The census taker came yesterday. It’s our turn to be counted. Unlike the UK and Ireland, France carries out its censuses on a rolling basis. Communes with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants are censused (that’s a real word, honestly) every 5 years, but not all in the same year. For example, Nouzerines is subject to a census this year, but neighbouring Bussiere St Georges will be dealt with in 2012. Communes larger than 10,000 are censused every 10 years, but not in one go. A proportion of each of these communes is processed every year. This seems a sensible way of doing things. Maybe it doesn’t give a snapshot of exactly how many people are living in France at an exact time and date, like the UK one does, but is that a particularly useful measure anyway? There can be large, rapid fluxes in population which won’t be reflected in that figure. For example, the recent sudden arrival of tens of thousands of Eastern European people in Ireland was followed by an equally rapid exodus when the economy took a nosedive. A system like the UK’s wouldn’t ever register those people if it occurred between census dates, but the French system would at least take some account of it.

The form wasn’t too complicated, and anyway, the census-taker, our neighbour Jan’s daughter Gaelle, was extremely helpful. Ruadhri’s was the quickest to fill in. Caiti and Benj, being over 14, required a few additional sections to be filled in, and Chris and I had the most. There was also a questionnaire about our house to complete too. Gaelle wasn’t quite sure if we needed to complete one for the gite, since although it’s a furnished house, no-one lives there – but we filled one out just in case!

Gaelle was reckoning it would take her the full month she’s allowed to collect all the information. Our commune only has a small population but it’s quite widely spread and is out and about a good deal too. Catching people in is going to be tricky. Gaelle had left us a note informing us when she’d be calling in our mail box at the end of the drive, which we hadn’t discovered. But we’re usually in so she found us anyway. So we’re all done for another five years and France will officially acknowledge us as being here in its facts and figures from now on!

The last official figures are for 2007 and show a population of 252 full-time residents in Nozuerines with 9 part-timers. This group includes people who, for example, have a family home in another department, but spend long periods in Nouzerines for education or work purposes. Creuse as a whole has a fixed population of 123,861 with an extra 5,000 part-time residents. It will be interesting to see which way the figures move with this census.