsidising my children’s and their peers’ university educations but they’ve been a bit slapdash this year. Caiti at Bordeaux got her money through, for September, on 1st October, and Benj at Limoges found out today that he’ll get his on 16th October. This delay clearly causes students a lot of problems. If I hadn’t been in the bank on Friday, Benj, in blissful ignorance, would have most likely dipped further under before he or I got some official warning about it and risked fines and a black mark. It’s fortunate he had savings to tide him over, and that we were able to give Caits a float for this precise event so that both of them could pay their bills. Benj’s float had already gone on rent. The student residences, run by Crous, the same body that dishes out the grants, still want their rent on time and in full, whether or not the kids have received the funds to be able to pay it. At the beginning of the student year, there’s also a caution to pay, equivalent to one month’s rent, so that’s when they really need the money.

There’s no explanation and no apology forthcoming. Well, this is France! And of course, Benj should have been keeping an eye on his bank balance. He certainly will now …

For any students facing financial hardship because of a delay in a grant payment, here’s a useful site.