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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.