Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year, New Passports

Not a valid photo. Glasses!
This is about the time of year when we've had enough of drizzle, VAT, Tesco adverts featuring cheerful B-list celebs, the M4, and Gordon Bloody Brown, and we think wistfully of foreign climes. Unfortunately all the Family Grump passports expire in January so it's renewal time. Ha. For ample evidence that the government has well and truly lost the plot, and is making a thorough nuisance of itself every moment of your CCTV-recorded life, I recommend you try renewing yours.

Starting point is the photo. Easy, you may think. But you may think wrong. (I tried digging out left-over snaps from my previous passport application, but I look like a Mexican bandito with poor taste in shirts.) The rules for passport photos have got a lot stricter. Bloody government.

You can't smile, but on the other hand you mustn't snarl like a terrorist, unless you want a finger up the bottom every time you go to Calais for a booze cruise. Both ears must be on prominent display. You must wear neither your natty al-Qaeda headband, nor your sexy Che Guevara neckscarf. Your Vladimir Putin shades are right out.

So, new photo then. Bloody government.

Photo-Me machines used to be fun little booths you could squeeze into on the way home from the pub, to take some truly hilarious pics with you and your equally legless buddies, provided an earlier, more drunken reveller hadn't mistaken the booth for a public toilet.

Alas, technology has caught up, and so has the bloody government. The booths are now like little Whitehall departments in miniature. They know all about passports. Put your money in and they actually talk to you, to make sure everything is just right. Don't smile. Adjust your height. Lose the specs. Get your hair out of your eyes. Are you chewing gum? Are you sober? Did you brush your teeth this morning? I said, don't smile. Lean forward a bit. FLASH! You blinked. That'll be another four pounds please. Join the back of the queue, citizen.

After three or four attempts you're done. Now simply get the photo countersigned by a magistrate, bishop and/or or pop star, and you can progress to the application form. This hasn't got any easier either. You must fill in each little box exactly right or the weasel at the Post Office, which is 30 miles from your house because the bloody government has closed most of them, will give your form back and tell you to start again. Join the back of the queue, citizen.

The bloody government is obsessed with data, so obviously we've gone all biometric. Every detail gathered about you since records began is stuffed onto a little chip on the back page. So don't be surprised if border guards start asking you if you're a communist. Oh how you regret mistaking that copy of 'Socialist Worker' for 'TV Guide'.

The first foreign trip I ever took was to Germany (I was young and foolish). To allow me to travel I got a British Visitor's Passport. It cost about as much as two Curly-Wurlies, lasted a year, and the nice lady at the village Post Office and General Stores did it for me on the spot. Fast-forward to today. The price for the new family passports? Over three hundred quid. Three hundred quid! Is foreign travel worth the effort at all? Of course it is. We need a break from the bloody government.


  1. When I renewed mine a few years ago (2004) they made me tuck my hair behind my ear and take my earring out for the photo (so tiny an earring you can't see it anyway). Insane. Also, I thought for renewals you didn't have to have anyone verify you - I know I didn't. You're only supposed to need a judge or other ludicrous "voucher" for your first ever passport and after that you just mail in the form and new pics. Unless that's changed. In which case, WTF?

    The biometrics thing is a pain. I did hear that they can only put biographical info. relevant to travel on there though, none of your personal details other than that. That better be true!

    Three hundred quid though, that has to hurt! :)

  2. I've never been one to be a 'Traveling Man'. I'm a 'home-body' dweller. I've got everything I need within a 5 mile radius from where I live. Taveling about, is just too damn tiring. Luggage here, luggage there, luggage lost...

    The woman in the pic sure does have a lovely pair of...(pick one)

  3. But what I really want to know is HOW do you keep getting these pictures of me to add to your posts? I mean, really, I thought they were tucked away safely. But I AM hot, aren't I? Ha!

  4. I may be heading to China this year. Now you have me shaking in my Uggs regarding getting my first ever passport. Couldn't I just offer them a firstborn?

  5. YIKES!!!

    Um...are you sure you don't live in a Communist Nation? Oh, wait. You wouldn't be allowed to have a passport, right?

    I got mine renewed quite a few years ago. I don't know if the US is that bad yet.

  6. That is a lot of corn for a passport. Do you all get the superdeluxe? Is that the reason you pay so much? I hope these last forever and see you through many more ubergrump travels. You and your curly wurlies are too much. Happy new year.

  7. We don't pay with quids or curly wurlies in the states, & I believe we're allowed to smile for the pic. I believe it may take months on end to get the passport from our damn bloody government, though. Love this blog, and the comments are equally humorous.

  8. When I renewed my passport I brought my old one in for proof of citzenship. I was 7 in the picture [I'm not now] and they didn't even question it.. lame. It didn't take that long to get them either [amazingly surprised]

    Good luck and let me know when you get here, I'll put the tea kettle on [after I buy one]

    And what is it with the girl pics. I only see chicks commenting, give us a stud once in awhile

  9. I just renewed my Australian Passport, which cost me about £100. But my visa to remain in the UK indefinitely is still in my old passport, and having it transferred to my new passport will apparently cost me £165 if I post it in - or over £500 if I go in person.

    I flew back in from Sydney with both new and expired passport in order to show the visa which worked fine, so I am thinking that I am just going to not apply for it to be transferred!

  10. I feel your pain. I left Britain to get away from all this but I fear I've actually made it worse by moving around so much. This year I have to renew my son's passport. He's a British citizen with Canadian residence and a Spanish birth certificate (hand written in Catalan, for good measure). I think it would be easier to smuggle him across borders in a lifesize, hollowed out, donkey shaped statue than it will be to renew this time :(

  11. why is my fish soooo me? i think it is, but that is only b/c i know me and it has nothing to do with a love of or likeness to fish.

  12. I was hoping that biometric passports would mean you could go into a booth, toss off over a copy of 'Jugs' and be done with it...

    I think I am to be disappointed...

  13. Mercifully, my passport has expired. It looks like it could be hanging in the post office. I don't ever want to show that scary mug to anyone again.

  14. Ours lasts ten years. TEN YEARS. Ten years ago I was skinny and had better hair. That fucker doens't look anything like me.

  15. Vege ~ You need verification if your face has changed due to a decade of high-octane alcohol fuelled partying. Or spots

    Blase ~ Smart man.

    MiMi ~ Busted! You got me

    Marla ~ You don't need a passport to go to China. You might need one to get out though

    RefGeek ~ My American daughter needs her US passport renewed this year. SO I'll let you know...

    magda ~ No! Just the plain one. Extortionate

    RRGBW ~ Thank you!

    VL ~ I did post a guy once: Here. Hunky, eh?

    pixie ~ 500 squiddlies? Bugger me

    TWK ~ Ha! Sounds interesting. The ole' pinata move, eh?

    magda ~ It just is. And a lot better than the cat

    Matt ~ I did try that, but unfortunately our booth is in the middle of Tesco.

    kys ~ I daren't show you mine

    JenJen ~ So do ours. I've still got the shirt I was wearing then. How sad is that? I don't wear it, obviously

  16. G-Man ~ A quid is a pound, so about $1.60. Daylight robbery eh?

  17. ....obviously.
    If a quid is a pound an it's a dollar-sixty, why do you have two names for it, a pound and a quid? I'm so confused.

  18. i happen to have a great passport photo, and my driver's license is even better - just to rub it in a little. i wish i could use them for the next 100 years.

  19. I have to get mine renewed at some stage. Well into the $300 mark for a biometric UK passport - or I can go the Australian citizenship route which ends up costing a little bit more by the time a passport's issued.

    Quite a quandry, in all honesty.

  20. Ha, welcome to the police state that is modern Britain. I didn't used to be so cynical but recent events have left me deeply scarred and nowhere near as confident as I used to be that the Powers That Be have our best interests at heart, the fuckers.

    We're planning a trip to the US of A this summer, it will be interesting to see how that pans out.

    And I used to look like a pre-Raphaelite goddess in my passport, now I look like a middle-aged woman with an attitude. Bah.

  21. I'm just glad I don't have to renew mine for at least 8 years.

    Nightmare getting our baby a passport. Babies need passports (apparently) so that it can be confirmed that the adult is the parent and has the right baby. This is to protect the baby. But the bastards in this country require the actual birth certificate to issue the baby's passport and they also insist on sending the birth certificate back using standard post. Yep, so the birth certificate never arrived, lost in the post, and now some other bastard probably has it! But at least the baby now has a passport right?!

  22. 300 quid?!?


    On a related note:

    What's a quid?

  23. What a nightmare, not just 1 photo to be taken but a whole family's. I don't envy you one little bit. One of the great mysteries must be why all passport photos so awful.

  24. We got our passports last year and I couldn't believe what a process it was! Now, if we could only afford to travel:)

  25. Great. My passport's about to run out. And I'm in the middle of rural America. I can't wait to have to go through all these hoops while dealing with the British Embassy from afar. Bah!

  26. Yes, I agree. Trying to get new passports is an absolute nightmare, as well as a rip-off. But that's Britian for you! I've got mine till 2014- yay! Though i don't know how i'll feel when i'm 30 and i've still got a picture of my 20 year old self. Hmm.

  27. yikes. what a nightmare...i would say you need a break indeed....enjoy it.

  28. JenJen ~ Well you should have tried our money before it went all soft and continental and decimal. Pounds, shillings and pence. And guineas. Brilliant

    Sarah ~ Lucky you!

    Matthew ~ Tricky choice. Why not wait to see who wins the Ashes next time round?

    lbtw ~ Yeah. Bloody government

    mo ~ Well that'a a new one. Blog it, man, blog it!

    Mooooogg ~ It's a fine English pound

    PW ~ It's the law, alas

    Debbie ~ Don't go Ryanair, unless you never need to eat. Or pee

    Richard ~ Good luck mate!

    Lou ~ You should see mine...

    Brian ~ Thank you!

  29. Gosh, my passport is due for renewal too! But then again, so is my driving insurance...if I can get my car out of all the snow!
    Great to see you back from the wilds of Wales!

  30. I have only been to Mexico and until recently you didn't need a passport to go to Mexico. But it is too dangerous to go there now. So I stay inside the US for now!

    Hope you had a nice holiday!

    OH and thanks for the algebra advice!

  31. That is the new reality with travel security. Anything can and will happen.


  32. I like this blog. There really is dignity in grumpiness.

    Like a transcendent version of 'the culture of complaint' without any of the arbitrary whining.

  33. £300 to indisputably prove you are British - a bargain! And just think, at least you get something for your money - we have to pay £5bn a year to prove we are European and we get bugger all for that.

  34. Note to self: visit bathroom before reading Uber Grumpy.
    I think I just pee'd myself laughing at this post. Unfortunately I was nowhere near a photobooth at the time. - G

  35. I love reading your comments.. and I checked out the link. wtf how did you know I liked old guys that could carry beers in their

    Now visit my blog I have an award for you

  36. little loved livvy19 February 2010 at 12:02

    nice glasses wish i had some like that mine are red but sqaure ones