Friday, May 21, 2010

Don't count your chickens!

I recently suffered from a bad case of counting my chickens before they were hatched. Or as we say in France, selling the bear's skin before I killed it (why is it that our phrases sound a lot more violent!). Two weeks ago, I took a long overdue trip to the French Embassy to finally register Noelie's birth and officially make her a French citizen. About time I hear some of you say (I heard you Mum!), she turns one next week! There are various reasons why we hadn't done it up to now.

1- I was too lazy. We were missing some documents:

You don't need many things to get your child registered. Not really. You need the form filled in. You need the baby's birth cert, and the mum's birth cert and the dad's birth cert. Not too complicated so far. You also need a copy of the french parent's passport or ID card. So what were we missing? We were missing Mr Foodie's birth cert. We tried ordering it online but the amount of questions they ask is just incredible. Do you remember your parents' address, the one they lived at when you were born? They are just short of asking you what colour nightdress your mam was wearing when she gave birth to you! Anyway, the questionnaire looked way too complicated to fill in so we had decided to drop in to the office in town to get it. And we forgot all about it. We eventually went in and got Mr Foodie's and Noelie's birth cert (just in case the one we had was too old). Because one of the requirements is that all copies of the birth certs have to be less than 3 months old. Why? To make sure you're not dead. In France, when you die a mention is put on your birth cert within 3 months saying that you're dead. So we had to make sure that all birth certs were in date. Which means that my poor mother was requesting and sending me my own birth cert from France. Thankfully, unlike here, they are free! So I now have about 4 of my birth certs that are not worth much.

2-I was too lazy I hate the french administration:

There I said it. I think their motto is 'Why make it simple if we can make it complicated?'. For any of you that have never had any contact with the French administration, I hope you never have to. I don't wish it on my worst enemy (well, maybe some of them). The French administration has the power to make you go completely gaga (and not Lady Gaga). It is full of forms and red tape. Never ever enter a French Administration building with the hopes of coming out within the hour. It is not going to happen. You go to counter 1 to deliver form 15, but you are informed that you cannot deliver form 15 until you have completed form 26 available at counter 57, on the 3rd floor, 9th door on the left. When you get there, breathless, there is a queue of 12 people. You wait and finally get to the counter where you are informed that form 26 is now only available from counter 2 downstairs but that you need to fill in form 88 at counter 45 in order to be able to get form 26, which will allow you to finally give form 15 at counter number one. Do you get me? So I was dreading having to go in to the Embassy and deliver all those documents. Especially since my last experience with them was the elections a few years back, where the turnout was so much bigger than they predicted and people had to queue for up to 4 hours to cast their vote.

These are the main reasons why we hadn't done it up until now. But, two weeks ago, I got very very brave and decided to go in. It took some preparation, making sure all the forms and documents were there. All completed accordingly. I had to renew my registration as a French citizen living in Ireland too which meant I had to go and get a lovely passport picture taken (I do look like a convict no matter how much I try not to!), passport copied etc. Surprisingly, there was no queue and the man behind the counter was very helpful. I had a mini heart attack when he asked me if I had Noelie's passport with me, as it was the only thing I had of course forgotten but he looked at his list again and said that it wasn't necessary. I got out after only about 30 minutes, very proud of myself. Noelie was now officially a French citizen. Well, she was going to be the week after when the lady that deals with that kind of stuff would be back off holidays.

That's where I was counting my chickens or selling that bear skin. Wednesday last week, I received an e-mail (at least, they've evolved in the way they communicate with people) requesting a new form filled in. One that wasn't on the list and signed by both Mr Foodie and myself. You see, when it comes to choosing the family name of your children the law has changed. When I had Marie, if the father's name was on the birth cert, the child would automatically have the father's name. But they have now allowed for unmarried parents to decide which family name they want to give their children. That was the form we needed to fill in. We don't have a printer so I had to send it on to Mr Foodie so that he could print it out in work but he was finishing in 5 minutes. So I filled in the form everything except the place and date at the bottom, emailed it to Mr Foodie in work and sent him a text to let him know that he had to print it out. He managed to do it although he wasn't very happy about having to stay back to do it. But it got done. He got home, the form got signed, dated and put in an envelope. And the next day, Mr Foodie gave it to one of his friends that was in the area to drop it off. Except that the next day was a French Bank Holiday so the Embassy was closed. Doh!!! I completely forgot that it was! We finally managed to get it dropped on the Friday. Thankfully, although it is the administration they didn't have one of the famous French 'ponts' (in English bridge, basically if a bank holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, people usually take the Monday / Friday off too, so that they have an extra long week end.)

And I started counting my chickens again. All I had to do was wait for the postman to deliver the confirmation that she was indeed registered. And I waited until Wednesday (the lady must only work on that type of request on Wednesdays). When I got another email, quite clear and to the point. 'We acknowledge receipt of the form we sent you last week. However, it is dated 12/05/09. Please send it back to us properly dated'. Another Doh! moment for me. As my mum said: You'd know that you are not working. And she is right. Had I been working I would have dated the stupid thing properly and not backdated it to before Noelie's birth! Thankfully, Mr Foodie had printed 3 copies. So we signed it and dated it again. And Mr Foodie forgot to take it with him to give to his friend, twice. So, since Monday is another Bank Holiday in France (May is the best month in France, there are between 3 and 4 bank holidays unless they fall on a Saturday or Sunday) , I decided to go and drop it myself today. They open at 9h30 and I got there at 10h00. There was a queue outside of about 10 people. I waited with Noelie for about 10 minutes and then the gendarme came out, asking the reason of everybody's presence. Since I was only dropping in a form, he took it in for me.

So now, I'm not counting my chickens or selling that bear skin. Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he didn't forget to hand it in, that the wind didn't take it off of his clipboard, that I dated it correctly and that there is nothing else that will go wrong. So it's fingers crossed, if I don't get another email on Wednesday, maybe, just maybe, everything is OK and she can be registered.

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