Mr Quaintly Naïf wanted to replace a window at the front of his house as it was a little tatty. Having little else to talk about and little French to talk about it with, he let the two men – M. Saistout and M. Soulot – at the counter in the cafe in on his forthcoming endeavour.
M. Saistout had a lot to say. Mr Quaintly Naïf couldn’t really understand a lot of it but he thought M. Saistout was advising him that he would need to go to the Mairie to ask about that. He was slightly surprised and asked the cafe owner if M. Saistout was correct.
The cafe owner M. Proprietorial towelled a glass and told him it was true.
Mr Quaintly Naïf went to the Mairie that very morning but it was 11:45 so it was shut for lunch. He had to go shopping that afternoon so he would miss his chance to go then. He twiddled his thumbs all weekend and wondered about what colour he would paint his new window.
First thing on Monday morning he rapped on the door of the Mairie. Silly Mr Quaintly Naïf, he was always forgetting that everything was closed on a Monday.
Tuesday he was at the dentist. All day.
He thought he would go to the Mairie on Wednesday afternoon. He began to feel an incy-wincy bit put out when he found the big wooden door firmly locked. It was all his own fault really, Wednesday was a half day.
Thursday was a fériér.
Friday was a fait le pont.
The following Tuesday he joined the queue to see Little Miss Totallyunhelpfulineverywaypossible, who was the Mayor’s principal secretary.
She pretended not to understand what he was saying. He drew it on a piece of paper for her. She turned over her bottom lip and made a sound a little bit like a whoopee cushion.
Luckily Little Miss Bonoeuf was in the queue, she explained everything very politely to Little Miss Totally’possible and then translated a summary of the very long speech Little Miss Totally’possible made in return.
She explained that he didn’t need a ‘Permission of Construction’ but he did need to make a ‘Declaration of Workings’. If he filled in the form which Little Miss Totally’possible would have in two weeks’ time (if she remembered to order it), then she would submit it for him and in two months he would know if he was allowed to replace the old window with the new one.
Mr Vaguely Naïf explained that he wasn’t going to change the size of the window and that he was going to replace it with exactly the same style of window, just a new double-glazed one. He said he was very surprised that he needed to get permission.
The Little Misses – one patiently, one not so patiently – explained that he didn’t need Permission, but he did need to make a Declaration.
“But they might tell me I’m not allowed to change the window” wailed Mr V’ Naïf.
“Oui” said the Little Miss Bonoeuf.
“So I do need permission, then,” said Mr V’ Naïf with a hint of triumph.
“NON” said Little Miss Totally’possible, and looked at him as if he was Mr Stupid and Mr Rude rolled into one.
The other M. Men and Little Misses in the queue behind him started to join the conversation. Maybe conversation isn’t the right word, maybe argument is better. Mr V’ Naïf didn’t understand much of what was said, but it turned out that it was all his fault. Even Little Miss Bonoeuf seemed to be tired of looking after him.
She told him to come back in two weeks when the form had arrived.
Four weeks later the form arrived and he filled it in the very same day.
Two months and one week later his Declaration was returned. Though Mr V’ Naïf still couldn’t understand just how a Declaration could be denied, it most definitely was. He hadn’t specified exactly which type of wood the window was going to be made of. Silly, silly, silly.
Mr Very Narky (he had changed quite a bit over the season) asked M. Le Patron to give him a quote for putting in a new window, and then he asked him to put in the new window.
“Declaration be damned.” Swore Mr V’Narky.
Obtaining the quote from M. Le Patron and getting him to do the work took Mr V’ Narky over nine months. But that’s another story.
Little Miss Totally’possible no longer said bonjour to him when they met at the bakers. But his new window looked very fine indeed.