It’s my own stupid fault, I know. But my husband took it upon himself to book some flights to Slovenia next month (like one does), so on hearing this cheering news, I languidly ambled upstairs to double-check my passport would cover the period of travel – plus six months. And low and behold, it did not – it expires in August 2022. Even then, I was still fairly chilled about it; the holiday was in eight weeks so I decided I’d sort it out that weekend – after I’d had my hair dyed (y’know, I didn’t want a passport photo with grown-out hair! Ha ha! Do I look like some kind of chump to you?). So I dutifully got my hair dyed the next morning and it was only then that the hairdresser advised me that my eight-week cushion may not be enough. ‘You do know there’s a ten-week wait for passports right now?‘, she said. Hairdressers know everything, they get all their news from old people, and old people know everything too. So you don’t want to ignore the advice of a hairdresser (or an old person). Apparently, there’s a 500,000 application backlog. ‘Oh, is there? Oh…right…’. It was only then that the panic began to set in. Eight weeks and counting; my old passport sitting at home and I hadn’t even applied yet.
Post hairdresser, I was supposed to meet my daughter at our local work-from-home cafe (so she could revise for her GCSE’s and I could write a blog – I only seem to be able to write blogs in cafes these days – it’s getting expensive; buying copious coffees, lunches, and cakes so I can warrant being there – I do hope you appreciate this extra expenditure). So, walking down to the cafe, I hurriedly rang her and asked her to bring my old passport and an envelope, which she duly did. Before we could set to work on blogging and GCSE-revising, I forced her to take a few ‘passport-office-approved’ head and shoulders shots of me in the hallway against a neutral beige wall. I mean, I had newly-dyed hair, what could go wrong? The designated ‘house photographers’ (my husband and eldest daughter who take photographs professionally) were away that weekend so my youngest child was forced to do the job. Not that I am casting aspersions about her budding photographer skills, but the photos taken were some of the worst of me that I have ever seen. I say this without any hint of humour – I just look God-awful. I’ve had bad passport photos before, but this is something else. You know when you see those mugshots of female killers on the news – you know, the ones who have murdered their last four husbands or something? And you think, ‘Ooh yeah, she does look evil, doesn’t she?‘. But secretly, you’re congratulating yourself because you’re positive clever old you would certainly have spotted her evil intent as soon as you met her; those dead-inside eyes being a complete giveaway. She could never have got the jump on you – and subsequently have murdered you. Well, my chosen photo looks just like one of those women. I kid you not. If somebody told you I was a dangerous and psychotic serial killer, you’d look at that photo, and by God, you’d believe them. Yes, my friends, and that is the photo that will grace my passport for the next ten years. It’s so bad I’m really deliberating over putting it in this blog as evidence – ah shit, it’s on my f*cking passport for the next decade, it can’t get any worse than that.
Anyhoo, time was running out. I did the online passport renewal whilst in the cafe too, and the app ‘photo-check’ was only super impressed with the very worst of my serial killer photos, so that was the one I chose. That was the level of my desperation. After coughing up £75.50, clicking ‘submit’, I stuffed my old passport in the envelope and left my daughter (finally able to get on with some revision) and literally ran to the post office. At 1 o’clock (one hour before post office closing time) the passport was on its way – tracked, so next working day delivery. Unfortunately it was the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend, so the passport would presumably get there on Tuesday. Eight weeks and counting until the holiday, baby. And so we wait.
It took two entire weeks for the passport office app to actually update from ‘send your old passport, you stupid, lazy shit-for-brains!‘ and advise me that my passport had even been received. Two days later, the passport was ‘approved’. Two days after that, the passport was being printed and sent over to the ‘delivery suppliers’. Yesterday, the exciting emails got less exciting. The passport office were merely advising me to ‘sign my passport with a black ballpoint pen’ – when it arrived. Whenever that may be. Thanks for that, I have my black ballpoint pen at the ready. It isn’t even out for delivery yet. And I know what you’re thinking, ‘why didn’t you just do the expedited passport service?‘. To be honest, that didn’t even cross my mind at the time, but it isn’t just a case of paying a bit more (it costs about £142). You have to book a face to face appointment at one of the passport offices. One of our friends has just had to travel from Brighton to Newport (Wales) to get hers, and another of our local friends has just had to travel from Wiltshire to Durham to get his (he couldn’t get an appointment at our closest Newport office). So he had the expense of a return train fare ticket on top of the the inflated fast-track passport cost. And you currently can’t even get an appointment at all (at least you couldn’t when I checked today). So I, in my cheap-arse way, have decided to trust my fortunes to fate and just hope it arrives on time. We are now at the five-week mark. Five weeks until we are heading to the airport…with my printed passport sitting…somewhere…awaiting delivery.
I must admit, I am feeling slightly more chipper about things since the passport app updates. Perhaps I shouldn’t be; there is plenty of potential for things to go tits-up. But surely the passport should be out for delivery in the next few days, right? And surely the delivery service can’t be that slow, can it? Unless it’s being put on a slow boat from China… (I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point). But you never know, maybe I’ll be gleefully swaggering through passport control in Slovenia yet, new passport in hand, hoping the guy at the desk doesn’t think he’s seen me on a recent episode of Crimewatch. Anyway, I’ve told my family they are going abroad with or without me. If I have to sit at home and tearfully wave them off, so be it. I’ll just have to find things to do on my staycation (other than sit around the house crying). I will keep you posted. There will either be a ‘Holiday!’ blog, or ‘I’m So Lonely I Could Die!’ blog. I know which one I’d rather be writing.