Catching the early Sunday morning (0235 hrs!!!) BA flight back from Abu Dhabi to Heathrow, this was the first part of my penance for ruining my Passport. Still a good flight, I had 3 seats to spread about, but as the seat arms wouldn’t lift high enough, I couldn’t lay down; my second penance. I arrived back 0600 hrs local time just as UK was having a Sunday lay in. I caught the bus to Maidenhead, taxi to Bourne End and then put my feet up for the rest of the day at my Brothers.
Up bright and early next morning, Monday, caught the first cheap day return train to London arriving at Paddington with plenty of time before my appointment at the Victoria Passport Office: But first I had to find a ‘photo booth to get new pictures. Naturally there was one in the main concourse of Paddington Station and as you would expect it was out of order! Anyway after asking around, being directed this way and that, I eventually found a booth in working order; this booth was so out of the way, I don’t think any one used it, but hey it worked!!!!!!
Armed with two ‘orrible passport ‘photos, two completed forms, (one for a new passport and the other for a damaged replacement) in the hope I could get away with “new” one as this could happen on the same day whereas the replacement takes up to 7 days to be posted out, no collection for this, security I suppose.
Arriving at Passport office at my allotted time, I was called to the booth immediately I sat down, (very good service up to now) the lady looked at my old/damaged passport and declared it was “Damaged” and had to go down the seven day route. Secretly expecting this I had booked the return flight for 10 days after my arrival, allowing for the un-expected: the un-expected came faster than I had thought. As it was a replacement through damage I should have completed the other part of the form, the bit for a first Passport, Ugh! This meant I had to get a declaration from a non-family member and a professional who had known me for at least two years, third Penance.
Firstly I made an appointment to return to the passport office the following day, here I had my first break; they had just had a cancelation, this was the only available appointment on the Tuesday, 1030 hrs, so I took it. I now had to chase around to find a kind person to certify who I was. Trevor Watson was my first port of call, unfortunately he was out of town but fortunately his wife, Denise, who I had known since 1968 is a Physiotherapist at the Chelsea Hospital, a 10/20 minute taxi ride away. So a quick ‘phone call to arrange to meet, jumped into a taxi and into the Costa Coffee shop in the Hospital where Denise very kindly completed the necessary paperwork and certified my passport ‘photo as a true likeness of me, ha ha, what a joke, I don’t know any passport ‘photo that is a “true” likeness, they all make you look grumpy, stern and frightening, none of which is true!!!!!!! Again, Thank you very much Denise for you help.
Back to Bourne end in time for dinner with Herbert and Liz.
Up early next morning as I had to catch the early train, (no cheap day return this morning) to ensure I made my appointment on time. Again I arrived and went through their security scanners on time, sat down only to be called to the booth and with everything crossed asked if everything was correct this time. After a couple of minutes of checking the lady pronounced all was in order and that I should now go to booth 33 to pay and that the passport would be couriered to my Brothers address within a maximum of 7 days, without fail, hence the courier, not post! So I went to pay and, walking on air out of the building the ‘phone rang. “Sorry Mr Page” this lady said and then went on to ask me to go back as there was another part of the form that should have been completed. Well you can imagine, the air was blue under my breath, what could I have possibly missed????? I went straight to the same lady and being terribly nice, polite and passive, after all at this stage I didn’t need to be told to go away, complete the rest of the form and make another appointment ; she said I needed to complete the part of the application form relating to my Parents. I explained my Father had died 52 years ago and my Mother about 30 years so the information they needed, including their passport numbers was a hopeless question though I did know their full names, year of their birth, and town, buts that’s all. Anyway that appeared to be sufficient and so I walked out again, over the road and had a pint to celebrate the first part of the quest. Part two was when would it arrive, Tuesday would have been day 7 and my flight was early on the Wednesday, tight or what!
Anyway back to Paddington but this time I got off at Slough as I had arranged a hire car there. Back to Herbert and Liz’s, collected my case and off to stop the night with Trevor and Denise, in Ealing. Trevor rang and suggested I meet him in town for a couple as Denise had her Yoga class that evening and wouldn’t be back ’till around 1900 hrs. Isabel, their daughter ran me to Ealing Broadway where I caught the tube to Oxford Circus, met Trevor, had a couple in an old though very popular pub in Carnaby Street, then I had the pleasure of being driven back to Ealing in his electric car. I would suggest a golf buggy may be slightly bigger, though this thing did wizzzzzzzz along at frightening speeds.
We met up with Denise and then went to their local sushi restaurant In Ealing where we had magnificent food including several varieties of raw fish all washed down with excellent wine. Back to their home, straight to bed as it had been a stressful morning and an exhausting day.
Next day I was off to Portsmouth to stay the night with Tom and Kathleen as I had some un-wanted items to leave in their loft and bring other things out. I left early next morning as they were off to Cornwall, so with time to spare, I took a leisurely drive to my Gloucester hotel via my old haunts in Somerset; I lived there for approximately 6 years, 17 to23, quite nostalgic.
Next morning I drove to Chepstow and met up with Margret, my “ex” Sister in Law and then collected Tony, my “ex” Brother in Law who sadly is now in a Care home after suffering a very bad stroke a few years ago. Still the good news is he hasn’t lost his sense of humour as we took him out for coffee and cakes. After a very nice home made soup lunch at a secluded pub on the river Wye at Symonds Yat, and after returning Margaret home I returned to my Gloucester hotel. Today was a mixed emotions day, seeing Tony, who used to be full of life, very fit and energetic, always on the go, as he is now is very sad. On the other hand I had a ‘phone call from Liz telling me my new Passport had arrived, that was great news!
Next day, Saturday, before returning to Bourne End, I took a drive around Stroud, Amberly and Minchinhampton common, the area where I went to prep school, as a border from the age of 6 for around 8 years. This was very nostalgic and everything seemed much smaller than I remembered, the lanes were much narrower and where my school was in now a very up-market, posh, individual houses but the good news is that there was a ver big Cedar tree at the bottom of the school playing field, and it is still there. I remember climbing that tree many times, it was one of those trees that you had to climb to be “someone”
Sunday, Herbert Liz and I went over to Brentwood, to Pascal’s Paddocks (Jane’s stable yard) to collect some riding equipment she needed, naturally it was raining and had to walk through the muddy yard to get to where it is block paved and the room where the gear was awaiting me. Collected it ok but that brought on another issue, getting it back. Do I acquire another bag or squeeze it in and be over weight?
We stopped for lunch on our way back, but being Sunday everywhere was heaving. We finally found a Harvester in Watford and had to wait for a table. When we got it we were near a family with a screaming child, oh dear Sunday Lunches and no discipline seem to go together in the UK!!!!!
Back to Bourne End for the results of Strictly and the TV Sports Personalty of the year awards.
Monday and off to Northampton to see estate agents to get a feel about prices as I would like to sell my apartment and also to meet up with Mark for a quick bite of lunch but more importantly, see his new home in Chapel Brampton: Very very nice. I know Mark is busy settling into his new position and taking over the reigns of running the European part of the American business so I was very appreciative he managed to adjust his diary for a quick meet, thank you Mark.
I never made the estate agents so will have to do it over the ‘phone as I had shopping to do for the folks, horse and dogs back in Abu Dhabi.
After a number of texts flying backwards and forwards between me and Abu Dhabi, Jane decided to eliminate one part of the equipment I was bringing to remove the chance of excess luggage charges. So I was off to Sue And Jim’s house to leave it but unfortunately they were out but after a ‘phone call they returned about an hour later. On went Skype and Jane could see what I had and went through what to leave and what to take. By this time it was too late to get back to Bourne End for dinner so Sue Kindly invited me to join them. I eventually got bak to my lodgings by about 2200 hrs.
Tuesday was my last day. I had done all the shopping all I had to do was pack (this was going to be interesting) but before this I had to fill the car with diesel as I was leaving it at Heathrow around 0600 hrs and didn’t want to be bothered in the morning. This also gave me the opportunity to take Liz & Herbert to Costa for morning coffee and cake! We then spent the day doing nothing as Poor Herbert is suffering with a total lack of energy; the Doctors have now made some adjustments to his prescriptions, I hope that makes things better for him.
After much adjusting my hand luggage and bag for the hold, I was ready but not too sure of the weight. I weighed it before I put the horse still and anorak in on bathroom scales and was around 20 kegs., my limit was 23!!!! Jim had also given me a hold all, this I didn’t need so squeezed it into my hand luggage.
Up at 0500 hrs and straight off, car deposited OK, shuttle to Terminal 5 and then waited for the booking counter to open at 0635 hrs, before you could always drop your bags much earlier than just 3 hrs before a flight!!!!! Anyway, a coffee later and now the moment of truth, the weight, on the scales the bag went, 25 kgs, “OK” I asked, “yes fine” she said, phew. She then asked if I had a second?????? Strange I thought, was she touting for business I wondered!!!! Anyway straight through security, the fastest I have ever been through, breakfast and Duty Free. There is an “acute” shortage of alcohol in The Middle East and we can take 4 litres per person each time we arrive, so 4 litres was bought and fortunately I had Jim’s hold all in my carry on luggage so put in that.
I boarded the plane and for some reason had in mind I had a seat in the rear, so trotted off down to the back, looked at my seat number on the boarding card only to note I had gone too far, so had to push my way back against the boarders coming towards me. I was looking for number 23b. When I found it I was amazed at the nice big seat and extra leg room, I re-checked the seat number against the boarding card several times and no, there was no mistake; had I been up-graded and didn’t know it!!!!!! No one came to me and said anything, we took off OK, drinks trolley appeared, steel cutlery, cloth napkin, and fillet steak, wow!
Good comfortable flight, one of the first to diss embark, then queued for immigration, knowing Christine and Dave were waiting and my Mobile wouldn’t work, so couldn’t say I was stuck in a queue!!! Eventually through, bag collected, and back to the house where I recalled my good fortune to get up-graded. I then came across my e ticket only to find I had actually booked BA’s equivalent of Premium Economy, no wonder my flight was so expensive!!!! This also explains why I was asked if I had two bags to check in, with this ticket you have an allowance of two bags up to 23 kgs each.
This passport that went through the washing machine was the cleanest passport to be returned to the Passport office, it was only 9 months into its ten year life, I had also paid for the extra pages and now it was no good! My nice new shiny passport is probably the most expensive passport anybody has ever had. I stopped calculating the true cost of this replacement after adding my return flights to the cost of the replacement passport and car hire at around £1200, not to mention the cost of the 9.3 years left on my last one, and my credit card and the other expenses. A lesson here, do not rely on someone to check your trouser pockets!!!!!!!!!