I now, finally, have my passport. The amount of pain and aggro that I had to go through to get the bloody thing sent off… it is causing me pain even to think of it now.
The Post Office offer a ‘Check and Send’ service for £6.85 where they’ll look over your application before sending it on to the passport office – where it is prioritised. Sounds pretty good in theory. In practise it was such a ridiculous farce that I almost gave it up as a bad job and resigned myself to never passing a port again.
The first time I went to the PO I was told that the application form was fine, but I’d need to get it countersigned as I had changed from the photograph. Fair enough, I asked a colleague to sign that I was me and returned to the PO…
This time I was told that I had gone out of some of the boxes on the computer-readable form. These infractions were generally of the slightest sort – tails of Rs and Ys just going over the edge. The substance of the letter was in the box and any computer system that freaked out over a couple of atoms of ink outside the lines should be sent back. Another of the offending letters was one I had corrected slightly, and this wasn’t allowed. Once you’ve made a single small mistake you’re stuffed and have to go back for another form. Again ‘fair enough’, but these problems had been present the previous check.
OK – new form, filled out in scrupulously minute letters, my countersignatory threatened with dire consequences if he dared to go out of any of the boxes. Back to the PO. This time the problem was the photograph. It says in the pamphlet to not trim all the white off the edge of the photo, which I abided by. My colleague wrote (what is a large amount of text to squeeze into a passport photoshaped space) on the back of the untrimmed photo. The problem this time was that some of his text was over the back of the white area, not the photo. Fair enou… no wait – not fair enough – they tell me not to trim, but don’t tell me not to let my countersignatory write on the back of the white bits. And again the problem was there on the previous check – why can’t they tell me all the problems at once instead of forcing me to return again and again and again.
Fourth time lucky I thought. I got another photo trimmed it – but not all the way to the edges. I pressed it up against the window so I could see the photo area and I outlined it in pencil. This photo I returned to my long-suffering countersignatory and he signed within the lines. Back to the Post Office, nothing could go wrong this time surely. The form had already been checked and the only problem found last time was the photo. This time it was going to get through. Nope – this time it was spotted that my countersignatory had failed to put my middle name on his part of the form, though he had put it on the back of the photo. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Another problem which had been there the previous time and gone unremarked on. Just send it, just send it, just send the form! I was either going to cry or explode at this point. I’m glad Dan was there to stop me breaking down and starting to sob in the middle of Winchester PO, or renouncing my British citizenship and going to live on the Principality of Sealand.
Just send it – I’ll take the risk. The way the clerk was telling it a lot depended on the mood of the person at the passport office doing the processing. I was willing to gamble on someone having a good day.
Thankfully the gamble paid off. I now have a brand spanking new passport with one of those funky chip things in the back – which seems like a waste as it doesn’t have any biometric stuff on it.
Next thing to do is to think about making use of it. Cuba, New Zealand, Japan, America…? America maybe, NY or Pacific Northwest. Now to convince Dan of the plan.