This is an ‘off the cuff’ or ‘spur of the moment’ blog, written after our visit to the departmental prefecture at Saint Lo.
Both myself and Susie have lived in France for about 20 years. When we first arrived we had to obtain a ‘carte de sejour’ which doubled as an identity card and work permit. After a few years the French Government decided that these were no longer needed and withdrew the requirement to renew them. Fast forward to 2016, Brexit happened and the government here thought that cards for British permanent residents should become mandatory again.
So here we were, some five years later, in the midst of Covid, driving to our appointment at the prefecture to complete the final bits of paperwork so that we could obtain our cards. It was an unreasonably early rendezvous, just before 10 a.m. and as it was a lengthy drive, we set off at 8.
To alleviate the largely boring journey, we listened to some podcasts, along with occasional interjections from our very English sat nav voice. A podcast of a Gerald Scarfe’s radio program on the subject of Europe and Brexit was playing and Daphne (as I’d christened the disembodied and occasionally helpful voice) kept pointing us, generally, in the correct direction. It turned out that the podcast consisted of edited sound bites which alluded to the pros and cons of remain or leave. Daphne seemed to be uncertain as to which of these two camps to lean towards as she kept telling us to ‘turn left’ or ‘turn right’. Then after we’d listened to a sound bite from Boris Johnson she decided that we should, ‘make a U turn where possible’. Her timing appeared to be impeccable.
Well, we secured a convenient parking spot and suitably masked, walked to the prefecture. An amiable security guard met us just outside the main door, checked our names off his list of appointments and invited us to use the hand sanitizer. A further check of our passports at reception and we were directed to follow the one way staircase and present ourselves at the appropriate cubicle. Our documentation was again checked, our I.D. photos were cut out and attached to yet another form which we had to sign.
The last element of our application was to provide fingerprints. This was achieved with an electronic scanner connected to a computer terminal operated by the official dealing with our cards. Susie presented her hands, first right, then left and finally both thumbs. Scanned without problem. Then came my turn….
Both hands scanned well, however my thumbs proved to be difficult and the scan of them locked up the computer. I do wonder if my prints flagged up a ‘red alert’ when they sent them to Interpol, however no SWAT team or vans with blue lights appeared and with the assistance of two colleagues (who decided that rebooting the computer would solve matters) our official was back on line. I again presented my now infamous prints and all went through.
Of course, this being France, we couldn’t have the cards immediately. They will arrive via the postal service in two to three weeks. No doubt she will serve me with my European arrest warrant at the same time. We made our way to the car and drove home. We chose music, not podcasts to amuse us on the way. All the while I nervously glanced in the mirror to see if we were being tailed but it looks like my crimes are minor. I’m not destined to be classed as a criminal mastermind just yet…