Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Monday, March 30, 2009

Passport problems (nearly) prevent Easter holiday

Passport & Immigration Service
We're due off to our Brittany holiday home on next Sunday for two weeks over the Easter holidays. I'm hoping it'll be a great break, and will certainly be well deserved as I've been working 70+ hour weeks for the last month or so with the pressures in trying to deliver a large project at work.

Completely unrelated to our impending holiday I pulled the passports out on Saturday to use as proof of identity for our eldest son Toby (who's now 10) to open his first bank savings account.

Horror of horrors I realised that Toby's passport had run out in January. For some reason I thought that I had to renew one of the passports in May so hadn't bothered looking recently.

Off to the post office to get the requisite forms which didn't give me many clues as to how to expedite getting the passport renewed so I phoned the Passport Service up as they've got a handy 24-hour advice line (0300 222 0000).

My options were limited. I could either put the renewal in the post and chance it that the new passport comes back in less than the quoted three Standard week service, I could go for the one-week Fast Track service, or I could just stump up and opt for the same day Premium service.

Decided to go for surety with the Premium service. Fortunately there's a passport office in Peterborough and Liz has to drive through Peterborough on Friday to take our dog to the in-laws for his Easter holiday so I made an appointment over the phone for Friday. We have to drop the completed passport form, photos, old passport, etc off at the appointment time, and all going well the new passport will be ready 4 hours later.

Unfortunately there's a price for such speedy service, £94 instead of the normal £46 for a child's passport renewal (further details of Passport office fees on their website).

OK so that was sorted, all I needed now was a new photo, endorsed as being a 'true likeness' by a "suitably qualified" person. Fortunately a friend of mine in the village is a teacher and can sign the photo and the form for me.

Took a photo of Toby in the garden and then spent ages with Photoshop cutting out the background details from the photo (memo to self, don't take picture of kids standing in front of the shed door next time - choose a blank background!). Printed it out, measured it, it looked good but needed to be a bit bigger.

Printed the picture a bit bigger and then next disaster, the printer ran out of coloured ink! A black, white and red photo is not going to be acceptable to the Passport agency methinks.

Hunt around for a spare ink cartridge. Eventually find it but that one doesn't work either. Clean, super-clean and prime the new cartridge and it still doesn't work.

Shake the old ink cartridge to see if there's any ink still in it, still not working properly.

Beginning to get a bit desperate by now ....

Ah-ha. Go down stairs and pinch the printer off the kids computer. Plug it into my computer in the study, install the printer drivers, and success, two decent sized photos of Toby.

By now it was nearing 11pm but fortunately my friend hadn't gone to bed so I went round and he signed the application form and back of one of the photos.

All "challenges" over now, the paperwork's done, the photos are ready, and we're all set for Friday's passport office appointment. Just hope Liz can find the office OK!



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