Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The best of British

I have made a new discovery today.

We travelled a fair distance to get to the main Post Office, now situated in Perth. Down the A9 and everything.

There were two people operating the little booths, despite a very long queue and soon I could hear mutterings of discontent. Actually, older ladies just go for it. They don't mutter but say out loud to anyone within earshot "It is just like 1950 Russia. Country is going to the dogs and the state of the roads..."
There were murmurs and nods in agreement. One lady helpfully suggested that we needed a queue entertainer; "Just like the old days". (I have no recollection of Post Office troubadors but hey).

After 3/4 of an hour, it was my turn and I was all organised with the passport application papers for my daughter. She is going on a school trip with her school and very excited about it. The pupils have worked hard at fund raising for the trip.

The lady Post Officess looked at my collection of papers. I had a note from a previous visit to say everything was in order but they needed my daughter's birth certificate which I brought along.
The woman looked at the form and pulled a grimace.
"I need proof that you are British" she said.
"What do you mean? What sort of proof?". I have never been asked this before.
"I need to see your Citizenship card".
"I don't have one. I did not think I needed one as I am British".

It was looking more USSR than Perth right now. The elderly lady was very astute in her observation earlier.

"Go to the back of the queue and fill in your parent's name".
"I am not sure, but you have to".
"Well, your daughter can't go on her trip then".

After a loooong 'debate', it transpires that because I was not born in this country but in Africa and despite having had three (British) passports in my lifetime, I am not British according to Perth Post Office.

We had a long drive home. The long suffering Farmer forced to listen to my rant all the way back up the A9.
When we got back to the farm, we settled the animals for the evening with some hay and filled up the troughs with water.
I told the cows as I hefted armfuls of hay in to their feeders.

"Sorry if I am not feeding you in an overtly British manner but I am not British according to Ms Jobsworth in Perth Post Office. I don't know what I am except for terribly cross and confused".

The cattle lowed in solidarity. They understood. They mooed Britishly.
The sheep too. I told them and they made their little British noises through mouthfuls of hay.
I would have ranted to the cats as well but the cats don't care. They just like milling around and being petted.

I will have to spend most of tomorrow sorting this out with Passport Office itself. Oh joy.

Perhaps this is one of these 'discoveries' one makes in their life whereby you are not the person you think you are but it has all been a hideous prank with a Kafka twist.

I am going to fret and knit tonight, take out my frustration on the cardigan that refuses to grow anymore than a centimeter a month. I will knit and feed it anabolic steroids to make it grow.



  1. How dispiriting; must have felt like having a hefty kick in the teeth - only in slow motion (given bureaucratic source of blow).
    Depressing to hear that Britbureaucracy is still as pettifogging as ever. In other countries I've been the beneficiary of a bit of gentle rule-bending here and there - and, oh, it not only solves problems and saves time but also fosters a sense of belonging that outlasts the resultant relief and gratitude. I'm old enough to recall such things happening routinely in the UK too, so I'm with my fellow old trouts in your post office queue ...
    Never mind, loutre-douce: bon courage!
    PS have read and enjoyed other posts - thank you. And take heart, for the conclusion of the Day of Doom one marks you out as a fully-naturalised and integrated Brit for sure ;-)!

  2. Thanks Minnie.

    I have since checked with the Passport Office and they said that yes, I am British.
    Ms Jobsworth in Perth actually blamed the new boy, Jamie then declared me unBritish. I bet she went home and ate an entire monster bar of chocolate.
    I know I did.

  3. Of course you are, GO! Any doubt to be laid at door of the over-complicated rules (and the under-brained persons applying same :-)).
    Have dual nationality, & often find response to other passport more favourable than to UK one. So take heart at your would-be deniers: British nationality is not invariably an advantage!
    Chocolate is a recognised universal remedy, glad to hear you maintain stocks of same.