Saturday, 25 February 2017

Stratford-on-Avon: The Shakespeare drawcard

What's a visit to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre without a visit to his home town? Welcome to Stratford on Avon, a charming English town on the banks of the Avon 101kms from London. It caters to 2.5m visitors each year and is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

I was on a guided tour, a little rushed and we didn't get to see Tudor World, the only museum in existence featuring exclusively Tudor Times. I only found out about the attraction after I got back to France. The only time we really had available to explore was to look around the Bard's place and grab something to eat in a cafe so the rest of the town and the riverbank didn't get a lookin, sadly.

Take a stroll down Henley Street, one of the town's oldest streets, which underwent substantial architectural change between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. John Shakespeare's half-timbered house was purchased by him in 1556 and his son William was born there in 1564. Visitors can admire the English gardens, snoop around Will's bed and kitchen and ask questions of the tannery expert on site.

What I especially liked was the opportuity to listen to a snippet of outdoor Shakespeare. An actor, suitably garbed, was available to make small speeches from famous works. The options weren't listed on a blackboard so I took potluck and chose Henry V. I was duly treated to a piece of Shakespeare quoted just for me.

This is very much a tourist destination and they seem to cater well for that. I wished I had much more time to explore other sights but the afternoon would be spent visiting a castle so we were bundled back on the bus. I'll let the photos do the talking....

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

How to become French - Part 4

Today I acquired my official documentation as a new French citizen. Administratively it's useful but psychologically it's a great disappointment.

Unlike some prefectures here in France and cities in NZ there is NO ceremony at all at Chartres. There's no event where a group of new citizens are welcomed by the Mayor; where there's a sense of solidarity and celebration and where friends and family can participate. Zip.

I mentioned my disappointment to JC but he just said "What does it matter? At least it's official. French people don't make a big song-and-dance about things like Anglo-Saxons." Somehow that didn't make me feel better. I wanted some warm fuzzies.

I received a message to turn up at a certain time on a certain day, which was impossible for me to do as I can never take time off work in my current job. JC had to make a phone call and plead for a change of day on my behalf. Changing the system is no small ask.

Today I walked past the horrid little man there who had delighted in making my life shit each time I had to renew my titre de sejour. I would never have to be at his mercy again.

I stood up at a tiny counter and handed over my required documents to the lady responsible for making this final document exchange. She apologised for not knowing me at all but the system is spread over various parts of France now and my prefecture has no part in it except to hand over today's documents.

After explaining each document in the little folder and obtaining my signature we shook hands and I walked out.

Inside the folder were the following documents:
  1. A letter from the Prefecture of Chartres for my local mairie in exchange for a national identity card (already requested by me)
  2. Letter signed by Manuel Valls (Prime Minister) and Bernard Caseneuve (Minister of Internal Affairs) confirming the decret making me a French citizen
  3. A letter signed by Francois Hollande (President of the French Republic) welcoming me and reminding me I have responsibilities, I am considered an EU citizen as well.
  4. A copy of my birth certificate (French version)
  5. Copy of my first marriage certificate (French version and divorce details)
  6. Copy of my second marriage certificate (contains divorce details too)
  7. List of rights and responsibilities as a French citizen
  8. Copy of the Marseillaise (French National Anthem), very pretty
  9. Copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789 (equally pretty)
  10. Copy of the constitution of 4 October 1958 extracts only
I'm very happy to have all that and am relieved I can't be thrown out of France but in reality naturalisation isn't making it any easier for me to find work so I can stay. I try to comfort myself with the knowledge that at last I have achieved my dream, even if it proves temporary. I do love France, despite its quirks and illogical difficulties. My soul is quite at ease here. To all those who have in any way contributed to today's success, my heartfelt thanks.

And Thank You France!

Now on to getting my identity card which enables travel throughout Europe, and my French passport enabling travel anywhere else. In the meantime I can use my kiwi passport while I wait. I do think in this globalised world it's important to have options at either end of our planet for better or for worse.
I can finally close the 'dossier' which has taken 6.5 years to complete.