“Jeune” et Administration
To my great delight we have got a, “Jeune”.
For those of you who have read Peter Mayle’s book, “A Year in
Provence”. You will be aware of Mayle’s plumber, Monsieur Menicucci, the cause of fifty percent of Mayle’s problems and the solution to the other fifty percent.
In the book Monsieur Menicucci had an assistant who was always referred to as ‘Le Jeune Homme’ or simply ‘Jeune.’ I suppose this would translate as, ‘Young Un’ or perhaps even, “Our Kid”.
The relationship between the plumber and Jeune has always struck me as gently amusing, particularly as the latter was, in fact about 45 years old and is, by now, very probably running the business and has acquired a Jeune of his very own.
We are very lucky, in the village to have Monsieur Ségrét who is extremely multi-talented and, in addition to having an electrical shop, is also a qualified electrician and plumber, repairs household appliances and is also a couvreur, (roofer). It is quite rare in France to find someone like this as artisans tend to stick to their own area of expertise, not least because France being France everything has to be accompanied by a forest of paperwork and to set yourself up in a particular profession means that one must have the paper qualifications to go with it. So, to have five areas of expertise, Monsieur Ségrét must have gone through the administrative hoops on five separate occasions besides, of course, being able to fulfil the statutory French requirement to be able to prove which ape you were originally descended from!
Although I am digressing here for a paragraph or two, I will give you one example of how mind-bogglingly irritating the French obsession with paperwork can be. A few months ago we decided to move our bank account from Saumur to Doué la Fontaine as the latter town is only five minutes away as opposed to the fifteen minutes for Saumur and, in addition, we are always in and out of the Doué branch paying in cash, withdrawing etc. as one does.
Now, I stress that we did not move banks, just branches. However, having been in
France for over six years, it did not really come as any surprise when the Manager asked for all the documents which we had already given to the Saumur branch when we first opened our account. He duly asked for:- proof of identity; proof of residence; birth certificates and a utilities bill.
As by now we understand the game, we do not, as you might expect, waste time pointing out that his bank already had copies of all this data, instead, a week later we duly troop into his office armed with all the things he had asked for.
Game over you may think? Not at all. Merely the start of the second half.
Having photocopied all the relevant papers, the manager then leans back in his chair and, most apologetically, says that we have not bought our Marriage Certificate and that, therefore, he cannot proceed any further. He did not originally ask for our Marriage Certificate but that is by the by.
However, he has made a cardinal error, which is, to never underestimate your opponent! What he does not know is that, after years of battling French bureaucracy and following the advice of several French friends, we have accumulated a file full of every single bit of paper that has ever been issued to us since the beginning of time. This we call the, “Stuff That up Your Jacksie File”.
But do we give him the Marriage Certificate straight away? Mais non, of course not, that would give him time to outflank us by asking for a copy of Sheila’s Certificate of Confirmation or, the Vaccination Certificate of our dog or some other totally useless and irrelevant piece of paper.
No, the trick is then to work him into a corner by asking innocently, “So that is the only thing you need now, the Marriage Certificate?”
“Yes, that’s all we need”.
“You are sure, just that one thing?”
Now this is the danger period, a really experienced “functionnaire” would start to sense the manoeuvring and therefore have to invent a few more things that are indispensable before the office could begin to think of carrying out its functions.
But in this case the Manager, obviously overconfident, just smiled and confirmed that the Marriage Certificate was the golden key that would allow us to pay our money into the reluctant coffers of Le Societié Generale, Doué Branch.
Now is the time to strike, this is the moment when one extracts the document from the Stuff That up Your Jacksie file and looking him firmly in the eye to push it slowly across the desk towards him.
A momentary start, a brief, rapidly controlled stutter and then a gracious admittance of defeat. He duly copies the Certificate and welcomes us to his branch, (I am surprised there is no award for successfully negotiating the administrative minefield), and then we are home and dry. Voila, QED.
But, as I have said, I digress. Unfortunately the digression has grown to become too long to be merely an appendage to a blog and, more importantly, I am getting fed up of tapping these infernal keys, thus I will continue the tale of, “Jeune”, which was supposed to be the subject of this posting, on my next post.
Until then Bonne Chance et Bon Courage.