I have yet to find a phrase in French to express 'all around the houses.'
A very nice man in the office of the Greffe de la Tribunal la la la la la used the phrase 'vous avez baladé' which touches on it but doesn't quite capture the frustration and futility.
Let me explain. I need to declare my earnings from last year. To do this, I must register my activité and get the ball rolling. Once I have done this, someone will send me my Siret or Siren number (no idea what the difference is but I don't think it matters) which I can then put on my declaration des revenus and all shall be well.
Simple, providing you can find the right place to register.
So far we have been to five different offices, all in different towns at least 30 - 40 minutes drive from home (in opposite directions). At each encounter, we have been met with much scratching of heads. Finally, we found a helpful young lady in the Centre de Impôts in St Brieuc who directed us to the nice man I mentioned above.
He, it turned out, is not the right person either but he did at least have the right form for us to fill in and furnished us with the address of the office we should deliver it to. In St Malo. A brief look at a map will tell you that St Brieuc and St Malo are approximately 100 km apart.
You can see why I am searching for a French equivalent to 'all around the houses'.