Despite the national reputation for rabid patriotism and general xenophobia, French rules regarding nationality are fairly inclusive. You are accepted as a national even if one of your parents was merely born here. So say for example your granny from Tonga gets her dates mixed up and is on her way from one hemisphere to the other when your Dad puts in surprise appearance at Charles de Gaulle airport. A generation later you could find yourself being hauled off for national service half way across the world despite the fact that none of the rest of your family is French and you can’t even find the place on a map.
Scoff ye not – JC received call up papers for the army shortly after his sixteenth birthday. This was a bit of a shock, given that he was living in Sussex at the time, as indeed he had been doing for all of the previous 16 years. As far as he knew, his only obligation to la patrie consisted of having to put up with a foreign mother. Let’s face it, it’s embarrassing enough as a teenager to have parents at all, let alone to be lumbered with a French one.
But the most obvious way of becoming a frog, should you wish to do so, is to marry one. Many women would consider this beyond the pale, obviously, what with the onions, the huge comedy moustache and the serial infidelity, but after careful observation revealed no tendency in JC to drink very small glasses of red wine at breakfast time, cycle around wearing a beret or wave his private parts at my aunties, I thought it safe to take the plunge. Though I do have to say that recently I have noticed a rather worrying trend in the comedy facial hair department.
So I now find myself in a situation whereby I can apply to be French on the grounds that I have married a man who is quite obviously from darkest Sussex. This is so silly that it would be frankly rude not to.
We’ve had two previous stabs at it, but have been thwarted on both occasions by the notorious bureaucratie. On the first occasion we turned up to the Tribunal d’Instance only to find that they had secretly changed the rules six months previously and you now had to be married for a extra year. Then when we tried again a year later we were told that I had not supplied adequate proof that I had been here since we got married. Since this was mainly because I had been working for cowboy ski tour operators on a blatantly illegal basis, I slunk off without a fuss.
Once you’ve been hitched for five years, they waive this requirement, presumably on the grounds that if you’re that persistent you’re probably genuine. So now we have an official appointment chez the Prefecture next week.
If you are applying for citizenship for any reason other than that you have married a national it suffices merely to send in your dossier so that they can have a laugh and then send it back to you with a demand for extra paperwork. But if you admit to having lured one of the proud sons of France into matrimony you have to go and justify your disgraceful behaviour. I hope they aren’t going to subject us to some kind of Green Card style interrogation regarding deodorant preferences because we will fail so badly that we’ll probably both be deported. When we went to Eastbourne register office to declare our intention to tie the knot in the first place we nearly got thrown out when it transpired that JC didn’t know my middle name and I had no idea how old he was. The only thing which saved us was the fact that he didn’t appear to know how old he was either, thus convincing the registrar that we were complete nincompoops rather than fraudsters.
So we look forward with trepidation to next Monday’s appointment, both the interview and the task of finding a parking space anywhere near the Prefecture, which is a project in itself. My prediction is that they will grudgingly accept the dossier, (in which they will find every last piece of paperwork they asked for plus translations where necessary) and then two weeks later they’ll send us the secondary list of essential justificatifs which we were supposed to know about despite the fact that this information is a state secret.
Watch this space.