Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Breathing more freely

I am pleased to report that I am indeed alive. It was confirmed by a nice woman at the French Consulate yesterday. I met my latest deadline on Sunday night, and first thing on Monday morning – since it’s only open until noon – I set off for the French Consulate. The process took all of five minutes and I was told that, although the Attestation d’existence says it should be filled in and signed by an official in the country of residence of the French national applying for a pension, in fact the form has to be processed by the French Consulate and no one else, and it would have been returned to me even if the Hammersmith town hall had agreed to do it. It’s a little game they’re playing: let’s see whether that person manages to guess where they should be going, hee hee!

Having to go to South Kensington in the morning nearly killed me, which would have been rather ironic, wouldn’t it, if I’d died trying to prove I was alive.

While I was in the area, I went to see the newly reopened Jewellery Gallery at the V&A. It’s out of this world – I was drooling. Once they’ve removed a beautiful silver Star of David, found in Spain in the 15th century and labelled simply and erroneously ‘Star Ornament’ (!), from the display entitled ‘The Islamic World’ – or given it its proper Jewish name – it will be perfect.

One more bugbear: if the V&A specify that large bags may not be taken into the gallery, they need to provide something for visitors to put their valuables in. Do they really expect people to leave behind their money, their keys, their precious Attestations d’existence? No way! I shouldn’t have had to beg the cloakroom attendant for one of those transparent bags they supply to people who use the library, nor should I have had to lie and say I’d travelled specially to see the exhibition that morning. Slap!


  1. I always knew it was dangerous to leave your postcode.

    Especially in the morning.

  2. Mazel tov on getting the paperwork completed at last - hope the pension is back-dated.
    I remember going to a couple of places in Barcelona where I was told either to hand in my backpack handbag (a prerequisite for people with neck/shoulder problems)or wear it in front of me. Bizarre

  3. Lisah - I expect they were worried you were going to swing round and whack something off a shelf, the way backpacks whack you in the face on buses with owner being sublimely unaware. Were the 'couple of places' ceramics museums, by any chance?

    In Bela's case, I suspect they thought she might make off with some medieval Spanish gold.

  4. I'm so very happy to discover that you are alive, and apparently well enough to slap someone!

    I've missed reading your posts here. Of course, I've been missing everyone's posts. I'm a slacker.

  5. Glad to hear that you've joined the "crème de la crème" of French pensioners, Bela, and that you are indeed "alive and well and living in South/North London.''
    Your story reminded me of when I applied to have my French identity card renewed and was told that I had to prove that I had French nationality! This was because I was born in Algeria before it became independent in 1962. The VERY petty and very stupid official behind the desk at the Préfecture would not accept the fact that since I produced my old ID card, it was proof enough that I was French: how could I not be since that was my nationality until the week before? She told me that I had to prove that my grandparents + parents were French. I just went berserk, I really did. I told her that my grandfather was VERY French and had served his country in WW1, that my father, likewise, had served that same country in WW2 as an air force pilot, had been awarded the Croix de Guerre and Légion d'Honneur, had been a war prisoner in Germany (and been tracked down, in 1961, by De Gaulle's hit men during the Algerian war because he desperately wanted to remain French!!) , that I was a full-time teacher and had done my National service (in both cases, you MUST be French to be "eligible"). I yelled at her and said I wanted to see the person in charge. Did she want a blood of FRENCH blood as a valid enough proof? I flung back at her the forms that she'd asked me to fill in and stormed out of the Préfecture. As soon as I got home, I thought I must get straight to the top, so I rang the Ministère de l'Intérieur in Paris. Luck was with me: a VERY kind and very UNpetty official took note of my complaint and told me: "You can go back to your local Préfecture in 20 minutes, your French ID card will be renewed. " I did, the same petty bureaucrat looked sheepish and told me all was in order. I loved that sense of justice and right triumphing over stupidity and the "c'est comme ça, Monsieur" that petty officials fling in your face with a sense of self-righteous superiority.

  6. I knew it was dangerous, L, but not to what extent. I won’t do that again in a hurry.

    I also knew mornings were murder.

    LH, I sincerely hope it will be backdated (they seem even more reticent to give me money than the Brits, who, in comparison, look unbelievably efficient. LOL!) I didn’t have the option to ‘wear’ my backpack in front of me at the V&A. I do that when it’s raining and I’m using an umbrella. I know it looks strange, but I don’t care.

    Descartes didn’t know how difficult things would become a few centuries down the road, did he, GSE?

    L, there was nothing on open shelves in the Jewellery Gallery, but it is extremely narrow. I would have made off with a couple of Roman rings or Art Deco bracelets, I think. The medieval Spanish gold was a bit ostentatious.

    Welcome back, TLP! I know you’re around. I read you; you read me – from time to time. That’s absolutely fine. :-)

    J-P, I haven’t seen the colour of that money yet. It’s even possible I won’t get any money at all because I may not have earned enough during the years I worked in France. It would be outrageous, actually, and a double whammy: you get a badly paid job when you’re young – probably because there’s nothing else you can do, then, years later, you don’t get a pension because you didn’t contribute enough. Great! (I’m a West London girl, btw.)

    I didn’t know you were a Pied-Noir, J-P. We moved to Nice in 1962 and all the new pupils at the Lycée Calmette came from North Africa – except me and another girl (we both came from Paris): obviously, we became best friends straight away. Anyway, your story had me in stitches. Those people are such morons! Years ago, when there was a crackdown on French people who couldn’t trace their ancestors back to the Crusades, a friend of mine scared me by saying that I would have a hard time getting a new ID card because my parents hadn’t been naturalized yet when I was born; they became French a couple of weeks after my birth, I think. I was a bit anxious when I went to the French Consulate to have my carte d’identité renewed, but I shouldn’t have worried at all: the nice woman behind the desk told me I didn’t need one at all since I had a passport. I’d always thought – erroneously – that it was compulsory. So I haven’t had one for a very long time. One less thing to bother about and one less document with a scary photo on it.


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