After three abortive attempts to submit an application for citizenship to the French administrative machine, it appears that the relevant fonctionnaires have finally admitted that they suppose I might have a case.
Previous supplications were rejected out of hand following clandestine rule-changes and a frankly discriminatory policy towards people employed by dodgy British companies paying third world wages and thumbing their corporate noses at the code du travail. Our most recent attempt failed once again following yet another change of policy, news of which hadn’t filtered down to the Mairie, where the helpful lady gave us an outdated application form and the wrong list of documents required. It didn’t help that we seemed to have lost three years worth of tax demands either. (Top tip for a smooth-running marriage: do not let your husband open the post. No, not even if it is addressed to him.)
But finally, after much faffing about and sending off for copies of tax documents (bizarrely easy, that one – ring tax office and say you need copies of tax demands; fail to believe ears when woman says ‘OK I’ll post them today, bye'; wonder what to do with whole day which you had set aside to deal with tax office), the paperwork seems to have been accepted. There was a bit of haggling over the fact that my birth certificate didn’t specifically have my surname on it, but we got the definite impression that he was scaping the barrel.
The only remaining hurdle was the language test, which turned out to be a test of integration, in fact. Did I have a job, and what language did I use at work, he wanted to know. What language did I speak at home, and did I have French friends. More worryingly he asked what activities we did together as a couple – difficult one this, as most of our home life is characterised by a complete lack of activity, lazy slobs that we evidently are. Clearly we need to get out more.
But he seemed more or less happy wth the answers, probably because the real question was whether I was allowed out in public, and if so whether I was likely to feel it necessary to wear a binliner all the time.
Apparently our carefully vetted details are now submitted to the minister, who takes 10 months to make up his mind as to whether or not I am suitably French. Though I’m fairly sure that what actually happens is the prefecture just writes everyone’s name on a bit of paper and when there’s no more room they send it to the minister, whose secretary signs it on his behalf and sends it back again.
The most interesting part of all this is that should the minister (or more likely his secretary) decide that I am acceptable, my citizenship will date from the day of our interview at the prefecture. Which means that I could be French right now. This is a bit like our usual state of possibly being rich, depending on what happens with the Euromillions on a Friday evening.
So far, I feel no inclination to grow a huge comedy moustache, dye my hair purple or rush out and buy Johnny Hallyday CDs, all of which is something of a relief. But who knows what might happen when the letter arrives and lets the cat out of the bag? Maybe I should add Johnny’s greatest hits to my Amazon wish list just in case.