Here's the column for September 2008. It went through a few revisions - I think this is the final one, but I find I'm wrong, I'll switch it around.
5.30am. ‘This passport is out of date’ will not make you happy. Unless you’re being extraordinarily renditioned.
At the check-in desk we discover our youngest son’s passport has run out. We knew this last year, we think. A nice lady looks at us like the sort of ne’er do wells who shouldn’t be in charge of a banana. She suggests one of us goes ahead with the bags and eldest, while the other takes our youngest to get an emergency passport and catches a later flight. There’ll be a charge, but apparently ‘this happens all the time’.
I volunteer to stay behind. Later I will realise that having to travel to a European country without your baby and feckless husband, while having to manage all the heavy luggage and without a syllable of the language is not fun, so eventually stop congratulating myself on my selflessness. At the ticket desk, another lady sends my wife and eldest to the gate immediately to catch their flight. The youngest and I will fly later that day. Getting a new passport will be simplicity itself. We are delighted to pay for two new tickets. Tearful goodbyes made, lips wobbled, we go our separate ways.
We have to get a form signed by a Garda. The airport station is closed. That’s fine. We’ll get a bus into town and do it there. The passport office is on Molesworth Street anyway. This makes sense. I text my wife that I have sorted everything. I am amazing.
7.15am. At the police station, a Garda tells me the airport police station is never closed. Her look communicates my lack of credibility. I rethink my pink jumper and silly hat. Both my wife and I must sign the form. She is baffled that I didn’t know this. I try my best pathetic look – not difficult – but to no avail. Kidnapping risks, etc. Later I realise she let a man and small child who were urgently trying to leave the country walk out of a police station without having any idea who we were and where we were going. This amuses me, or would, were the world not ending.
8.00am. I go home. I call our local police station. A nice Garda says that perhaps with an affidavit from a solicitor who knows us, he could sign the form. But we have to check if this will be acceptable to the passport office. This holiday is great, I think.
9.30am. Solicitor and passport people confer. I think this is a twisted plan set up by the world to make sure that I never forget to renew anything else again, ever. It won’t work.
A solution: If my wife goes to the local consulate and her consent is witnessed and faxed to the passport office, then the friendly people at the passport office will be happy and our passport will be rushed in the four hours before our plane takes off. Cue frantic telephone calls to my wife who has just landed, blissfully unaware of what’s been happening. Fortunately we have a friend who speaks the language, and magically it all comes together.
12.00pm. I buy my younger son a CD player. He says I’m a silly old goose. I concur.
4.00pm. Somehow we make it and are several thousand feet in the air before I remember I’m afraid of flying. I look around the clouds for more silver linings and thank every star for nice people in positions of authority. Best of all, I discover that while we’ve been away it’s been raining all the time.
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