Affairs of state get me in a right one

As regular readers may recall I am on first name terms with my dentist here in Toulouse where I have a flat with street views (immediate) and ceilings (high).

Indeed, I have had such trouble with my teeth - including a rather unpleasant episode that required the mopping of my brow and a memorable dose of opium - I have become accustomed to Danielle’s taste in waiting room reading material - she likes horses, scientific things and Carla Bruni.

Anyway, now my mouth contains more crowns than the Tower of London, I have renewed again my attempts to break into the impenetrable French social security system - the system security social as it is known here.

To obtain the much coveted Carte Vitale, which enables you to be reimbursed for the costs of your health care, is an uphill struggle for the French, let alone those of us who are mere foreigners in this the land of pureed vegetables and decent pastry. Indeed, six months is not unknown by the time you have jumped through the administrative hoops put in place by the French state.

So I popped along to the monolith building where you are forced to interact with the state once you have taken a ticket rather like the butcher’s counter at Sainsbury’s.

Past experience taught me to take plenty of paperwork and photo of myself looking French with a jumper casually draped around my shoulders.

Friends had wished me luck and imparted advice like “Don’t leave until you get what you want” and “Create a scene if you have to.”

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Armed with an improving vocabulary and a willingness to loudly inform, if necessary, the Republic of France that my grandfather fought on the beaches of Normandy, I walked up to counter number four ready for battle.

However, once I got to the counter instead of being sent immediately to wait in the secondary queuing area reserved for difficult conversations, I encountered one of the most unusual things I have ever found in France - a helpful civil servant.

“Monsieur,” she said when I presented my birth certificate. “You already have a system security social number (provisional).”

“Do I?” I smiled.

“Yes of course, you can have a print out of your number system security social (provisional).”

The moment the Fifth Republic knew my mother’s maiden name the gates of the French state opened before me. All I have to do is wait while this nugget of information is sent to Nantes where the national office of statistics is based, apparently.

“Are you sure?” I ventured.

“Yes, we’ll send you your Carte Vitale with your social number security system (permanent) in a month. Give me those forms and we can reimburse you for what you have already paid.”

I nearly fell over.

-I SOMETIMES wonder if Lucie, she’s my French teacher who often paints at weekends, get’s a little exasperated with my progress in French.

Sometimes, when I concentrate it all goes well, other times I can barely string a sentence together.

This week she asked us a simple question - what did you get up to at the weekend?

Keen to impress, I attempted to say “I climbed a hill in the Pyrenees.”

However, I used the wrong word for hills and said “I mounted a friend in the Pyrenees” instead.

When she stopped laughing, she pointed out the error of my ways.

- THIS week I’d like to thank one of my regular correspondents, Ron Longland, for kindly inviting me along to Chatillon-sur-Indre as part of the celebrations of Les Amis de Chatillion et Clare (LACC) - a friendship and cultural exchange between the delightful town on Clare and Chatillon-sur-Indre.

Ron, who told me all about the organisation from his Suffolk home with views (green) and ceilings (moderate), asked me to show my face during week long celebrations which includes singing by Stoke College and football from Clare Town Lions in July.

Ron, who tells me he visited Carcassonne back in 2004 and bought a fridge magnet, suggested I take the autoroute north out of Toulouse to get to Chatillon but unfortunately, and I’ve researched it, it will take several hours in a car I don’t have. I shall have to decline on this occasion.

- IT seemed every France-based English celebrIty was there and I just don’t know why I wasn’t invited.

I’m talking, of course, about the election night reception held at the British Embassy in Paris.

I know there was one because our ambassador was interviewed on French tv on election night saying that everything was too early to tell and that Her Majesty would have something to say about it all before it was all over.

The election coverage I watched was limited to pictures of David Dimbleby hopping around saying things like “We’ve got two results in so we’re getting somewhere” and discussions on the comparative dress sense of Samantha and Sarah.

I seems they way we conduct our elections fascinates the French, partly because, I think, that it’s a bit difficult to understand if you’re and outsider looking in.

- I HOPE hope the ancient Suffolk town of Stowmarket has got enough cocktail glasses now I hear Prince Harry will be in the vicinity.

What an exciting prospect - Suffolk’s very own Royal party animal.

Not that partying is a bad thing - I’m all for it - and Prince Harry is a young fella after all.

I’m delighted to hear he’ll be flying Apache helicopters from Wattisham.

Let’s welcome him with open arms.