Plain Jane: Family tree research just to get my passport

Plain Jane 180414 blogIf I can give you one small piece of advice this week – along with never trust a Scotswoman bearing gifts (or buying airports) and eat more vegetables (apparently we should now be chomping our way through ten portions – do you have that sort of time? Me neither) then let it be this: Do not under any circumstances, lose your passport.

If you were already gnashing your teeth at our modern paranoid culture in which you can barely pay your electricity bill without supplying two referees and your inside leg measurement, or buy a second packet of Paracetamol without a full explanation to the supermarket queue, then just wait until you can’t produce that dog-eared little booklet of travel – even if it has almost expired.

Suddenly it’s not just where you were born, officialdom wants to know about, but where your parents popped out too. And whether they were married. And when. Fortunately, my sister is a fount of such knowledge and rattled off birthplaces and anniversaries when I phoned to wail at the length of the form. Then I moved to the next page. What about my maternal grandparents? Were they British? Where were they born? I have absolutely no idea. Were they married? Well actually they weren’t – quite a scandal at the time. But in those days you couldn’t get divorced, see, not if your first wife wanted to be difficult. Gran took his name and wore a wedding ring so the neighbours weren’t shocked – will that count? Have I got a copy of all the certificates? Of course I bloody haven’t. Isn’t it evidence enough that I hail from this Isle that I’ve had a passport for the last 30 years? Am I not on the system?

On the plus side, phoning the helpline makes a refreshing change, from say, phoning Student Finance – with whom you could quite easily lose the rest of your life – or Barclays Bank, whose telephone service reduced me to tears of rage last week, featuring as Her Majesty’s Passport Office does, a limited number of button-press options, real people who make sense, no music and a minimum of waiting time. (Could the Queen perhaps take over BT and the energy companies too?) It was to prevent fraud, soothed the nice lady who listened to my woes. In case someone stole my identity, she explained kindly, offering me the opportunity to journey to London and go through airport style security (“leave your sharp objects at home”) armed with as many birth documents as I could muster. Would anyone really go to that trouble? I wondered. And dye their hair pink and blue to start?

I have got to find it, I screeched to the household.

The boy was solicitous. “Have you looked through that?” he enquired – pointing at the pile of receipts and unopened post that dwarfs my computer. “Why would it be there?” I cried. Why indeed would it be anywhere, as my husband helpfully pointed out, except in the designated file in the downstairs office, where all passports preside.

“I might have left it on your desk,” I offered. My son and I exchanged glances. Surely even HE, with his long history of consigning incorrectly placed items to the bin without so much as a by-your-leave, would not throw away a passport. My husband, clearly feeling the long finger of suspicion heading his way, offered to report the loss to the relevant authorities (another requirement). Moments later we heard the receiver crash. “I’ve just listened to a recorded message from the Chief Constable,” he complained. “What a silly waste of his time.” The passport eventually appeared in the bag I’d used to take photo ID to the bank who’d known me for years. I was jubilant. My husband still smarting. “He should be out catching criminals,” he grumbled.

Read the original article at: