I've officially been living in Italy for 11 years, hurray. I celebrated by diving head first into the bureaucratic jungle that is the Italian health authority offices. Of course, my first attempt to re-register with my GP was rebuffed, but I defied the odds, went back home on the tube, got the seven hundred zillion documents allegedly required plus a few extra for good luck, back on the tube, back to the same woman behind the same bullet-proof glass, slammed everything on the counter, which groaned under the weight, and watched her face fall from sneer to panic as she realised that she was actually going to have to turn on her computer and do some work. Result.
This, however, is nothing compared to my next challenge which is to apply for Italian citizenship. This has to be the mothership of all bureaucratic nightmares. Nonetheless, I remain positive that it can be done and I'm confident in the knowledge that I've already done the impossible by changing my surname and National Insurance number- two things that leave my Italian friends quivering in awe and disbelief. The real question is: once I'm Italian (in a couple of years: the ancient wheels of the vetting process are on the rusty and creaking side, especially for someone who has changed their name and NI number) can I still moan about Italy? Can I still blog about crap loos and people never moving out of the way on the pavement? Why am I the only coglione in Italy who actually moves to one side when I see someone coming towards me? In my mind, in a normal day, at least one person should make space for a pregnant woman with a pushchair. Apparently not. Maybe once I become Italian, I won't move out of the way either - problem solved.
G and I recently went to get our daughter's first Italian ID card. Again, at the first attempt we were sent home with our parental tail firmly between our legs because, guess what? we had forgotten to bring our daughter with us. Opps. School boy error that one. Rather embarrassing. While we were in the cavernous government offices though, I couldn't help but notice through the gloom the queue for certificates proving that you are alive. They're called certificati di esistenza in vita. Either there are a lot of Italians out there pretending to be dead people, or that is the most pointless example of spaghetti bureaucracy I've ever heard of. Neither option is particularly comforting.
In the name of balance and fairness, I should also confess to my recent head-on collision with a British public office. Namely, the Passport Office. Did you know that you have to pay to get information about UK passport applications over the phone? And I don't mean just the network charge, I mean an astronomical fee per minute charged by the private company who take the calls. All I can say in their favour is that they replied extremely promptly and politely to my prompt and polite complaint. Terribly British, what what. You'd never get a reply from a letter of complaint over here. I remember teaching Italian students how to write a typical letter of complaint for a part of their English exam and they had never even heard of such a thing. They thought it was a hilarious and pointless thing to do. For them it was up there with wall-to-wall carpets and instant custard. They were quite right of course, I wrote my letter of complaint but I still had to pay.