This was my very last column for Totally Dublin. It is more or less the most factually correct one I've ever done. Whether that's a good thing or not I'll leave to you, but it was one of the few times I stood in the middle of an unfolding situation and through the tears thought: 'Well, at least I can use this for a column.
At this point I gave up writing the column. I would have liked to go on - I think I was improving - but it got to the point where I hadn't been paid for over a year. Eventually I received 40% or so of what I was owed, but I'm still waiting for the rest. I reckon it'll be about the same time as the Rapture.
I figured that if I was going to write for a living (which is what I'm now trying to do), I ought to give my work a certain level of respect. Meaning: my stuff may not be everyone's taste, it may not even be any good, but if I don't decide that it's worth actually getting paid for, then no-one else will. I could probably have continued writing the column and other feature pieces, but I'd never get much money from them - certainly not enough to survive on. Meaningful work means not just doing a job you enjoy, but being paid a reasonable wage for it, I think. Few people ever get rich from journalism, but I think it's fair enough to aspire to pay the bills, at least.
So here it is:
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 ‘This passport is out of date’ will not make you happy.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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