11 March 2023 | Joseph Heller, eat your heart out.
OK, OK. I know I promised not to mention the B word on this blog, and I have been very good so far, but I've been provoked beyond endurance. A man can only withstand so much.
BREXIT! BREXIT! BREXIT!
There - I've said it.
I need help.
How are you at logistics?
Due to Brexit, (or 'Bloody Fucking Pisspot Shitbag Brexit' to give it its full title) we are faced with a little logistical problem. I will try, almost certainly unsuccessfully, to be brief:
We've got to be in Madrid on the 4th April.
And possibly a day or two after.
Or maybe a week or so.
"But why, Bob, why?" I hear you cry in uncomprehending frustration. "Why do you have to be in Madrid in the first place? Why the fourth of April, specifically, and why for such an annoyingly vague and indeterminate period?"
Questions, questions, questions, Dear Heart. Always questions. Calm yourself - all will be made clear.
Due to the aforementioned BFPSB, we are going to need French visas to go to the boat for our customary 4 - 5 months this summer. We could get away with it if we were to drive the 4000 km there & back, but neither macular degeneration nor Parkinson's make that an enticing prospect. Not having a car is a bit of a drawback, as well. (Don't ask)
So flying, and therefore visa'd up to the eyeballs, it would have to be. I pulled up the French government site and blundered my way to the 'get yerself a visa' page.
Having successfully negotiated the online byzantine byways of Gallic bureaucracy, I got to the last screen, (number 31, thankyou for your interest) to be told that we had to attend our nearest French embassy in person, by appointment only, where we would be biometricated to within an inch of our lives and then have our passports snatched away and consigned to the black hole of French governmental filing.
So far so expected. - a nice little daytrip to Lisbon. We can cope with that.
Not so fast, sunny Jim. This is the French you're dealing with. They obviously took our insouciance on this matter as a personal affront. There is no French government body or representative, in the whole of Portugal, that has the authority, nous, wherewithal, ability, and Pritstick necessary to stick a visa in a passport. Well, I can see their point - pissy little country - no oil. There's only twelve million of the bastards. Hardly worth an honorary Consul, let alone a proper embassy with flags & flunkies and stuff. "You want what? A visa? Won't get one of those here mate. Bog off to Madrid."
Just to put the tin hat on things, they have an online, computerised, fully belled & whistled, interactive appointment-booking system . "Clique ici" they confidently assert, "Prise de rendez-vous groupée (Exemple : Prise de rendez-vous Famille, jusqu'à 6 membres). They go on to assure us that we will have the opportunity "de choisir les créneaux les plus appropriés pour un rendez-vous Famille."
Seemed promising to us. We're working two months in advance, there's bound to be plenty of slack in the system. We'll schedule it in with a little city break in Madrid.
Can software get OCD? This one did. It became fixated on Tuesday 4th April, where it proudly offered six available half-hour slots.
I tried in vain to get it to even consider any earlier or later date. Nope. That's your lot. Tuesday 4th April. Take it or leave it.
Then came the coup de grâce. At the end of this hard-won meeting, they would have to take our passports into custody for an unspecified period, while some trainee jobsworth tried to figure out how to use a prit stick without gluing his forefinger to his eyeball. This intellectually taxing task would, they assured me, be completed in 2 to 5 days.
Then we would be notified to come and collect them.
"PROBABLY !?" I screeched in html, 'Probablement?' Quel est le problème avec 'définitivement' ou 'sans fail'?
"Je suis désolé, Monsieur, Vous semblez confus ou misinformé.
Nous sommes des fonctionnaires français. Nous ne faisons pas le helpful."
I remonstrated. How were we supposed to function for up to a week in Madrid without a passport? Ah! They'd thought of that. They had a courier option. If we couldn't hang around twiddling our thumbs in Madrid for a week, we could go home, and they'd send the passports to us (18 quid per passport per person) (plus VAT) (insurance extra). To the question as to how we were supposed to get back home in another country without a passport, answer came there none.
So here we are, facing detainment at the French equivalent of His Majesty's Pleasure, while the fonction publique de l'État trains up a Visa Adhesion Operative, Second Class. Looks likely that we are going to have to make a short-term tactical withdrawal in our valiant rear-guard action to stave off the worst consequences of Brexit. I have a sneaking suspicion that, for this year at least, we are going to have to stay within the 90/180 day rule.
Now all we've got to do is work out how to get the bloody cat to France and back. God alone knows what paperwork les fonctionnaires will want from her. Mind you, it could be worse. If we were trying to get into the UK, all three of us would be halfway to Rwanda by now.
From seasoned full-time liveboards to frivolous summer dilletantes in three simple steps. How are the mighty fallen.
Still, look on the bright side; I'll probably recycle this and shamelessly use it to pad out book 3, which is on schedule to be published around Easter.< end brazen plug >