Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Busy Morning...

I am usually pretty well organised. This year, due to a few different things going on, I haven't been... well, not with regard to organising the parish pilgrimage to Lourdes. Don't misunderstand me, I had all the important stuff done... flights, hotel, coaches, chapels... all planned and arranged.

Just one little thing I didn't quite get around to...

Renewing my passport.

Well, there were other things to organise, and anyway, I had plenty of time... until the end of April arrived, and I realised that I had less than a month in which to get it sorted. Too late to use the Post Office's Check & Send service. I knew that by paying a bit more I could get an emergency renewal... I could either take two days off in order to trek along to Victoria and sort it out, or I could pay an extra £17 and get it sorted in 4 hours.

It wasn't a difficult decision, and I phoned up and made an appointment for today - it's all done by appointment now, unlike the last time I got my passport, where you just queued and hoped you got seen before closing time.

I was very, very tired yesterday. I even skipped the wonderful Mass in Ramsgate mentioned by Leutgeb, missing  a fantastic blogging and photographic opportunity in the process. But I knew that, should I oversleep and miss my appointment, I would be in deep trouble - His Hermeneuticalness might even see fit to excommunicate me...

So, I opted for an early night. And slept badly. With nightmares.

I crawled out of bed this morning, feeling even worse than the night before. Mindful of having to live with the photo on my passport for the next ten years, I took particular care with my hair and make-up. Vanity, vanity... I then shot to the nearest hole-in-the-wall to withdraw a ridiculous amount of money for such a small booklet, and popped into a local shop to get change for the photo booth. A gust of wind and a short spattering of rain taught me the futile nature of trying to look good for photographs.

Then it was off to the local station to use the photo booth...

For some reason the machine kept telling me that the photo wasn't passport-compliant. It took me a bit of time to realise that this was on account of not showing I had ears. I looked at my old passport photo. I didn't have ears then either. I ignored the machine and printed the best one. It was a horrible picture, which emphasised my squint. My hair was messed up and wet. And my lipstick had come off. God was doing a pretty good job on the reminder-about-vanity front.

It doesn't sound like much, but I am not a morning person. All of this happened before 7:45am on a Saturday morning.

The drive to Eccleston Square was uneventful - the rest of humanity appeared to be enjoying a Saturday-morning lie-in. I even managed to find a parking space which didn't cost anything on Saturdays. And I was fourth in the queue for the Passport Office.

When the security chap finally opened the door, he said that only people with a 9:15am appointment were allowed in to start with. Foolishly, I said my appointment was at 9am (well, it was) and he told me to wait. Several people got in before me. I then asked again when the 9am appointments were supposed to be seen... and he told me that there weren't any 9am appointments on a Saturday, but I could go in anyway. I was now twenty-fifth in the queue...

It didn't take too long. Having had to put everything in my bag so that I could pass it through the X-ray machine, I then had to scrabble through the bag for my reference number - and the chap at the desk then told me I didn't need it, as my surname was enough. Clutching my ticket, I made my way upstairs to a waiting room, and then was called through to a desk. A surly-looking official peremptorily rejected my tentatively proffered ticket (well, most people ask for it) and demanded to know whether I had filled in a passport form. She glared at the form, couldn't find any mistakes, took in my old passport, took my new photos and compared them with my old passport one, and then glared at me as if to check that I was the same person.

I had been told that, if my appearance hadn't changed appreciably, I didn't need to get my form countersigned by someone who knew me, and didn't need to get the photos signed either. My heart sank. Either the missing ears were about to get me into hot water, or I'd have to find someone who had their own passport handy to vouch for me...

The official sniffed. "Which service are you using? Two week or same day?"

"Same day," I told her, banishing the thought that, had she taken my previously proffered ticket, she wouldn't have needed to ask, as it was printed clearly. However, I was sure that I could still jinx the whole thing, so I kept schtum.

Finally, after another sniff, I was sent to the cashier to part with my hard-earned cash, and the promise that the passport would be ready for collection in four hours.

Knowing in advance that I would have four hours to kill, I'd made arrangements to meet Dylan for coffee. But first of all I popped in to the Cathedral for Confession and Mass. I was rather annoyed to note that The Suppository was still prominently on sale, especially after their latest bad-tempered, anti-priest, anti-Church editorial.

It was really good to meet up with Dylan, and we chatted happily over tea and nibbles. Then he had to return home to deal with a leaking ceiling, while I had to go and collect my passport.

Everything was fine, and I left clutching my new "biometric" passport. There isn't actually any "bio" involved, as far as I can see, but they did put a chip in it so it can be read electronically. It's probably got a self-destruct mechanism in it somewhere, but at least I can go to Lourdes on Monday...

2 comments:

voxinrama said...

Oh Mac, what an adventure!

I'm not sure I want to get a biometric passport. It sounds a bit scary, like they've pinched some of your DNA on the sly and are now using it for evil ends. But I suppose when it comes to renewing my passport (which is...uh...no clue) I won't have much of a choice.

Bah. Humbug. Etc.

john-of-hayling said...

you either buy up all copies of the bitter pill - or alternatively refile it in the fiction section...........(better do that after confession.........)

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