Six Years On

Every year my one year long-term visitor visa to France expires in December. After five repetitions of this procedure I pretty much know what to expect. This year, however, when I visited the website to get the latest list of required documents, they had a page for a ten-year residence visa and I don’t see any reason why I cannot get that (the Préfecture may of course produce such reasons). So this year I’m trying for that, have all the documents except I want to include my transcript of the French courses I took at IEFE to support my “intégration républicaine” — there’s no language requirement for people 65 and over, but I figure it can’t hurt. I’ll go pick the transcript up tomorrow.

I only had four semesters of Intensive French for Foreigners, but it looms larger in my mind. I had been in Pau for a year, just starting to get my bearings, and wanted to kick up my French a notch. I’ve studied French off and on since high school, but living it and daily conversation are something you only get when you move to a Francophone country. I loved being at Uni, from the first day’s interview with the woman who would be my first semester’s Group teacher. Beyond brushing up on grammar and spending the bulk of four days a week in an environment of all-French conversation, the experience brought me into contact with students from all over the world including the US of A. What I ended up valuing the most was exposure to the French system of higher education, which suited my style to a T. I learned (at an advanced age) that, sometimes, I could be the best student in a class and no one would think less of me for that.

It did put music on hold for a couple of years, there was no way I could keep up with class while trying to make any progress on musical projects. But it was certainly worth that price.

I dropped out during my fourth semester, the Fall of 2017. Not because I had lost interest, but because my mind had caught fire from the #MeToo movement, which is when I got a WordPress account and started a blog. I had a very over-determined reaction to the movement which led to re-examination of my childhood experiences. As is my tendency, I quickly developed an obsession over it, and decided I would take down the Patriarchy on my own, by righteous blogging. 🙂

When I found myself in class furiously writing notes with both hands, one for the course and the other for the blog, I knew something had to give. I had already made sufficient progress in French to get by adequately and had no interest in finishing a degree, so my choice was easy.

I got started with the project, the first four entries in this blog date from that stage. Then the steam ran out. Turned out that my personal concerns related to relationships and all that stuff were, once closely examined, beside the point. All I really wanted to do was play music, which is what I’ve been doing ever since. With one exception.

COVID and the First Confinement knocked me for a loop, like it did everyone, for sure. Stranded alone in my apartment, I decided to take up the blog again and see what I could do with it. It seemed obvious — turn it into a meta-humorous-philosophical art project with the theme of inside typographical jokes, the dilemmas of learning French, and side discussions of programming, writing, editing, proofreading, and, of course, the Kate Bush fan site section. Blogs 5 through 9 are all that I have left posted from this phase, though I have tons of stuff moved to the not-published drafts area.

It started out well I thought, then became distinctly self-referential, which was in keeping with the spirit of the thing. One topic of interest was the different AZERTY keyboard I was using sometimes. I thought it would be amusing to try to type on it and then the QWERTY US one while thinking in terms of the other one. While making jokes about typographical errors, and errors in general. And making jokes about the editor I was typing in. And the programming behind that editor — I am or was a programmer, right? At one point I was trying to take screen shots on my smartphone of previous screen shots and began thinking seriously about infinite loops and whether or not I could create one in my mind, which seemed to be the direction I was headed in any case.

I do not recommend attempting to create an infinite loop in your mind. 🙂 I am certain that if I had presented myself to a psychiatric institution during the three subsequent days they would have admitted me without hesitation. I completely lost language, which is a big deal. I tried to invent a system of symbols I could count on to try to get language back. I have a lot of cryptic journal entries from those days. Eventually I recovered the mental level of my cats (they were rather concerned about me) and realized that the apartment wasn’t really cat-proof, so we did that.

Then I had a phase where the only reason I didn’t believe V. Putin was out to get me personally was that I wasn’t worth the effort. I read all sorts of subliminal messages into what I saw online, and came to the conclusion that I would have to eliminate all connections with technology. I threw away a writable notepaper tablet I had just bought, disconnected the cable, demolished my smartphone (they’re hard to break, you have to hammer the screen with genuine malice, and when you remove the battery you have to unwind it, and it heats up when you do that, which, if you’re being paranoid, is unsettling), even (for reasons still unknown) decided I should remove all the batteries from everything that had them, and throw away the battery covers, and then (for reasons even less known) cut the straps off my musical instrument gig bags (this project was left incomplete, which is considered good 🙂 )

It took a while, but eventually I mustered the courage to start going outside again (one thing I never lost was the awareness that I had become a subject of concern to family and friends, with good reason, and I didn’t want that) and gradually reconnect with reality/society. Bought my tablet and reconnected the cable. Re-learned language skills. Resumed music. Made new friends. Eventually rediscovered this blog. Which is fun, I love everything related to words and this is a much better place to play with them than Facebook was.

WordPress has a handy “time to blog” alert which I have set to Sundays, a good day to take off from practicing Bach (my shoulders, right elbow, and fingers are all at their practical limits and need a rest now and then) and reflect. And play with words, which I love.