Anyway. My two French pensions, from the state and from a private provider, both require formal verification each year that I am, well, still alive. So having arrived at his office Mr B, the elderly, slightly raffish but charming notary, duly scrutinises me, my passport and my most recent British Gas bill (oh the horror) and then fills in the form and brings out this impressive red seal and stamp and signs to the effect that I have presented myself before him and that I was indeed alive (est vivante pour s'etre presente aujourd'hui devant nous) on April 17th, 2013
Et voila I am officially confirmed as not dead and consequently eligible for the next twelve monthly payments.
I hand over £25 and we chat a bit. He says that he knows of many other people locally who are eligible for some kind of European pension which surprises me as I thought we were a comparatively rare breed. I say that if the UK does pull out of the EU in a few years time then they'd better make sure that our rights are preserved. He says don't worry, he is sure they will be as it is a legal commitment which cannot be countermanded. Hope so.
Why are solicitors' offices so fusty and Dickensian? I temped for a solicitor in London whose office was very similar, both based in converted Victorian houses with poky, high ceilinged offices and uneven floors. Dusty files everywhere, full to bursting and stacked haphazardly on metal filing cabinets, wartime utility desks and chairs which remind me of the furniture at home when I was growing up in the 1950s, and a dingy, worn and tea-stained fitted carpet. I think Mr B must be keen on the horses, which would fit in with his raffishness, as there's a huge painting of a racing scene hanging on the wall behind his desk.
In actual fact it's endearing. The office has character, as does Mr B. I'd rather this than some modern, high-tech, glass and metal outfit. I'll be back again in six weeks or so with the second form. Hopefully I'll be a little less frightened.