Silence is Golden
At what point does ‘no news is good news’ become ‘no news is actually beginning to worry me a bit’? I haven’t heard back from the Plate-Forme de la Naturalisation about my citizenship application yet and it has me fretting. There was some confusion about where I was supposed to send the thing in the first place and I suspect now that a fonctionnaire has it sitting on their desk in a pile marked ‘Nope. Nothing to do with me.’
I sent it recorded delivery and so could, in theory, chase the thing up but wiser, more French bureaucracy experienced heads have counselled caution. Their argument is why annoy these people unnecessarily? That’s the fearsome reputation that the fonctionnaire has over here, something akin to a hibernating bear or a drunk wasp’s nest. Anyway it’s not in my nature to approach the authorities as it were. If officialdom needs me it can jolly well get up off it’s capacious backside and come and find me, and that goes for tax departments, banking, insurance, basically anything or anybody for whom even the briefest conversation is likely to cost me money. And if they do approach me they’d better make damn sure they have my name and all other relevant details absolutely spot on or the red ink of ‘Not Known At This Address’ comes into play.
That kind of ostrich head-in-the-sand approach to life is quite easily done in France too. Natalie does most of the household management here so most telephone calls are for her, but the French seem to struggle with the concept of the double-barrelled name so if I answer the phone, there’s always a brief silence followed by a nervous ‘Monsieur…Crawford?’
‘Non.’ I’ll reply sharply and with relief, ‘Il n’y a pas de Monsieur Crawford ici! Au revoir!’ and put the phone down.
But this is different. The acquisition of French nationality is such a glacially slow process anyway that it’s quite important to know that the process has at least begun, that you have, as a basic minimum, sent the documents off to the right place. The temptation to ring them up, or at least email as I detest using the phone, is a strong one. I don’t mind so much that the system is slow, I just want to know that it’s started. But these people are apparently so fragile, so snowflaky, to give them the modern term, that a gentle enquiry as to whether they’ve received my application or not could be seen as needlessly antagonistic, verging on harassment.
So I wait, and patience is not my strong point. The thing about stand up comedy is its immediacy, a comic will know at the end of a routine if it’s good or not because people will either laugh or they won’t. Often, if you’re experienced enough, you can tell if a routine is going to work just a few words into the thing. It’s difficult to describe, you just develop a sense for these things. It’s like the room drops a couple of degrees in temperature, and you can bail out or doggedly keep going, either way you get immediate feedback. Nothing else in life works at that pace which means constantly fighting an insanely demanding impatience.
Anyway, the feeling is that even politely enquiring as to whether my application form is in the right hands or not, means that those hands will probably put the application to the bottom of the pile. Of course it could be argued that a bit of silence is no bad thing at all, it seems that what the world needs right now is a bit of Primary School discipline, a bit of ‘fingers on lips time’. Even Nigel Farage is feeling the pressure, bless him, complaining that he’s a ‘virtual prisoner in his own home’ because of the demands of the media. I feel for him. It can’t be easy for a radio host, politician, right wing poster boy and spokesman for a movement to hide from a media that he’s spent the last fifteen years desperately craving. Honestly that’s like when a footballer complains of playing too much football. It’s your job. Belt up.
The man is such a mass of almost relentless hypocrisy. He dislikes the EU because it’s ‘undemocratic’ and ‘corrupt’. This comes from an MEP who rarely turns up to the Parliament to vote, thus not exercising our democratic right, and yet happily draws a decent salary while complaining about a gravy train. But his is the loudest voice so it gets heard. Like Trump spouting off about how Americans aren’t going to Paris anymore because apparently Paris is like some lawless Islamic Calliphate and they don’t feel safe. Again, belt up. Ask people in Orlando, or Newtown, or Oakland or Sandy Hook how ‘safe’ they are. That an American president uses deadly terrorist atrocities in other countries to sell his own narrow, ignorant agenda is exactly the result of the loudest voice having to constantly keep shouting so that they feel justified. The arguments of the loudest voices are getting shriller and narrower, their message becoming nastier and more divisive; ugly dogma coming from ugly mouths. The idea that France, or any society for that matter, would be safer if everybody was armed is utter lunacy, a policy from a man who watched the Deadwood boxset and thought, ‘Now that’s how to run a society!’
There was a time when I went looking for people like that to argue with. After the referendum result there were daily reports of ‘foreigners’ being abused in Britain. Society’s low-hanging fruit who thought it had actually been a vote to deport anyone non-white or who didn’t speak English were openly spouting their idiocy. I started ostentatiously reading French books on public transport hoping someone would say something, nobody did. I talk about living in France onstage a lot. In fact most of my material is about my double life and you can’t do that without acknowledging the fact that I live in ‘Europe’. I’ve had very little trouble with that, a few boos but largely, I think, playful ones, mock controversy if you like. A typically English response and it’s good to know in such entrenched times that some of us can still laugh at ourselves, surely one of the best of British ‘traits’.
So in a way I’ve sought confrontation and not really found any. Now though, I just want a bit of hush, everyone should stop the shouting for a bit and just have a rational think about what’s happening and what will happen. Stop defending your beliefs as if it’s illegal to have doubt or a change of mind. Like I say, ‘fingers on lips’ for a bit. And then, last night, as I was leaving my second gig…
‘There he is, look. Comin’ over ‘ere, who gives a fuck about his French fucking wife!’ It was difficult to tell which one of the three charming ladies had said this, their obesity having reached such a level that it was difficult to discern any mouth movement. I didn’t stop though, I haven’t the energy, though if they’d said it while I was onstage it would have been different. I carried on walking, didn’t break my stride even, keeping my silence. But determined, first thing Monday morning, to find out just how my application is getting on.
Thank you for reading this blog, so far it’s had more than 150,000 views. Feedback is always welcome, from all sides, but keep the abuse to a minimum because I’ve got a bad back am whacked out on painkillers and liable to kick off.
You can buy my two best-selling books here and the next will hopefully be out this year. And if you’re a literary agent, please get in touch.