Crazy, Sexy – Part 01
You’ve never been on a plane? Someone said. The closest I ever came was last year when some crazy, sexy, girl asked me if I wanted to go to a wedding in Ireland as a plus-one and – despite my default setting being to think thrice before even peering out from under my duvet of a morning – I know that if a crazy, sexy, girl asks you to do something: You Say Yes. Ready to spring into action it soon became apparent that I was lacking one or two little things.
I used to live in Wales near the port of Holyhead, christened by a resident as the arsehole of Britain because everything there passes through it, and so I knew the way to Dublin from Manchester: Two trains, a ferry, then another train with a journey time of seven to eight hours. Out of interest I looked up planes and had my head turned when I saw that flying would take me only one!
I soon gave up trying to book a plane when, at every turn, some low-budget airline seemed to add something to the price and my head was spinning with hidden costs and extra charges if you didn’t turn up early enough to check in your own baggage. Whatever that means. All I wanted to know was how much it would cost and when I had to turn up. This was when a friend helpfully pointed out that the cheapest way to travel was by coach and it would even drop you right in the centre of Dublin… and would only take thirteen hours. Immediately I booked a place and found out that you would be denied coach-entry if you didn’t have a little thing called a passport.
Something else I was lacking, for a posh Irish wedding, was a proper pair of shoes. The ones I had were fine… Just fine… Except if it ever rained as they’d split underneath and during bad weather took on water like a Butlins’ rowboat. My boots had also gone the same way with my wear-to-destruction austerity lifestyle: What did it say about me that I couldn’t even claim to be all-weather, all-terrain, at this age?
I have been to Dublin a few years ago, without a passport I should add, and so I was a little perturbed about some change in European law. I therefore set on the path to getting myself a one and went to the main Post Office in Bury to pick up the bundle that was the application form.
I hate official forms, photos too as I never come out well but off I went to a bus station booth to try and fit the criteria of eyes level, no smiling, no frowning, and no hats. I only needed two, but was fleeced by the machine into paying for five, and I was reasonably happy with the result until my friends helpfully pointed out that I resembled the bastard son of the comedian Jimmy Carr and the famous watercolorist Adolph Hitler.
A problem much easier solvable was the shoe issue so I went to Manchester and, off the rack of size elevens, I ended up buying the most expensive shoes I’ve ever owned as they were marked up at a hundred and thirty five pounds, reduced to something much, much more manageable. Even though they fitted in the shop I soon worked out the catch, and why they were reduced so, as with slate leather souls there was no give in them at all and I was lumbered stomping around like Frankenstein’s monster in hobnail boots.
After scouring the list of official people who could authenticate my passport photos, with a written declaration on the back of them, I worked out I did know someone and got him to sign the two I required. Then, on a dry day, with the completed application form, a birth certificate, and a pair of old shoes I set off walking the fifty minutes to the Post Office where they could check my completed application before it was sent off…
Nothing is ever so simple. This cued the labours of Hercules when they immediately rejected my photos (the writing had gone over the line, it was nothing to do with my Hitler face) and they pointed out that I had the wrong birth certificate… I never knew I had two. It was five hours later when I arrived back home after having hunted my photo countersigner on the streets, conjuring up another birth certificate from my parents, and finally got the Post Office to accept the application form and all of my money.
And then as the deadline fast approached to the coach departure for the crazy, sexy girl in Dublin I started making assumptions.
I assumed that the passport would be straight forward, that they’d just rubberstamp my application, and that it would arrive in the minimum recommended time.
I also assumed that with my very expensive smart shoes being so stiff and inflexible that rich people must just stand around and live on a sustenance of canapés that were waitered in.
And I assumed that as I’m British-born, my mother has a verified passport, and I even had a child passport, that all the passport office had to do was join the dots. And I needed it pronto even though with the shoes I was trying to wear in I could hardly get to the end of the road let alone all the way to Ireland.
It seems I was wrong, in one respect, because instead of being sent a passport in the post I received an official summons from the Home Office.