July 3, 2011

AN ENVELOPE IS NOT JUST AN ENVELOPE

After lunch on the Wednesday of our week’s holiday, Nick went fishing while I busied myself organising the paperwork we had accumulated in attempting to get my carte grise.

I had my UK registration document, the application form for a French carte grise, my EDF bill, passport and driving licence to prove I exist and have a home in France, my certificate of conformity, the quitus fiscal and my swimming certificate.  I also had a cheque made out to Trésor Publique but I had to leave it blank because no-one had been able to give me any idea how much this would cost.

envelope5

I walked down to the Office de Tourisme in the village to get photocopies of all of them.  For some I would send off the originals and keep the copies, for others I would keep the originals and send off the photocopies.

On top of that I needed two large envelopes, one to send them off in and a second with my name and address on so that something could be sent to me. 

envelope3

I went to the Maison de la Presse in the village to get the envelopes.  I searched the shop whilst the newsagent, Nellie, was busy serving other customers.  All I could find in an A4 size was some envelopes “soufflé”, in other words, expanding envelopes for a large wedge of papers.  That was fine by me but it would not do for Nellie.  When I presented them at the till, she subjected me to an inquisition on what exactly was to go in the envelopes, declared my choice no good and set about hunting for something better. 

I was put on one side whilst several other customers came and went, with lots of gossip being exchanged per person, until the perfect envelopes could be found.

I was tempted to exclaim “Rejoice, for I have found my sheep” when she appeared from under a pile of cardboard boxes with two ordinary brown A4 envelopes.  Thank goodness for that.

envelope4

Mind you, when I asked for stamps to put on them, I was treated to a lecture on postage and directed to the post office.  There was some reason why Nellie was unable to supply stamps for such an envelope but the nuances of the explanation went over my head completely.

It had taken twenty minutes to buy two envelopes and I dreaded to think how long it would take to buy stamps for them.  Getting into our post office is in itself quite a feat as you have to press the right buttons on a control panel by the door for someone to let you in.  The first time I had to do this I was completely taken aback, the crime rate in the region being so low compared to at home in the UK.  On this occasion I had barely touched the panel when there was a click telling me I could open the door.

envelope1

Apart from an old lady sat at a small table waiting for something, I was the only customer.  This was quite a relief.  French post offices give me the willies, even more so than the butcher.  The opportunities for looking a complete idiot seem to be infinite in a post office where the conversation is likely to include numbers, weights, currency and destination.  I asked for two stamps and waved my brown envelopes at the lady with a weak smile.  I somehow knew I was not going to get off lightly and was subjected to another inquisition about what was going in it and where it was going.   I thrust a random bundle of my photocopying into one of the envelopes and let her weigh it.  Better to have too much postage than too little, especially as one of them was going to contain my £150 worth of certificate of conformity.

When I got back to my little house up the hill, I put the kettle on for a reviving cup of tea and flopped into a chair on the terrace, completely exhausted.

envelope2

This whole process had taken two days of driving from Loches to Tours and back again, twice, cost two good lunches, and even taken almost an hour to get a few photocopies and a couple of envelopes.  I checked, double checked and checked again the pile of documents before I stuffed them into my non-soufflé envelope, with the additional return envelope and put it on the mantlepiece ready to drop in the post box the next day.

On Thursday I woke up early and felt relieved that our visitors had been and gone, we had done all we could to organise my carte grise and at last I could feel I was on holiday.  As I pushed the envelope into the yellow box outside the post office I breathed a sigh of relief and thought that all I could do now was wait – what ever happened next would be in the lap of the gods.  Well the Préfecture in Tours actually.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There’s still time to treat yourself to a bargain break.

a great place to stay

Alex and Nicole have asked me to mention that they still have some availability in their lovely gites at Les Limornières for July.  They are offering a reduced rate for anyone who would like a last-minute booking.  So if you were thinking about spending some time in this beautiful area of France but weren’t sure – now’s your chance to treat yourself to a short break at bargain rates.

For further details, click here for a 4-person gite with €100 off or here for a 5-person gite with €150 euros off.

11 comments:

  1. Endless paperwork. Quelle domage.
    But you did get it accomplished, and survive to tell the tale. Well done!
    As long as you sent the right envelope to each destination.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I often wonder is there is a special school to train post office staff in France!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'll have to check on past posts to find out about the carte grise...I've been buried in Sunderland for 10 days.

    Sounds like Nick got the best deal.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You're such a tease Jean! I'm waiting for more (anxiously)!
    And I know exactly what you mean by post offices in France. I used to try to use the self service machine as they offered the luxury of a english language button! But I must say that when I used a staffed counter I found them to be lovely, in spite of the many mistakes I made.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Our village Post Office is an amazing place. One Saturday morning I rushed in to send a package before it closed at 12.30. I arrived with minutes to spare and the postmistress was about to leave for another post office in another village a few miles away. She knew who I was and where I lived and as she was in a rush took the package with her and told me to come in on Monday and I could pay her then! Sure enough I went in on Monday and she had a receipt all made up and the package had already been sent -- to Italy!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rob-bear - definitely! I double checked the address on the envelope several times!

    Steve - there must be, everything is so complicated!

    Ken - typical bloke, eh? Leave it to someone else to tidy up the loose ends!!

    Craig - some post office staff can be rather dragon-like in my experience, but ours are very polite and efficient.

    The Broad - the joys of rural village life in France.

    ReplyDelete
  7. So now we are kept in suspence while we wait for the result...... Hope all goes as planned :-) Diane

    ReplyDelete
  8. Did anybody notice the swimming certificate? Jean, you are very funny!

    See my comment on the previous post. Once you live here for more than six months out of the year, and become liable for French income taxes, it gets to be even more fun. Not to mention health insurance. Something to look forward to!

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is turning into your opus magna Jean, but will be very useful if you decide to do the same thing with Nick's bike, or heaven forbid your car!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Just wait for someone to ask you for an authorised translation of your swimming certificate.....

    I always found the post office people very helpful.
    The only miseryguts was the man who did holiday relief in the area who looked as though he had lost a pound and had not yet found the penny...I suspect he did holiday relief as none of his colleagues could stand working with him full time.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This reminds me of an old joke.

    Q :"Do you know what the first question is if you want to qualify for a job as a postal clerck or postman?"

    - "How much does a 1 euro stamp cost?" ...

    A : ???

    Sorry Wim!! (Wim being my very kind and helpful postman).

    ReplyDelete