Having lived in France for over six years now, you would think that we would no longer be surprised by French bureaucracy… but no we still get caught out on a regular basis. The French really love their rules & regulations & everything involving paperwork has to be done (& usually signed) in triplicate. I have been agitating for us to exchange our UK driving licenses for French ones for some time now as the address on our UK licenses has no relation with where we actually live. Although the lady at the prefecture in Clermont Ferrand pointed out that as we both have EU licenses, we don’t actually have to change, I really thought that after 6 years we should do something about it. So, Geoff got his license changed first just to see how difficult it would be & was pleasantly surprised that all went well & he got his Fr license without any bother. It didn’t cost anything either which surprised us. I went with him to collect it & took all my paperwork to get the ball rolling for my exchange. The lady looked at my passport (proof of identity as requested) & my UK license & said “Ah..nous avons un petite probleme ici” ..& my heart sank! The license (& passport) is of course in the name which I have used for the last 34 years...my married name. In France though, as she pointed out in great detail, your nom de jeune fille (maiden name) is the one which counts. So I had to make another journey back to CF clutching my passport (in my married name) my UK license (married name) & birth certificate (which she couldn’t make head nor tail of) to prove my maiden name. I suspect now that the Fr license, when it arrives, will be in a name I have not used for many years & which, should I be stopped in the UK, will have difficulty in remembering to tell the nice police officer! Sometime you just want to scream here! One good thing that did come out of my enforced second trip up to CF was that it enabled me to meet up with my friend Linda for a long overdue lunch date. I had to wait for her to arrive & so was led astray...Galleries Lafayette seems to have a magnetic pull whenever I’m in CF! We had a lovely lunch though & then we had a bit of a wander & she introduced me to a very interesting shop which sells cheaper bedding(always a problem here getting decent bedding at a reasonable price) & I took her to my favourite art supply shop as she has recently taken up painting . A good day all round.
Our second brush with Fr bureaucracy this month was having the gite classement redone, under the new classement rules. We had applied for this to be done(reluctantly) in January, as our local Office de Tourisme had said that they weren’t sure if we could be included in their website or brochures without this new classement. I hate these inspections with a passion as the criteria we have to pass just to have 2 measly stars are ridiculous. They take no interest in how nice the gite is, or any of the safety stuff we have in there (such as smoke alarms etc)& are only interested in the size of your fridge or the lighting in the bathroom etc. So I was mega stressed by the time the Day of Judgment arrived & was sent off to a friend’s house for the morning, so as to avoid hitting the inspector if he made nasty comments! We did pass...but only just as our fridge does not have a freezer compartment & one (out of 6) of our beds has metal springs (only wooden slat frames are deemed correct!)Just to prove my point re the craziness of the whole thing, as the guy was leaving Geoff said to him jokingly “see you in 5 years then” He replied, “No, I’m looking for a new job. These regulations were written by people who have never stayed in a gite in their lives & are stupid! I can’t take the stress any more!” I rest my case M`Lord.
Geoff has been a bit stressed too this last week as he has been having back problems again. He has been going regularly to a Pilates class which he finds helps him keep his back in shape & this has worked well for many years now. However, recently, Pilates has become popular with the younger fit female clientele at the gym & the class & the exercises have changed. He came back one day saying that they had done exercises which he didn’t think were strictly Pilates & were a bit difficult…& the next morning he could hardly move. After a few days of agony, I insisted he go to the doctor. So off he went to be told it was nothing serious, just lumbago! He also came back looking like a true French person clutching his pharmacie bag full of pills & potions! All the bureaucracy worked well this time though & his card vitale paid for most of these, & the doctor’s fee will be reimbursed too.
The other bit of paperwork which we have now in our possession is the certificate to say we have had our chimney swept this year. It is necessary to keep sweeping the flues as they do get clogged & chimney fires are quite common here. In the past Geoff has swept our chimneys himself, but to keep on the right side of your insurance here, should you need to make a claim, you need to be able to prove that you have had the chimney swept each year. Our fire has been a bit smokey of late & so we decided to have the chimney swept properly. It cost a fair bit…nice work if you can get it, I can tell you, as the sweep was here for only about 30 mins ...but at least now we have our precious bit of paper!
We have been very quiet B&B wise this month which has been nice. I really needed a bit of a rest & it has also meant that we could get all these little jobs done without having to worry about guests. It has also meant that we could have a bit more of a social life & get out & about a bit too. I was really looking forward to the quiz night at John & Pat’s bar this month as it was the first one we’d been able to go to since they stared doing them. However when we arrived there was no-one else there so we had a nice meal & a game of darts with John & Pat instead! Typically the rearranged date (this week) is not convenient for us. I give up! I love quizzes too :( Last night saw us hosting one of our lovely friend Liliane`s soirees in the gite. A very talented lady, Francoise, came & sang Piaf songs. She was very good & there was quite a good turnout of local people who all really enjoyed the evening. I am always pleased to help Liliane out as she really tries to keep bringing the community together with these soirees. The gite was the ideal place for this concert as it is big enough & at the same time quite intimate, which meant the evening was really cosy. We lit the fire & put candles everywhere & it looked really good. Piaf isn’t really my “tasse de the” but the evening went very well indeed.We also got our photo & a write up of the evening in the local paper, which is always good publicity for the gite.
The weather has been very odd again this month. It has been very mild indeed with temperatures in the mid 20cs which has meant that we have still been able to eat outside at lunch time & breakfast time too, some days. It does get cool in the evenings & the dark nights are really drawing in now. The clocks go back this weekend which will make that even worse. Last week we had several days of very strong winds which brought big branches down every where…including across our little access road. A quick text to the Maire soon sorted that out though & they were removed very quickly. There are some good things about Fr officialdom, as I suspect that wouldn’t happen so efficiently in the UK!
We did have a sad event this month with the death of one of my Croix Rouge friends. She was one of the pillars of the Croix Rouge & will be sorely missed there. We went to her funeral in the big church in Issoire. The church was pretty full & there were lots of dignitaries in attendance as well as a big turn out of Red Cross members all of us in our distinctive jackets. The service was very moving as she had done a lot of things in her life & was very well known in the locality. At the end of a funeral here they do something which I find very nice, in that everyone is invited to file down to the coffin & say a personal goodbye in whatever way you want. Some people make the sign of the cross, others sprinkle a bit of holy water, whilst others, like me, just bow their heads & remember something personal. She always used to greet me when she saw me, with “Bonjour, ma petite Angleterre” & it was nice to be able to say “Adieu, Janine” in my own way. I will miss her.
We are off on holiday this weekend…at last! I am so looking forward to seeing the sea again, visiting new places lazing around on the boat & not having to think about eating or making food for other people! The glad rags have been dusted off & the jewelry (such as it is!) unearthed. Bring it on!! Oh & yes…we will have all the car doors locked as we drive though Marseille this time!