Monday, 19 May 2014

The London Passport Office

Things have been lazy round here in both mind and body so not really had the enthusiasm for keeping up with things on the blogging front but a funny thing happened and it would be nice to remember it in years to come so here goes.

The Lion Man was over one Saturday chatting about all things and mentioned that he was helping his father fill in his passport application it's required for ID purposes where he lives.
G and I looked at one another as it slowly dawned on us that our much need family holiday was in two weeks and neither of us had checked the passports.

Our stomachs sank and the conversion with the Lion Man came to an abrupt halt as we tried to realise a new passport for T at 6pm on Saturday eve.

You will all know that feeling.

The Passport Office website is extremely helpful AND they are open for telephone queries on the weekends.
We had missed the appt booking phone line by half and hour so would have to wait until Sunday to get anywhere.
Imagine a government office open on the weekends?

So just before 9 am the following day I was ready to make the call and get an appt.

Back in my college days when all the kids were island hopping, I thought if you needed to go to this place called Petite France and get documents then you were really disorganised well I was now one of those people and felt shame. With a capital SH.

I honestly thought when I made the call that I would get through to one of these ladies who would flip through the diary and fit me in somewhere.

NO! It's a Call Center in Belfast with a strict Q&A before any informal chit chat and Jamie Lee was just who you need when you are crying and she tells you that the first appt. is on Tuesday week before you leave on the Saturday and the website says that children's passports cannot be processed in one day.
Yes there are sometimes cancellations, people do phone in, let me check.
No, sorry there are none. Let me check at the other offices, can you get to Manchester?
WAIT! one has just popped up for this Tuesday can you get to London for 08:45?

Sunday and Monday were spent getting pictures, booking train tickets, filling in forms checking it with the Post Office. Our pictures nearly didn't make it, they measured the eyes with a ruler those photo machines are not to be relied upon and we had to change the print because it was slightly bent where T had carried it home.

All ready to go and on the platform to town at 06:40.
Got a tea on the train felt comfortable and the sun was shining.
I gave thanks for my appt. and hoped that whoever had cancelled theirs, had managed to be where they needed to be and had some good luck for my fortune.
Then somewhere outside Clapham Junction just after 08:00 when the train was due into Vitcoria, we stopped, engines off. There was a broken down train at Balham and we were in a queue until they cleared the line.
I didn't panic initially until I heard, move a broken train, then I was on the phone to Belfast, the only appt's they had was for when we returned from holiday.
Shit Shit Shit.
Packed train, Lady opposite trying to get in touch with an Endoscopy Dept. Panic Panic,
Tears flowing.  We finally started moving after 20 minutes.
G on the phone said don't panic, I had 20 minutes to the appt and the remaining journey took 10 minutes.
Made my way to the front of the train and ready to run. The train kept stopping.
The passport office is next to the train station I could do it.

The doors opened with five minutes to spare and I flew out tears streaming. Through the ticket barriers to hundred's of waiting people who hadn't got onto their trains because nothing was going out due to the broken down train at Balham. It was like a wall.

There is an exit at Platform 1 that drops you at the Passport Office. G said just go out the station in case that door is shut and you loose valuable time running down the platform and then have to turn back. Good point and from the front of the station it is only two right turns.
The whole block of buildings and the street in a blur, shut to traffic and pedestrians everyone has to take the long way round. NO.
There was a man in a uniform who could see my distress and said, back in the station follow the lines!

Sure enough there are coloured lines on the ground printed with Virgin Trains, Passport Office etc to follow and as I looked up there was an exit. I should have kept my eye on the lines and not gone through what assumed was the platform 1 door.
Out onto the street running over the crossing and turn right.
Didn't recognise a thing from Street View? Anyone who's familiar with London will know that asking a passing stranger for directions is a complete waste of time.
Casually leaning against his motor bike was a courier having a morning coffee who yelled, under that building and turn left and straight up to the top.
I'd gone over a street to far.

By now my jeans were hanging off my hips my face was burning and my goitre was screaming what the hell are you doing to me.

I got into the passport office with a death rattle, the security put his arms on my shoulders and said don't worry you've made it, you'll be seen today.
They took my bag and put it through the xray machine and then they asked me to calm down or they wouldn't be able to let me in.
I couldn't stop crying and I thought my larynx was going to collapse. When I got my ticket number the time was stamped 08:34.

I tell you. If the passport office ran the country or all of our major services we would either be a streamlined force to reckoned with or an anxious mass.

They call your number, there is no grading on polite here because it isn't in the equation unless you need the loo, in which case very helpful.
You require a service, they will meet your requirement but if you don't have your documents, that nice lady in the picture at the top of this post isn't going to let you pop and use the photocopier, you are out in the hallway on the yellow freephone making another appt. with the Belfast Call Center.

I asked if I could come and collect the passport in person.
No. I would receive it within the week as stated on the leaflet or online.
I did not lean on the counter, I produced the documents as they requested them and spoke when spoken too.
These workers did not chit chat amongst themselves, they did their job and I was back in Victoria at 10:10 and I did not run back.

The passport dropped on the mat in a brown envelope with the words PASSPORT ENCLOSED that Thursday morning.

They provide the best service but I will never go through that again.