The Poitiers paperchase

Facebook keeps reminding me that I haven’t posted on my author page since 22nd September. Do I detect a slight admonishment? I plead extenuating circumstances, to wit:

I have had nothing to write that I think could have been of any interest to readers, and even if I had, I have been too busy to do so.

Mainly, but not exclusively, it dates back to that fateful car journey  at the end of June when our car broke down and our caravan was damaged. The car limped back home, only to put an end to itself shortly afterwards by releasing its handbrake while parked on a slope, and smashing itself to bits on a concrete pillar.

The quantity of paperwork necessary to sort out the insurance claims seemed disproportionate to the value of the claims,  but all the boxes had to be filled, in triplicate, accompanied by photocopies of numerous other documents that I had to hunt for in dusty old files, and sent off, only to be returned days or even weeks later asking for more information. .

It didn’t help that our misfortunes coincided with that time of the year in France when everybody shuts up shop and heads off to the Midi for their summer holidays and you can’t get hold of anybody for a month. Unfortunately our lovely insurance broker who has taken care of all our needs for the last twenty years, and speaks perfect English, happened to be on his well-deserved holidays when the accident happened, and has subsequently been seriously ill in hospital ever since, which means that I have had to deal with the French-speaking lady, and while my French is fairly good, it doesn’t extend to arcane French insurance language and laws and my conversations with the company were sometimes as clear as mud. It took several weeks for the payment for the car to arrive, and three more weeks to find a suitable replacement, an English-registered vehicle.

We are still awaiting compensation for the caravan, but are told it should be done within 8-10 days

As a French resident your car has to be registered in France, and so on to the next phase of paperwork, which took us to Poitiers yesterday, confident that I had everything necessary to obtain a ‘carte grise‘ – the vehicle registration document, which would mean the car was officially registered as French and we could then have new number plates fitted.

Two stops were necessary, firstly at the Centre des Finances Publiques and afterwards at the Préfecture. I checked the opening times before we left – French Government offices are notorious for their erratic opening hours. Centre des Finances Publiques is open in the afternoons from 1.15 to 3.45, and the Préfecture all day until 5.00 pm, so we should theoretically at least be able to wrap up the whole exercise in one afternoon.

We arrived 10 minutes before the Centre opened, anticipating that it would be busy and we’d have a long wait if we were at the back of the queue. When the doors opened a polite smiling young man asked each person what they wanted and directed them to the appropriate counter. He pointed us to the first floor, room 106, where a friendly lady processed the ream of paperwork in my folder and within ten minutes we had the necessary ‘quitus fiscal‘ – a document certifying that there was no tax to pay on the vehicle, one of the essential pieces of paper needed for the next stage of our venture.

Off we set to the other side of town to the Préfecture. While TOH drove off to find a parking place, I went and asked at reception which form I needed to complete. A polite and helpful young man led me to another counter and patiently went through all the steps needed and listed the papers to include with the form. I thought I’d brought everything with me – original registration certificate, bill of sale, certificate of conformity, utility bill to verify address, certificate of a contrôle technique – the French equivalent of an MOT – and the newly acquired ‘quitus fiscal‘ and proof of identity. One thing, however, that I had overlooked, was a stamped self-addressed envelope. Dammit!

No problem, the young man said, you can get one from the post office, it’s only two minutes away. He led me out of the door and round the corner to show me the way.

Off I trotted to the post office, where there were several counters for various services, but none for somebody wanting to buy a single stamped envelope. There were four people ahead of me in the queue, and a young woman asked each what they wanted and directed them to a counter. She escorted me to the parcel deposit and collection point, and it was there, when I went to pay for the envelope, that I found I had left my purse at home. It seemed silly to pay for a 1 euro purchase with my bank card, so I bought ten envelopes. Then I trotted back to the Préfecture and continued assembling all the necessary documents.

That was when I discovered that I needed a photocopy of the utility bill and my driving licence. In the past it used to be the person at the counter who provided the registration document – they would make the copies for you. I went to the photocopy machine and remembered that I didn’t have any money to pay for them, so I trudged back to the place where I had been filling in the forms. As I approached a young woman was waving at me rather urgently. I’d left my nine stamped envelopes there for anybody to take, so she had kept them safe for me. Thanking her, she asked if I had everything I needed. No, I replied, I’ve forgotten my purse and have no money to pay for the photocopies. Give them to me, she said, I’ll do them for you. Which she did. Finally everything seemed to be in order, and I went to the ticket machine to take a number – most public buildings around here work on that system, so that people are seen in the order they arrive, like the fish counter in supermarkets. No queue jumping!

The kind young woman caught up with me and explained that there was no need to take a ticket, because the department that deals with vehicle registration is only open in the morning.

La vache!” I exclaimed in frustration. That would mean another seventy mile round trip tomorrow, just what I had hoped to avoid.

But no, she said. Look, you take one of these brown envelopes and put all your papers inside, then put the envelope in this box, and your claim will be dealt with tomorrow. And you have to enclose a blank signed cheque. Hm, I wonder how much it will be?

I have a premonition that my application will come back, as the contrôle technique validity is slightly out of date, but who knows, my luck may continue.

We do read quite often complaints about French bureaucrats, but based on my experiences yesterday, and indeed generally, I cannot fault them. At each place I went there were people there to help to keep the machine running smoothly and efficiently, and they all did so with a smile.

I also discovered recently that we had been paying the tax man money that was not owed to him, which has to be reclaimed, which involves hunting out another load of paperwork and writing a long letter in French and hoping that the tax office will be helpful and obliging.

So that’s part of the reason why I haven’t updated the Facebook page. Another reason is that thanks to the French health care system, both of us have had numerous appointments with our doctor and various specialists over the last few months, and TOH had an operation ten days ago. That itself required three visits to Poitiers – first to see the surgeon, again to see the anaesthetist and then for the actual operation. A trip to town does take a hefty chunk out of the day.

I volunteer at a charity shop on Tuesday afternoons and all day on the last Saturday of the month, help a 95-year-old lady with her paperwork on Wednesday afternoons, go to photographic club on the first and third Monday of each month, do the club meeting notes, and have a book club meeting on the last Friday of the month. This Thursday morning I start restorative yoga classes to try and restore some bendability to my rigid spine.

Add in all the other day to day tasks that keep life ticking over, the shopping and cooking and looking after the animals, it really doesn’t leave too much time on my hands, especially as I’m still working on the book, which has been greatly delayed mainly due the aforesaid interruptions.

And finally, my attempt to download the latest Windows 10 upgrade is now in its fifth day. Every download either fails to start or runs for about 15 hours up to 99% and then freezes and crashes the computer. I’ve tried every solution I can find on the web, nothing has worked so far. In an hour I shall go to bed, and leave the update that I began downloading at 10.15 am still running and only up to 67% eleven hours later. I’m fairly certain that when I come down in the morning, it will once again have failed.

So that is why I have been absent for so long not only from Facebook but from social media in all its forms. Just ain’t got the time at the moment, except for whipping in to Facebook for a few minutes every day to check on messages and share a few of those things that really matter to me.

Normal service will probably be resumed eventually. I hope.








17 thoughts on “The Poitiers paperchase

  1. By the sound of it you should take your computer to Poitiers and ask the helpful staff to sort it out. Sounds as if nothing is too much for them…

    I agree about most local government services…never had any problems with them at all apart from bizarre opening hours and used to spend hours gossiping in the cadastre – it seemed to be the jobsworths at France Telecom and the DDE who caused a rise in the blood pressure.

    Do you still have to take the car through the Service des Mines?
    I do hope that TOH is recovering well…you could buy him some grapes from the tax refund.

    • If I wasn’t actively practising my “breathe and relax” attitude in order to try to keep my blood pressure under control, I’d be hurling the computer through the window. Once again, this morning it is stuck at 99% and has frozen the computer. Not only that, now the wifi adapter says it is faulty and I have to connect to the Livebox via a cable.

      As far as I know we do not have to take the car to the Services des Mines. I think having the certificate of conformity is sufficient.

      Until recently we used to be able to get the quitus at the local Hotel des Impots in Civray, but most of it is closed down now, there are just two counters on the ground floor where you can pay tax d’hab and taxe fonciere. I only found that out after wasting a journey. 🙂

  2. My goodness, Susie. What a chronicle! What a shame that you have had no time to do what it is you do–write! Worse, you are having to do things that don’t really advance your situation. Such a shame. We have similar issues, but none that are worthy of telling. I’m sorry you have Windows issues; I, of course, have none! [You do recall that I “don’t do Windows”] But all is not shiny Apples; I have yet to get any backups since Apple updated their backup software. Or did something that kept Time Machine from accomplishing its task. But it’s isn’t a life-threatening problem, so we continue on, trusting that the computer disaster crash or disappearance just won’t happen. A problem, you see, that nowhere resembles the troubles of you and TOH. I know that Churchill urged you to keep calm and carry on. And so you do; as do we!

  3. Hello Susie from Australia You certainly have been busy… just reading of your activities was exhausting!! Your account reminded me of our American friends who have retired to the Dominican republic… accounts of their adventures with Dominican bureaucracy make for wonderful, amusing reading, though frustration is paramount. Every move they make seems to require the presence of their solicitor, who may or may not be acting on their behalf, dependent on who offered the best ” wink,wink, nod, nod” money. It was pleasing to read of your assistance by the French staff, as that is so often not the picture painted by foreigners to France

    In June this year we had a lovely couple of weeks in Paris/ sailing down the Seine to Honfleur. Monet’s gardens were just unbelievable… all a wonderful experience, and can’t wait to get back to Europe next year … arctic circle.. Norwegian fjords.. sounds good in the middle of an Australian summer. Take care Kerry Daly

    • Hello Kerry, and thank you for visiting.

      I cannot begin to imagine what it is like dealing with bureaucracy in the Dominican Republic. What a ‘colourful’ life your friends must lead, but I am sure that life there is worth every obstacle that has to be surmounted.

      As for France, I can’t speak for the country as a whole, but it is now very rare for me to find anybody who is unhelpful or rude. It does happen occasionally, which always comes as a shock because contrary to popular belief, I find the French extremely polite. A lot has to do with how you approach them. But they are probably the worst drivers in the world! Courtesy gets left at home once they step behind the wheel. 😀

      Hope your trip next year is as enjoyable as your visit to France. 🙂

  4. It IS frustrating, just pedalling to stay in the same place. Like riding one of those exercise bikes. 🙂 I keep thinking that surely the paperwork deluge must come to an end and life can return to pre-vehicular problems. It not only absorbs time, it saps the brain.

    I am sorry to hear that your Apple has a blemish, I hope it will be nice and shiny again soon. Upgrade did indeed fail during the night, and I came down for the sixth day to find the computer frozen. But as you say it isn’t a matter of life and death, just a minor irritation. When I have recharged my batteries I’ll have another go at defeating whatever is defeating me at the moment.

    As an added extra, having restarted the frozen computer it then announced triumphantly it’s wifi network adapter wasn’t working, thus we are now connected to the outside world via an ethernet cable. Do I care? Nope.

    Y’all have a nice day now. 🙂

  5. Good grief, woman! That’s a veritable bad weather season if ever I saw one. First of all, I do hope that TOH is meaning from his whatever’s. Secondly, I am sorry about the car and the cara and mostly about having to deal with insurance claims in French. The Carte Grise affair I will send shouts to the whoever to turn a blind eye to your slightly overdue control technique ….. hopefully they will be happy but bureaucrats in every language are capable of doing what they feel on the day which makes for horrible anxiety. As for the computer. I wish you were here but then it would have to be a Mac. I have almost set up camp in the Apple Store at the Mall and I have a delightful tattooed, bearded, pierced and wonderfully dry tiny man who helps me with mine which he has nicknamed ‘Morla’ who was the turtle in Neverending Story and extreeeeeeeemly slooooooooow. His calming presence has saved the offending articles life because believe me, otherwise it would have been thrown from the highest window and then run over. A luxury I have because at the moment, at least, the car works! Take care, it’s lovely to see you and I do hope all allez’s mieux from now on in 😊

    • Lovely to hear from you! I am glad you found that little goblin of a man to help with your computer. Hm, I thought Mac’s never went wrong. Both you and Bob Rosenzweig above have now dispelled that myth. 😀

      • The world is half right! I now have a complete backup, 600GB, of my MacBook Pro. I used a LaCie 1TB disk as the recipient; it took only three hours. Next try will be an Ethernet cable to the Time Capsule. Amazon will have the cable delivered later today. More good news–I fixed the old inkjet Photosmart Printer and also got and installed a new OfficeJet 6978 printer for less than $100, a wonderful All-in-One color duplex printer/copier/scanner. But wait! Two steps forward, one step backward. The Time Capsule repeater in Beth’s Office is flashing yellow, refusing to go green. So, another Genius Bar appointment on Sunday. Probably another purchase, maybe an Airport Express, who knows?? And now we know that you are running splendidly on Windows 10. Hallelujah! (Thinking of Leonard Cohen.) Now take on the challenge of the Epson printer. We shall prevail!

  6. I feel for you, all those domestic catastrophes are so booooring… However, don’t feel bad about not writing, it’s not homework! We shall be following your adventures with bated breath, whenever you have time to fill us in🌺

  7. Well written and entertaining xx

    On 15 November 2016 at 23:22, Susie Kelly – Writer wrote:

    > merewoman posted: “Facebook keeps reminding me that I haven’t posted on my > author page since 22nd September. Do I detect a slight admonishment? I > plead extenuating circumstances, to wit: I have had nothing to write that I > think could have been of any interest to readers, a” >

  8. Oh, dear, I might have uttered phrases; you know me well! But I tried to confine my utterings to mutterings. The frustrations are not over; I’m still dealing with a flashing yellow Time Capsule repeater. And trying to get an incremental backup to the (other) Time Capsule router. Our ancestors never had to deal with these issues, did they?!!

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