Fogged In

Fogged In

Friday, 21 January

I wrote too soon.

Two weeks ago on this screen, I declared the works on our house in the Perche almost finished. I showed off renovation photos.

More emphasis should have been placed on the ‘almost’. Just two days later, the house was once again under siege.

Oh-my-God. Not again.

Carpenters worked on missing cabinets and painters sealed off the front door and entry passage to paint the ceiling and staircase. Which means that for two weeks, in order to reach the kitchen, we must go outside, walk the length of the house and enter via the furnace area. Perhaps okay in summer but not during cold, dark, wet winter.

Upon arrival last weekend, there was no heat, thick dust covered everything, and it smelled of dead mouse. Monday morning came more painters…

Can you promise me this is the last room that needs repainting?

...more carpenters and the masons joined the party...

At least Christophe gives treats

Close to finished we may be, but five days ago our bedroom was the only unoccupied, semi-quiet room in the whole house, and all three of us—David, Tasha and I—huddled therein before fleeing back to Paris.

In my last blog, I also wrote about the progress of the dog. Yet no sooner had we returned last Saturday than Tasha darted into the woods after a deer. It was dusk. I called and called. There were gunshots. Other strange noises emanated from the misty forest. An hour passed. I thought: This is it. Something terrible has finally happened. Thankfully she returned, gilet jaune torn but otherwise intact. My recent pride in her progress, however, was in tatters.  

Today I am wondering if, generally speaking, I don’t write too soon.

You may recall that last May, while applying for the resident’s card I need to live here post-Brexit, I penned a blog on memory and the surprising efficiency of the French state. Well, Proustian moment has turned into a Kafka-esque nightmare. This afternoon I will make my sixth (6th) trip to the Préfecture de Paris in the hopes that by the time I press the send button on this blog, a valid card will be in my possession.  

All those months ago (Visit 1), the nice man behind the desk told me I’d receive my carte de séjour in the mail within two months. It did not come in the mail.

Instead, four months later, I got an email saying my card had arrived, that I needed to pick it up and please arrange a rendez-vous on our site. I was led to a page with guichets (counters) numbered from 1, 2, 3 (grouped for some reason), then separately, up to 11.  

It reminded me of the game show I watched as a child, Let’s Make a Deal, where contestants had to guess behind which of three curtains the jackpot was hidden. I'd pick a counter, any counter, and wait. The circular internet arrow would turn and turn, as if the cumbersome cogs of The State were actually churning. Many times I was told the guichet had no more available appointments; try another. So on I clicked (this time, let's try Guichet...8), waited, hoped.

Finally successful, I arrived at the Préfecture (Visit 2), waited in a long line of fellow applicants, only to be told at the reception counter...

State security

...that my card wasn’t there. But I received an email, I protested, waving my phone at the woman. You should have received a text message, she said, with a reference number. It will come.

I was sent away. I waited; it did not come. After a month, I resorted to the telephone, where response time was even slower than on the website. Finally, a man answered. He said my card was there, gave me the number, then physically left his desk (he was gone forever) to check.

Bike parked at its résidence secondaire

Visit 3 proved him right—the official behind Guichet 6 pulled the card out of a small, battered cardboard box with “Brixit” hand-written in black marker—but it had the wrong surname (Morrison, as in David). In France, the official told me, a woman's official documents always include her husband’s patronymic (bristle, went my usually tractable feminist hackles). But it’s useless to me, I said. Fleming is on every other official document I have. His shoulders gave several Gallic shrugs, until I told him that when I divorced, the court gave me written permission to continue using the name which belongs to my first husband but also my children.

I was directed to another room, given an email address on a chit of paper so small I almost lost it, and sent home, only to receive a phone message that I needed to return the faulty card I'd been told to keep (Visit 4).

It was with a heavy heart that I presented my case to PP-DPG-SDAE PP-DPG-SDAE-11EB-SEJOUR. A month, I said to myself. That's how long I'll give them to answer before I start pestering.

Lo and behold I had a friendly reply, apologising for the error, within 24 hours, and thus began a long correspondence with “M P”. On November 4th I was back to square one, i.e, Salle 4, presenting my dossier all over again (Visit 5).

On 26 November I received the magic text message with the magic number. But it took until December 21 and as many attempts on the lumbering website, plus encouragement from M P (we wished one another bonnes fêtes de fin d'année), to obtain my rendez-vous for this afternoon.  

Recently there's been a lot of fog, weather befitting the beginning of Year III, CE (Covid Era). Time has become just that, one long foggy day. Plans, if one dares make them, often dissolve, as Omicron strikes all around. To give myself a bit of slack: it's an apposite act, writing too soon.

But, finger approaching the send button, the new carte de séjour is tucked in my wallet. Here's hoping for clearer, brighter days ahead.

The sunnier side of winter