Being put out to grass is a term from the horse racing world; it means that a racehorse is being retired. I’m neither a racehorse nor retired but I had the dubious pleasure of having to go to Grasse a few times in the last few months. An hours bus ride through the Provençal hills will take you to this town, famous for its perfumes and infamous for its Sous Prefecture that issues the driving licences. (I’m not the only one who has run into trouble with this institution.)
In August my purse was stolen. Annoying but bank cards where easily blocked and replaced. More problematic was the stolen UK driving licence as it can't be issued to a foreign address. After some phone calls and internet research I put myself out to Grasse in search of a French licence.
Visit one, august: A very friendly lady assured me I was best to come back on the 15th of September as they were making changes to the licence and my paperwork would just be left on a pile in the office until then.
Visit two, September: A not so friendly lady took great pleasure in tearing up my carefully filled out forms as they were filled out in blue biro instead of black. She then pushed all my other papers back over the counter saying I needed a copy of the police report regarding the stolen purse.
Visit three, Late September: A friendly gentleman told me the proof of address I provided was now a week out of date, before pushing the papers back over the counter.
Visit Four, October: Everything checked and double checked I handed my papers over with trepidation. All seemed fine until the clerk got to my UK declaration of a clean licence. Some eyebrows were frowned and managers consulted. Then the whole bunch of papers got pushed back again with the remark that this was not the right declaration. (Really, I had seen you 3 times before and now you tell me!) The poor civil servant at the DVLA suffered the brunt of my frustration as how dare they send me the wrong declaration. The lady assured me that each local authority in France has different rules. The UK issues 2 different declarations and soon I would be in possession of both.
Visit Five, November: Not without trepidation I handed the pile of papers over to the clerk. I held my breath as each sheet was scrutinised. She nodded and started tapping away on her computer, a few minutes later I held a provisional French licence in my hands. It is silly the things that make us punch the air in triumph, but this certainly did. Pfew, this racehorse can retire now, at least until the next run in with officialdom.