Brick by Brick | Help me Elves of Liverpool!

It can be hard work being British sometimes. I’m not talking about the uneasy relationship between Scotland and England. Nor am I talking about the fact that the world assumes we are really good at controlling our emotions (I write as someone who cried like a baby during ‘Lassie Come Home’). I’m not even referring to the fact that if you’re British, everyone will assume you can’t cook. No, being British is hard work because it’s so diffi cult to get a passport.

(photo: colourbox)


Passport is bereft of life
I knew my daughter’s passport was due to expire sometime soon, but I thought it was next year, so it was a bit of a blow when I realised it had actually breathed its bureaucratic last breath in October. It was not resting, it was not pining for the fj ords, it was a dead passport.

With a family trip planned over the New Year and just six weeks to go, speed was of the essence. You might think that’s plenty of time – all you Canadians with your 20-day delivery, smug Danes with your 14-day waiting time and you Australians with your commitment to ten-day passport renewal.

Elves and the bookmaker
This summer in the UK, there was a backlog of 500,000 passport applications, and the reason for this? Apparently there were 350,000 more applications than usual because of the economic recovery, which seems a bit odd to me. Things were going so well we left in droves – isn’t it usually the other way round?

So somewhere in Liverpool, the passport elves are slogging away to clear the remaining backlog of 80,000 applications. Apparently most are being processed in the (hardly snappy) British standard time of three to four weeks, but the newspapers have been full of horror stories of people waiting months for their travel documents. Th e UK passport website is plastered with warnings about not booking travel until the passport is in your sticky grasp. But it’s a bit late for that here at Brickman Towers.

Passport pentathlon
So I took a deep breath and attacked the passport website like I was doing an extra-long Temple Run. Name, address, all the usual stuff were nailed in. The date of the parents’ marriage had me for 15 minutes or so as I slalomed round the house looking for our marriage certifi cate, but I found it before the application form did an automatic time-out. Finally I aced the whole thing with a definitive answer to the question about my greatgrandmother’s neighbour’s poodle’s postcode.

I even had two passport photos, and they actually looked like my daughter. I say this because I look nothing like my passport photos. They were taken on a good hair day and I’m regularly asked for extra ID. I can’t help taking it as an affront that I have aged and am not having a good hair day.

The cherry on the cake was the signature of a British passport holder of good standing who has known my daughter for more than two years. I stuffed it all in the envelope, wrap loads of sticky tape round it just in case and cycled off to the post office. Ceremonially, I presented it to the guy behind the counter, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ playing in my head. “Help me Elves of Liverpool,” I whispered as he tossed it into the bag.