The process of gaining French nationality hasn’t got off to a good start. The first step is to take and, obviously, pass the TCF ANF – Test de compétence du français pour l’accèss à la nationalité française (language competency test to obtain French nationality). With British (but not for much longer, if all goes well) efficiency I sent in my booking form and photocopies of my passport and carte de séjour, accompanied by a cheque for the fairly hefty fee, to the nearest (which isn’t very) language test centre in plenty of time. I also put in a letter saying I was applying for the session on 22 May. That bit was underlined.

A week later I got a reply saying I’d been booked in for 17 April, and giving me the times of the two exams I’ll be taking – an individual oral test at 10.50am, and then an oral comprehension test with the other candidates at half past eleven. Big sigh. I’d not wanted this date since it was during a very busy week for us with our fishing lakes but, more to the point, that day is Caiti’s birthday and she’s due to travel home for that week. I didn’t want to be spending a day down in Limoges when I could be with our daughter, whom we only get to see a few times a year now that’s she’s living in Holland.

Exasperated, I phoned up to request a date change. I was told this was impossible for a whole load of various and increasingly complicated reasons – but mainly something to do with Paris, apparently. I could cancel the April date, if I wished, but I’d have to make a new application for the May one, and pay the fee again. Flipping cheek. I pointed out that I’d made it clear what session I was booking for, but the lady I spoke to swore blind she hadn’t known about my accompanying letter. So, despite my best efforts, I’ve had to stick with April, much to my chagrin.

I guess they saw the chance to fill up a gap in the April session, never mind that I expressly stated that I wasn’t applying for that one. I feel taken advantage of, and it’s not very nice so my hackles will be up when I turn up for the dreaded test in a worrying three weeks and a day, rather than in the more comforting seven weeks’ time. I could have done with the extra time as my French is a bit rusty. I’m busily revising every day. I’ve got a test practice book with a CD, and I’ve also found an excellent MOOC on the French site. Some days I feel very chuffed when I get lots of right answers, but on others, when things don’t go so well, I’m in despair.

The level you need to attain is B1, pre-intermediate, which is what you’re reckoned to need to get by in France on a daily basis. Considering I’ve made it more or less successfully through thirteen years, although with a slight-to-middling aura of bewilderment on occasions, then surely my grasp of the language is good enough to pass. I mean, I managed to phone up the language centre to try and change my booking! Was that, perhaps, a secret part of the test?

I’m already nervous, but will soldier on and try not to get too worked up about my first exam in, literally, decades. I guess my last one was my final accountancy exam in 1991, which I failed resoundingly. (I did pass the first two exams, though, so at least I’m part-qualified.) Not the greatest springboard for this next exam, but fingers crossed I’ll get back onto a winning streak with my TCF.