Friday, 8 April 2005


You will remember my frustration at trying to get any information from the dreaded French administration as to how to get a duplicate copy of my driving licence. In the end I came to the conclusion that I would have to just go there and ask them directly. With this in mind, I had taken today off and this morning got up an hour earlier than usual, got into a bus and faced one of the coldest days we have had for a while to queue in front of the French consulat. I got there a good half hour before opening time and there were already about 20 people shivering in the wind and drizzle.

Finally, they opened the door and I got admitted unto this little bit of French soil. After a cursory search of my bag by a gendarme, I got to the reception desk where I explained my situation. The officer in front of me explained that I would have to make a declaration of loss with the consulat, send this to France to the prefecture which delivered my licence originaly to get some document or other from them which would then allow me to go to the DVLA who, after three weeks, would be in a position to give me a new driving licence. Oh and they would require to keep my passport for those three weeks to be able to do so. I was also informed that some people tried to have a new licence made in France. When, my past frustration surging back from its hiding place, I asked whether there was a more simple way to do things, the man informed me petulantly that it WAS all very simple, before directing me to one of his colleagues who would explain everything to me.

Once in the office where I had been directed and when I asked for the person dealing with driving licences I was told she would be there in a minute. I took a seat and starting to wait. Looking around at the people going about their business, the posters of long obsolete pictures of missing children, boxes of old books in French (one of them, said a label, to be delivered to the "visitors center" of some prison or other), my eyes finally settled on a TV showing the broadcast of The Funeral on the French equivalent of BBC1. I noticed a tall handsome man with a beard, looking like he was an employee there. He was walking down the corridor, when he looked up at one of the TV screens, signed himself and kissed his fingers. Quite an unexpected sight.

Eventually, I found myself in front of a middle aged woman who told me she was not dealing with driving licences (was I hearing right?). she printed out a document explaining what to do and told me to go back to the reception desk where I could make the declaration of loss. I went back there as directed and was told I would have to now wait an hour and did I want to do this. I said I would since I was there, was given a ticket and got directed to the waiting room. All sorts of people were piled up there on unconfortable lines of seats in a grim looking room lighted by overhead neon strips. Another TV was force feeding us The Funeral. I took my book out and tried to blank it out. It felt rather strange to hear people speak French around me. They sounded articifial as if they were taking extra care in pronouncing their words.

After a while (thankfully much less than an hour), a young woman, probably about my age, called my number and took me to her desk. We quickly identified (as I had expected) that I did not have the right documents with me to make the required declaration. I was told I would have to come back but that, this time, things would be more simple as I would be able to book an appointment through the internet. I have now booked the appointment, the earliest available one, on Monday 25th.

And so I was released from the simplicity of French administrative life into the rainy, windy and complicated English morning.

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