Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Passport calls the day

Today was the day for the strange folk of Britain to ring the passport line.

First there was the man who repeated many things I said in loud, robotic phonetics like an alien air-traffic controller. 'That's PAPA - ALPHA - SIERRA - SIERRA'

Then we had the very posh, fruity young lady from Kensington who had her child's passport due for delivery. However, she was currently staying at her country (!) residence in Cheltenham.

(who doesn't move to their country residence at this time of year? Me, I'm off to mine at Balmoral for the weekend.)

'No problem' I said 'I'll just put you through to the Peterborough office. First could you give your child's name and date of birth so I can check the details?'

'It's Ozymandias,' she replied.

Stifling a gasping laugh, I said, 'Oh yes, like the poem by Shelley.'

'Oh!,' she says ' 'Yes! Not many people get that!.'

'It's one of my favourites,' I tells her. And I began to declaim in my rich, sonorous bass tones:

'I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

But I only got the first bit out before she interrupted me.

'We called him that because of the 'King of Kings.'

King of Kings

Not much to live up to then.

His middle name was something like Matheousus too.


Next I had a woman on trying to get a passport for her boyfriend's kids.

Thing was, like, the kids mum, like, had the passports and she wasn't giving them up. She kept on saying they were lost.

'Does the father have parental responsibility?' I asked. (If the parents never married the government only gives official parental responsibility to the mother, pre 2003, in a startlingly sexist piece of legislation that has since been fixed but isn't retrospective.)

'No, like we've never had need for it, like. Can't we just send you our tax credits slip?'

'Er...no,' I said 'The mother will have to re-apply for the passports if she applied for them in the first place.'

'But she won't talk to us!' she grumbles.

'Well then you'll have to go to a solicitor,' I advised, 'and get a parental responsibility order.'

'But we've never had need for one!'

'Well you do now' I told her grumpily.


I get this a LOT. Father rings up, complaining that he wants to take the kids on holiday but the mother won't give up the passport or claims they are lost. And then the father rings me up and says 'Surely we can do something about this? There must be a way around it.'

Yes mate, talk to your ex missus. And get her to talk to you. I can't sort this shit out. Admittedly I've been guilty of some naughty similar behaviour in the past, but not to the extent that children have been denied holidays.


My last call was most interesting. An eighty-one year old woman rang me looking to trace her father's passport. She was adopted and had managed to track down her birth father. He was a Belgian immigrant who had changed his name, had possibly committed suicide or been murdered, and was buried in Streatham. She had found his death certificate and his grave but had never met him. He went on to have a big family of many other kids and she had tracked some of them down but they wanted nothing to do with her. He spoke nine languages.

I had a lovely chat to her for twenty minutes. Fascinating story, and very sad. She was looking for something no-one could give her.I have no idea where the passport archives are. I had a look at our website and at the National Archives sites. She had contacted them but no-one was friendly. I was more than happy to listen. I wish I could have helped her more.


Oh, and yesterday I booked five emergency passports for five kids for an Irish traveller in the Coventry region. He'd had them seized at Dover because they were all out of date when he came back from Eurodisney last week. He wanted to take them to Holland this week. Poor bloke was illterate so I suppose he didn't realise.

He couldn't remember all his childrens names or dates of birth so he had to line them up one by one and ask them while he was on the phone. It was quite sweet. It sounded like there was a big party going on in his home, at 11.00am at the morning. Voices cutting in everywhere. His kids all had good old-fashioned names that no-one calls their kids any more, like Felix and Anne and Barbara.

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