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Diary 2016

New Format

The Diary for previous years was constructed principally from posts in my Yahoo internet group “La Vie en France”. This year most of the group posts have been on the Facebook equivalent, from which it is more difficult to extract the text.

In the past I've found the “Diary” useful for remembering what went on and when; as a result this years “Diary” is a mix of dates, links and text; a kind of annotated calendar…

Pole Dancing for Geriatrics

13 March 2016

My very-un-favourite yearly job chez nous is clearing the coppiced poles from the many stumps of ailanthus altissima on the terraced south slope of Tessel Bas.

Here's a link to a few pictures and some grumbles about the job.

Peter Visit

12 April 2016 – 19 April 2016

Peter flew in from Berlin to Toulouse for Christine's 70th Birthday.

Motor Tour to Valencia

17 May 2016 – 25 May 2016

Here's a link to a Google album of photographs.

Callum & Sasha Wedding

11 June 2016

Here's a link to a Flickr album of photographs.

WiFi Proliferates

3 August 2016

Metre-thick stone walls are death for WiFi signals. My smart TV begged for an internet connection in an inconvenient place, so I bought a pair of Devolo power line LAN adapters. Plug one in near the router, another with WiFi near the TV. The one near the TV gave me three LAN sockets, one for the TV, one for the Apple TV and one spare - and an extra WiFi source for the iPhone and iPad. They're literally plug and play, just push a button on each device to encrypt the data.

But I had another dead spot in the kitchen and the Pure internet radio didn't have a reliable connection for Christine's Radio 4. So I bought another Devolo WiFi adaptor. This time I had a little hiccough in the configuration, but Support at the factory in Aachen, Germany, sorted me out rapidly with English-speaking advice.

The product is well made and well supported, if a little pricey - and available on French Amazon - recommended!


Simon & Sara Visit

9 August 2016 – 17 August 2016

Beat Brexit by Naturalisation

23 August 2016

By far the tallest hurdle in the process is assembling and getting translated all the birth, adoption, wedding, divorce and death certificates required by the procedure. Some have to be "L'original de la copie intégrale" (the original certified copy) and some just "La copie intégrale" - which I assume can be a photocopy of the thing you get from the Register Office. In many cases I have neither, so I have to order copies and get them translated.

I decided to test the process by getting a full birth certificate for my late mother - I'd only got a very tatty short-form certificate which is over a hundred years old.

The General Register Office certificate ordering service proved to be easy to use and effective, if somewhat slow. I ordered the certificate online on the 18th July and a posting date of 9th August was promised for a standard fee of £9.25; it arrived today, just over a month later.

I then looked at how many certificates are required. I already have a few certificates and rather fewer translations thereof, dated 2003, from my Titre de Séjour application. With previous and current marriages, parents, siblings and children, I needed some 14 certificates and 20 translations. Assuming a translation fee by a traducteur assermenté of about €30 per page, this lot comes to a grand total of about €755, or more if my old translations won't be accepted.

This is serious money and I have to question whether it is really necessary. What is the point of obtaining a translation of the wedding certificate of my first marriage to a woman who is now dead? What is the point of showing them the translated birth certificates of Christine's brother and sister? It seems that they are trying to reconstitute a "Livret de Famille" starting with our parents.

There are other papers required - to prove you own your house, how much pension you get, the tax you pay, whether you've paid it, etc. but they're relatively simple to find.

Recognising that there is always a degree of discretion in French bureaucracy, my first step would normally be to bend the ear of someone at the prefecture and ask if all this guff is really necessary. However naturalisation dossiers are dealt with at regional level (for me it's for (Nouvelle?) Aquitaine in Bordeaux), making personal contact difficult.

So I could (1) bite the bullet, pay out the hundreds of Euro, provide everything I can and wait for the inevitable whinges about things I've omitted.

Or I could (2) provide a reasonable minimum of supporting docs and (within 6 months) provide the extra ones on which they insist.

Or I could (3) call on the help promised by the secretary in my Mairie for constituting my dossier - she would liaise with Bordeaux to make sure I've got everything before it's sent off.

Or I could (4) sit on my hands and wait for the Brexit fallout - and do whatever I'm told to do when it happens.

Of these alternatives, 3 seems to be the best idea, but 4 is an increasing possibility!

Further Info on Document Translation:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2092_en.htm - it was agreed on 6th June 2016 and the EU countries have 2½ years to ratify it. So will it be a race between France ratifying it and 2 years after Article 50? Or does the fact that English is an official EU language supersede that? Either way it`s a marvellous excuse for me to shelve the whole caboodle! Procrastinate and Save!

Peter Visits with Karen

3 October 2016 – 9 October 2016

Correct Form of Address 1

14 October 2016

The Conseil Municipal has decided that we have been lurking in a bucolic backwater for too long and that our "lieu dit" address should be given (shock! horror!) a yukky, suburban NUMBER!

With typical irony they forgot to distribute the letter to us, so it was only when neighbours were gossiping about it that we found out. So I went to whinge at the Mairie and tonight I received a hand-delivered letter with my new number, and a list of people who I absolutely had to inform, such as the préfecture re the immatriculation of the cars. There was also four copies of an attestation by the Maire - which unfortunately spelt my name incorrectly.

So I've got hours of keyboard tapping to do, just so we can be found. I leave a generous pour-boire with the pompiers each year - surely that should be enough?

Christine to UK

24 October 2016 – 30 October 2016

Climbing Holiday?

29 October 2016

When we take separate holidays, usually Christine goes to the UK and I have a painting holiday.

Not with an easel but up a step ladder.

This time the boss wanted the salon repainted and a painting light installed to illuminate her 70th birthday present from our tame local artist, Pierre Clerk. I was already primed with 12 litres of best quality Dulux Valentine blanc matt, and a trendy LED painting illuminator that I'd found on Amazon.

A large part of Monday was spent in my least favourite place in the house; the grenier, with its cobwebs, mouse poo, rodent skeletons, leaves and general grot. It wasn't a difficult wiring job, but there were lots of times I would have liked a mate to poke wires through holes in the ceiling; instead, with just myself, I had to tramp across the loft to the door in the porcherie, poke the wires through and return the same way.

There was a little excitement, though; I suddenly came across a large papier maché construction about 50cms diameter looking like a model for something out of "Alien" - an Asian hornet's nest!

Fortunately the nest was vacant; I hadn't been up in the grenier for several years, so I assume it was at least a year old. It had been built around an "elephant's trunk" air duct from the bathroom fan to a (literal) pigeon hole in the gable end where I'd mounted a "flap grille". At some point the nest had got too heavy and had torn the ducting from the grill, fallen down and I presume the hornets had cut their losses and moved elsewhere. I'm amazed that I hadn't noticed all this hymenopteric activity - I can only assume that they went in and out of the pigeon hole and avoided coming down to ground level.

Tuesday was Preparation. Out came the Saint Marc and the surfaces were degreased. When I last decorated the salon I'd just discovered crépi and the surface finishes you can choose - I'd experimented successfully with a "nid d'abeille" roller to give a roughcast effect so I'd moved on to some artistic troweling on the hotte for the poële, and a "just slapped on" effect for a wall that was glaringly flat, not rustic like the rest. The latter was a mistake and it rankled every time I looked at it. So out came the angle grinder with a disk sander attachment and I filled the house with dust.

Wednesday started with Dust Abatement Day and moved on to Cutting In Day - our salon has lots of rebates and funny surfaces guaranteed to frustrate the paint roller operative, so it took most of the day to anticipate the areas hard to roll with a 100mm paint brush.

Thursday was Roller Day! That day when suddenly the old paint is quickly covered up and you realise you may have made a mistake. All that white paint looked a bit institutional, and some of it hadn't covered completely, demanding another "couche"…

Most of Friday was taken with applying another coat of blanc matt, including a beam that kept leaching a brown stain through each new coat until I'd applied 5 coats to the rotten thing.

The whole room still looked disappointingly institutional. Then came the Damascene moment.

I hung Pierre's artwork under its new light and switched on - suddenly the whole room came to life with its riot of colour. Pierre, thank you, thank you for your inspiration and your talent that has enriched this humble decorator's life!

Correct Form of Address 2

1 November 2016

Well, thank you M Le Maire for adding a nominal number to my house even if it's approaching 400 and there are about eight houses in the road. I'm getting a little tired of the inability of so many French websites to cater for a change of nominal address keeping the same account, as opposed to moving house.

The easiest was my English bank - log on to the secure area, change, log off, job done. Surprisingly the next easy was my French bank, log on to the secure area, send a secure email. My "cyberconseiller" replied saying they wanted an attestation from the Mairie. Fortunately I'd got a PDF of that very thing ready to fire off. I expected a "we want to touch an original" - but the PDF turned out to be good enough!

EDF and Orange were impossible. I'd filled out a Service-Public form to change all my government address records - Le Fisc etc. - and they offered to notify EDF. A few days later I got a mail from EDF saying that I should go to my Espace Client, cancel my old supply contract and take out another for my new house. How ever hard I tried I couldn't get EDF to accept a modification to my current address. So I tried phoning - couldn't get through - tried the English helpline - ditto. Drove to the EDF office where I arranged the account nearly 14 years ago - it's not now open to the public. I thought about just forgetting about it; the bill is paid by direct debit and I can see factures on line. But the latter are often good "proof of location" documents. So in desperation I decided to write a letter

I use a "cut-down-Word" word-processor called "Bean" - of course all its template letters had to be modified for my new address - but I've sent off a snail mail letter to Customer Service for them to ignore.

The Orange website was quite adamant that I had no contracts and that they could not change my billing address - probably because I took out my phone service with Telecom France. To stop further messing about I sent them a letter too. Again they get paid by direct debit so not much should change.

The Service-Public "change-all" service refused to deal with the change of address on the Cartes Grises. This is a nuisance since it's technically an offence not to change the carte grise for an address change - and I have to go to the Prefecture in Agen to do it. So this afternoon I've been filling in Form cerfa_13750-05 - which is a fillable PDF - except that not all the fillable bits work - dates and numbers are badly formatted. I'm going to Agen tomorrow with all the bits of paper. At least I hope I shall have all the bits of paper!


I make no apologies for carrying on this somewhat boring saga - the interface between French officialdom and the expat can be frightening to the latter and shared experiences reassure.

I went to the Agen prefecture today. There was an efficient reception and queuing system - we waited about 35 minutes and were seen by a pleasant, friendly young lady who checked all our docs for both our cars - we got a receipt and it didn't cost us a bean - apart from the fuel for the 55km round trip…

MOGS Lunch

13 December 2016 – 15 December 2016

We took a one full day in Chelmsford so that I could join the MOGS Christmas Lunch before all the old geezers drop off the perch. It proved to be quite a painless trip, thanks to Ryanair, First buses and the County Hotel – we even managed to catch up with Simon and family in the evening!

Berlin for Christmas

21 December 2016 – 26 December 2016

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