Wednesday, January 17, 2007


A hundred and ninety seven dollars! That’s what it’s going to cost me to renew my British Passport. Or rather my European Community/United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Passport. Throw in all those European countries and I suppose it’s a good deal. Even though I am renewing, there is a long form, with several pages of notes and an additional category of Interpretation defining illegitimacy and containing lists of arcane qualifying territories. Before today I had never heard of the Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands.

At least I will not have to deal with a countersignature:

That person should be a British citizen, other British national or Commonwealth citizen who is a member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, Minister of Religion, Bank Officer, Established Civil Servant, or professionally qualified person, e.g. Lawyer, Engineer, Doctor, School Teacher, Police Officer or a person of similar standing.
There is something charmingly Dickensian about that list. I still remember getting my original passport application countersigned. I was sixteen and my countersigner was the Reverend Gordon Francis Hulbert Girling, Vicar, St. George’s Church, Enfield. Amazing the things we remember!

Then there is the matter of a passport photo. It will probably show the same wrinkly, grey haired woman who turned up on my driver’s license. Note 10 covers photographs. Normally the British write even their instructions in flawless English, but the author of this document was probably rather taken aback at the content of the sentence:
Provided they show the full face, religious head covering need not be removed,
resulting in a rather ungraceful bit of syntax.

There is in our family an iconic passport photograph. It was taken in 1971, prior to a visit to England so the kids could spend some time with their grandparents. The children had to be added to Ernie’s American passport and the poor dears don’t look too happy about it. Is it any wonder that shortly after this, I entered a building with them where the Wayne County Health Department was administering immunizations, and was greeted with the query, “Are you from the Children’s Home?”

If a passport renewal seems a pain, wait until the Fall when I have to renew my “green card.” I am pretty sure you will be hearing about that.

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