My dossier - and be grateful I've spared you the flacon d'urine. Apologies for the blurriness, my hand was tired after filling all those forms in!

My dossier – and be grateful I’ve spared you the flacon d’urine. Apologies for the blurriness, my hand was tired after filling all those forms in!

I think I’ve jumped through enough hoops now to get my permis de conduire. At least, I hope I have. All the paperwork, necessary and unnecessary alike, is at the Prefecture and in 8-10 days’ time I should be the proud owner of a French driving licence.

It will be my third licence. Back in 1980 in the UK I was the proud recipient of my full driving licence. This had as its expiry date my 70th birthday- 1st August 2032. That seemed so unreal back then. Eons and eons away. It feels so much closer now!

But thirteen years later I was handing it over for an Irish one after our move to the Emerald Isle in 1992. Ireland had – probably still has – a different policy and licences have to be renewed every twenty years. But again, October 2013 seemed ages away.

However, it’s here. I began the groundwork for obtaining my French replacement before this one expired several weeks ago. Because with my British licence I automatically got the right to drive vehicles up to small lorry and minibus size, plus pull trailers around, those went onto my Irish licence, and subsequently I decided it was worthwhile keeping them on my new one too. That meant I had to have a medical examination, which I did last night. And I passed! It wasn’t too arduous – blood pressure and chest listening (I have a slow ‘eart, apparently), a few other things and an eye test. The doctor asked me if I always wore my glasses for driving. (I’ve worn glasses full-time since my mid-twenties.) I replied that if I didn’t wear glasses, I wouldn’t be able to find my car in order to drive it. Which I thought was quite funny! But sadly, pretty much true.

So I left the surgery with even more paperwork to add to my collection. I had assembled quite an impressive dossier by now. All the usual culprits – passport, birth cert, utility bill as proof of residence and so on, the necessary official application form, plus I added some other ‘just in case’ documents. As so often happens, when browsing online to gen up on exchanging my licence, I’d come across some of those semi-hysterical scaremongering sites that suggested I might need some sort of proof that I’d never had points on any of my licences (how do you prove something that’s never happened, I wonder), that I might need to get my licence and other documents expensively translated by a Prefecture-approved translator, that I might even need parents’ birth certs etc. Over the years, I’ve come to see these sites for what they are, but the occasional element of doubt lingers. However, sanity seems to have prevailed and I only needed to produce the rational paperwork. I did need to refill in one of the forms as I’d put my birth date down as 1st August 2013 on it. Duh. I’d completed all the forms in one go the other afternoon when I was a bit tired and I had a temporary brain meltdown since there were five of them. My excuse anyway.

And in case you’re wondering why I waited for seven years before claiming a French licence, driving licences issued by other EU states are legal in France. This wasn’t the case when we moved to Ireland which is why I’d had to trade my UK one in. Which is a shame, as I wouldn’t have had to go through all this rigmarole for another 19 years. Also, I think I’ll have to go through it again next year when the new-style French licences come on, or at least that’s my understanding. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

And a further note: it’s quite pricey. I’ve had to pay €33 for the medical exam, €27 to the Prefecture, €5 for official French ID photos, plus it’s taken two trips to Gueret to get everything right and one to Boussac for the doc’s, so around €40 in gasoil I reckon. Pfft.