Nous avons besoin d’un permis de construire???? (We need a building permit????)
The moment had been 4 months in the making, maybe 6 if you put it all together, and I guess I shouldn’t really have been surprised. But alas, my naiveté and the bane of French paperwork had collided yet again, much like the time I obliviously walked into the corner of the RV while looking the other way. Sometimes I don’t pay close enough attention, and then I get knocked out cold. At least this time around, I wouldn’t need head staples, at least not physically.
In essence it should have been simple.
Our motorhome has been sitting “out in the open” for a few years now, and since we haven’t been traveling as much as we expected we decided we’d like to build a little cover for it. Just something super basic, ya know; a few posts, a roof and maybe two wood-planked sides. Of course I did my homework, to some degree. I talked to the builder who assured me I wouldn’t need anything special, maybe just a “prealable” from the Mairie, maybe nothing at all. Then I called the Mairie who essentially told me the same thing over the phone. I mean we’re not building a house here, just a cover for our motorhome.
And yet there it was, that nagging feeling that this was all just waaaay too easy….
I ignored it of course, that imminent nag, having only just barely recovered from our multi-month septic tank installation saga, and still mentally somewhat delicate thanks to our 2nd confinement. There’s only so much a human can take, you know? So I coasted along in mindless oblivion, blissfully free of concern, a fluttering butterfly floating on the wind of ignorance. This euphoria of paperless life lasted right up until the builder suddenly turned up with the digger to start work this Monday. This was it, the start of the build! We were finally going to our motorhome covered, and it was all going to happen to plan, right?
I couldn’t shake the feeling. Call it my Scandinavian conscience, or just an innate skepticism of the whole French process, but something about the whole thing wasn’t right, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. So I hauled myself down to the Mairie to double-triple-check, in person this time with all the documents in hand. And that was when the wrecking ball of French paperwork was released and my veil of ignorance was shattered.
Parce-que votre abris est 30 m2 et pas 20 m2, en effet il vous faut un permis de construire…..(because your structure is 30m2 and not 20m2, you need a construction permit)
It was a stunning blow. The documentation for a construction permit is 18 pages long with 42 pages of instructions (!!!) and must be delivered in 4 copies together with 8 supporting documents including full plans for the building itself, the ground, and the surroundings. It’s an insane amount of paperwork, a literal mountain of dead trees, that could possibly, maybe, if you stretched yourself and drank enough wine, be justified for building a house. But for a piddling 30m2 RV cover?? I drove home in a daze, stopped construction, sent the builder home and collapsed in a weeping mess on my chair. I could take no more…
We all have our limits, and this week, at least as far as paperwork is concerned, I hit mine.
Ah yes, living in France is not always la belle vie, with wine and baguettes raining from the heavens. It can be, but there’s always that nagging little butt of paperwork trailing in the wind right behind it. And for everyone and everything, there’s a limit to what you can take.
The Limits of Confinement
Have we reached the inflection point yet?
We’re in week 3 of confinement #2 in France and everyone is wondering when the COVID-19 restrictions are going to end. Statistical data is flowing like never before, analyzed twenty different ways, in detailed graphs, pie charts and heatmaps that are splashed all over the newspapers and online pretty much everyday. Anyone who’s vaguely connected knows how many people were infected yesterday, how many were hospitalized and how many died. It’s a morbid pastime that’s become the new normal of 2020. You wake up, check the coronavirus numbers (much like you’d check the daily weather) and then go about your day.
There’s been some good news though….
In France confinement is making a difference, and this second wave is turning out to be not nearly as strong as the first. Over the past 2 weeks the virus numbers have finally, blissfully started to go down and all the curves have started to turn again, as we hoped they would. Infections have dropped, hospitalizations have dropped, even the ICU numbers are finally stabilizing and sloooooowly, but surely decreasing. We’re still not where we need to be, but we’re going in the right direction. Thank the 1km Gods!
There’s been some VERY good news too…..
A vaccine is on the horizon!! Final trails on ~6 Vaccines across the world have shown several to be over 90% effective. It’s an incredible achievement backed by some fascinating science. Many of the up-coming vaccines (including those by Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Arcturus Therapeutics and CureVac) are based on brand new tech that uses messenger RNA (mRNA) to produce virus spike proteins in the body. This essentially triggers the immune system to produce protective antibodies without using any actual bits of the virus itself. Revolutionary stuff. In practical terms, it means the end of this pandemic is really, truly, finally in sight.
But we’re not quite there yet….
The vaccines are not going to be available before year end, and even then not in sufficient quantities to go around right away. Plus they need to be distributed, and folks encouraged to take them (a whole other can of worms). In-between now and then there are several big vacays where people will mingle and travel, together with intense pressure to re-open businesses again, and let Christmas “proceed as normal”. All this despite the fact that hospitals are still heavily loaded, and hospital staff are exhausted and in critically short supply, both here and in USA. One does not exactly support the other.
So what does that mean?
The debate here in France on this subject has been HUGE!
People are reaching their limits, despite the fact that the virus numbers are still not exactly where they should be. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 60% of French people had broken the rules of confinement at least once this second time around, a number much higher than expected, and it’s only likely to get worse over the next month. I’ve even noticed this in our little rural area. There seem to be more people going out and less Police checks than the last confinement, despite all the heavy rules. So, why not make it official?
It seems the Government is coming to that same conclusion, and we’ll know for sure next week when they make their formal announcement. So, whereas I initially thought the November lockdown would be extended, my new prediction is that they’ll actually start to re-open in Dec for Christmas shopping & limited get-togethers, simply because the pressure to do otherwise is too high. It may cause a third lockdown (early next year when cases spike again), but for now that is far to far away for most folks to care about.
Even the French, solidaire as they are, have their limits.
The Limits Of Non-Planning
As someone who always likes to have a plan, I have to admit I’ve been beaten down from all this non-planning stuff.
I know it’s important for my mental sanity to try and go with the flow, especially in a year like 2020 which (hopefully) will never be repeated again. And I’m generally fairly good at this, under normal circumstances. But this year has truly tested my limits, beyond anything I ever imagined. Not being able to look forward to the next step, or the next trip, not being able to see or even guess at what is around the corner. Or even just today, not being able to go for a walk outside of a 1km radius. These things weigh on me, as I’m sure they weigh on everyone. We all have our limits.
So a few days ago Paul and I started to do something new, something we haven’t contemplated for a long while. We started to make plans, to think about 2021 and what we might do. Obviously we’re not out of the woods yet and we won’t be for a while, but I’m hopeful that 2021 will get us there, eventually. So for the first time in a year we’re starting to think about that, and perhaps look forward to the future. We all must, if we’re to thrive after all this.
In the meantime don’t worry about me. I’m hanging in here, chugging along, staying safe, getting through the day-to-day. I may have reached my limit in certain areas, but I’m not over the line quite yet.
How are you this week my dear readers? Are you planning for 2021? Thinking about it? Have you reached your limits? Do share in the comments below!