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Opening hours were 9:00 am to 11:00 am. This was late afternoon.

The next morning we descended upon the Mairie. We were desperate and only a few hours away from being criminalised. Our only hope was a carte de séjour. Could we have one?


"How long will it take?"

"Three months."

I waited to wake up. I sat back and mentally nudged myself a few times. Come on, snap out of it. This had to be one of those frustration dreams where nothing went right and every attempt at escape was thwarted in helpless slow-motion.

It wasn't.

I was wide awake and staring across a desk at a wiry little man I'd dreamt was the Mayor of Cassagne.

He still was.

I wondered if Spain took political refugees. It was only fifty minutes away. Would driving without a current tax disc be considered political?

We threw ourselves upon the mercy of the Mayor. Told him about the roadblock, the garage, the problem with the documents, the Giant Elk. I didn't need to consult a script, I knew all the words off by heart. I'd rehearsed them so often, going over and over them in my mind. I'd even stop passers-by in my dreams and rant at them about cars and missing tax discs.

The Mayor was brilliant. He picked up the phone and with a, 'This is the Mayor of Cassagne speaking,' proceeded to intervene on our behalf with the Sous-Préfecture.

But the Sous-Préfecture refused to budge. Rules are rules and they had a lot of them.

The mayor offered to vouch for our identity. They refused. He suggested another type of residency permit. They refused. He hung up.

But he wasn't beaten. Next in line for 'This is the Mayor of Cassagne speaking' were the gendarmes at Aurignac.

We listened avidly, trying to cull sense from the few words we understood. Was he plea bargaining? Or was that something about the weather?

He replaced the receiver. We waited, hearts thumping, what was he going to say?

"Bon," he smiled.

And that was enough.

If we took all the papers we had to Aurignac that morning, they'd wait for the rest.

Which was a considerable relief. And in the meantime, we'd begin the process of applying for our cartes de séjour.

Which turned out a lot easier than my notes suggested.

"Don't you want to see our marriage certificate?" I enquired.

"Non, pas nécessaire," he said and told us that, although gendarmes were naturally inquisitive and would want to see the marriage certificate and anything else they could lay their hands on, Mayors weren't.

I liked the Mayor.

We completed our applications in triplicate, had our passports and birth certificates photocopied, handed over our embarrassing photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Mungo and left.

Outside, we breathed the fresh air of freedom. Things were indeed looking up.