Thursday, March 29, 2012

a French bureacracy and helpful officials!...

Over the last 24 hours I have once more been impressed by efficiency that I had not ever experienced in the UK.
Once more it was time to do business with the assurance and organise the process for getting our car registered in France and getting French plates (les plaques!). Again as a worrier I had wondered if with the limited French we have we could possibly circumnavigate all the official bits and get it all sorted. Again my worries appear to be groundless!
Yesterday, having waited for almost 3 weeks now for a parcel of correspondence from England which  still shows no sign of arriving we decided that with the one letter we had confirming 7 years of no claims bonus(although we now know that it should be more and are awaiting a letter direct from the insurance company in England), we should begin the process of insuring the car here. Again we returned to the wonderful employees of Gan Assurance in Cluny to plead in the worst French you can imagine for a policy for us both with "toutes risques". Madame is always so helpful; we asked if we could pay monthly - yes, with no extra charge;  could we be insured with the English number plate until we could get the "Immatriculation" - the registration documents with new number? - yes we could, as long as we got the paper work done and a new number within one month. Delighted, we got our little green sticker to attach to the windscreen to show we were insured by a French company - phew! part one completed. The insurance would commence at midnight! Payment would not begin until 6th May! Incredible!!!!! We came home and rang our English insurers to arrange to cancel the policy at midnight - not possible, we were told, once you tell us you want to cancel it has immediate effect and we charge you for it! Hmm, a bit of a risk - 4 hours outside the house with effectively no insurance! Then a discovery, - the letter confirming the no claims bonus is wrong - I question closely as it has a big impact on what we are paying in France. Yes there is definitely a mistake and the nice man at the other end of the phone in Ipswich he tells me,  promises that he will sort it out for me and send me another letter to correct the first!
So having patted ourselves on the back for getting that far, we planned the visit to Macon for the next pieces of paper. We had had information from an English friend that it had taken him 4 months to do this registration so we were not holding our breath - but we could have done. First to the "Centre Administrative" to ask for a "quittas fiscal". This document is necessary to ensure that if we have to pay tax to import the car, that we have done so. We had done our homework here,and had got the certificate of conformitie from Renault in England before we left - without charge! We also had our registration documents, our insurance, our passports and our driving licences. We had proof of our French address. Madame was delightful, everything was in order, she photocopied all the relevant documents and handed us the quittas fiscal - gratuit (free)! A 10 minute job! So much easier than we were expecting! She kindly explained that for the immatriculation we must go to the Prefecture building. It was such a sunny day that we left the car in the car park and walked the 20 minute walk to the Prefecture. We were met by a helpful lady on the welcome desk who gave us the form to complete asking for the relevant documents so when our number came up we were ready. She even marked on the form where I had to provide all the information - wonderful! We took our place clutching our number 076 - 060 was being currently seen but within about 25 minutes it was our turn. Again incredible efficiency - all the details put into the computer, paperwork all in order and in 10 minutes we were waiting to be called to the cash desk to pay - 282.50 euros handed over, and a temporary registration document issued - the permanent one to follow in the post within a week! Done! Completed! in less than 2 hours we had negotiated another bit of being here permanently!
As we came out of the building we noticed a conveniently placed number plate shop. Although it was after midday the proprietor welcomed us in - was the car outside? no we said its in the parking! Shall we return after lunch? The man was very pleased with that suggestion and if we bought the car round to the shop he would fix the plates on for us! Wow!
We treated ourselves to a lovely lunch by the river Saone, and saw several working barges ploughing their way through the shimmering waters as well as a cruise boat going towards Chalon.
We returned to the number plate shop having parked just around the corner. We were so impressed with the proprietor; he locked the shop and with a tool box came to our car, and fixed on the new plates - cost altogether including fitting 34 euros! We had a lovely chat with an elderly gentleman who wanted a key cut and so accompanied us whilst the number plates were fitted. We learnt that when St Peter's in Rome was built it was constructed 3 metres longer than Cluny Abbey as a mark of superiority - that's according to the proprietor! The elderly man was enchanted that we were now resident in France and expressed his pleasure that we could communicate in French (but truly I think he was being kind!)
We drove back to Cluny and amazed the assurance by our arrival with the temporary registration documents - both ladies were as amazed at us and at the simplicity and speed of the process! We now have a new insurance sticker with the French number on it - I found it hard to remember the English number so I am now needing to practice because I need to know the number in French!!!!
Often here we feel that a powerful and amazing God is watching over us, leading and guiding us step by step. It is truly amazing to us that we are receiving these signs of God's grace and mercy.
On Sunday we begin the journey through Holy week with the Taize community; our intention is to be at communion each morning at 8:10 and to get to evening prayer too.

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