Thursday, December 28, 2006

A new passport needed. . . .

This post is for all British citizens. After two and a half years my passport is full. It's those African full page visas plus the stamps they add every entry and exit. Europeans don't even get their pages opened, never mind stamped, Americans have small chops that take up little space. African visas are a money making enterprise. It appears that the UK Government agrees.

So, a day long visit to the UK Passport Agency in London. Except they've changed the name to "Identity and Passport Agency" in preparation for issuing ID Cards at some future date. You book a time to show up and must show up at that time. Arrive early and you will not be admitted. I bet most people, thinking how unreliable public transport can be, arrive early.

Once admitted the queuing system makes no sense whatsoever. Then you go through a security check, passing signs that inform you that the staff must be treated with respect and civility (should not that be a two way street?) before receiving a number. Because I will have to apply for visas, my passport had to be processed as a priority (cost £108), with the finished product available in four hours (don't show up earlier, you will be turned away!). I observed to the clerk that in France there is no charge for a new passport that replaces one that is full before its expiry date. When I asked for a jumbo passport I was told that they are not currently available - maybe in two months time! I was also told that, because it was assumed that my visas were for business (presumptuous!) then the cost was not really a consideration!

Finally, I took two sets of photos which was just as well. The first set was rejected because I was smiling! "But I always smile!" I said, smiling even as I said it. How will you know it's me if I am not smiling in my passport? No direct answer: "Pay the cashier over there."