Last night I was travelling home on the train after a very long day. The lights of Paris slid past me into the shadows as I reflected on why this country still mattered to me, despite my almost complete lack of hope in a positive future here.
" But look, you're here, still here. You can visit Paris whenever you want, it's part of you." Yes, but I was not part of it.
Earlier that day I had been driving through the glorious countryside, fields ploughed with up-turned dirt waiting for fresh seeds to germinate in late Winter. The sun was shining on a calm, fresh autumn morning. Yes, this was the pleasure for me of being here. Simple, uncluttered by worries. Still here after six years of struggle, knowing that to be torn away from it by someone's else's decision would leave a permanent scar on my psyche. I gave a deep sigh of appreciation of how lucky I was and also how precarious things were. The rest of the day passed uneventfully.
After I arrived home and grabbed a bite to eat JC handed me my mail which I took upstairs to open. I opened the first letter. It was from the French Republic, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministère de l’intérieur). My eyes were immediately stuck like magnets on two key points. ".... you have acquired French nationality since the 21st of September.......... published in the official journal."
What? Thats unbelievable! How could this be. It had been only 11 months since my dossier had been accepted. Normally one has to wait at least 18-24 months. The lady who interviewed me at Tours had said there probably wouldn't be a decision before 2017, that I'd have to wait between 9 and 18 months more and maybe have to have an interview with the gendarmes. Instead, here I was, already French for the past three weeks. I hadn't felt different.
This was so unexpected. Clearly they had made the decision before my current pitiful job contract became visible. What timing! How could this decision have been made so quickly? JC had his theory. "The preparation and presention of your dossier was superb," he said. " I'm sure the light of your love of France would have lit up the woman's office in Tours during your interview, sweeping away any concerns there may have been about your already limited income. You absolutely deserve this, it's totally warranted. I've been here almost from the start of your journey towards this in France and I've seen what it has cost you and the effort you've put in. I knew you'd hang in there until the end but I was worried France might not grant you what you so deserve."
Later I heard rhythmic clapping downstairs - " Bravo!...Bravo!...Bravo!..."
What's happening? The political debate on TV?"
"No, it's for you. You did it! And that's a finger up the arse for all those people who mistreated you and wanted you to fail, especially The Professeur, and the ones who saw it all and didn't care," he said.
"Yes," I said, and in my mind, privately, I added Jerome to the list, but already I was closing that door, though never to be forgotten, What I was seeing were other doors that might open to me if I chose them. Most would remain closed through choice now.
This is a very big deal for me. I'd rate it right up there with the birth of my daughter Laura, for importance and influence on my life. The oppressive weight I'd been under since my arrival lifted. Today I experienced France in a new way, free of the fear of eviction. I belong to France and France belongs to me; all its wonders and eccentricities. It will be me who determines our relationship from now on.
There remain important hurdles such as my employment situation. Without a decent fulltime job where I can have an independent life I won't be able to stay. There will be no liveable old age pension for me here. If anything brings me back to NZ it will be for family and/or financial reasons. I'm still a kiwi and I've never stopped taking an active interest in my native country even though it has robbed me of the right to vote long ago but I have dual nationality now and I can balance that easily.
" So, you'll be able to vote in the elections next year, piped up JC. OMG what has France done - let loose a kiwi in the middle of French democracy?" he joked. I will be taking advantage of my lifetime right to vote in French politics no matter where I live in the world.
Now I must wait six months for all the official documentation to be completed and for the naturalisation ceremony. I look forward to receiving my letter from the President of France, my National ID card, applying for a French (and thus EU) passport. It gives me the freedom to live and work anywhere in Europe if I can find something. Shame about the Brexit. Not great timing!
I still have no idea of my future in the medium or long term but an obstacle has been removed, the weight pressing on my heart is gone. My soul is free to feel its natural comfort in the country of my ancesters. A very bad year just got a lot better and I feel more positive. My value has been recognised. Where there's one miracle there are perhaps more.