Yesterday I just happen to have some free time when I was going to be passing the National passport office and I thought I would take the opportunity to see if I could have my old passport renewed replacing the picture of the terrorist with something more appropriate and pretty.
At first I missed the building because it's just a great bunker with no sign of an entrance, but if you look deeply into the dark passageway there is a sign to the passport office. The walk round the enormous city block at least gave me some much needed exercise. I had heard rumours that the queues here would be enormous and thought that would help me find the place, my map did not quite reach this part of town and I was trying to remember what I had seen on the screen the night before. At the entrance the security was more intense than an airport and three guards had to check that I was not there to blow the place up. Once in I was directed to the reception where three people awaited me and one listend to my story, and seeing the picture on my old passport she then got agitated and said she didn't think they could do the exchange without somebody signing the back of the photograph to prove who I was despite the fact that I was standing in front of her,the real me and the old fake me in the passport to compare it with!
She told me that I could fill in the form and check with one of the clerks at the desks so I took the form over to the window to complete it then went and took a photograph in their booth. I know it's ridiculous doing what I do and not having a photograph which fits their regulations for shape, size, colour, ears showing, not smiling, (I smile now!) etc.
There are about 10 clerks positions and a huge waiting-room. Do you think I had to wait long? No! I was the only person in the building so I walked straight up to the first window and told my story again. It seems this office it was far too popular in the past so they increase the fee by 50% for personal visit over the cost of a postal application and 100% if you are in a real hurry and need are it within four hours.
Oh you've changed a lot he said! But can you see that it's the same person underneath I ask, oh yes they reply but we can't accept the fact that you changed so much. So it seems they can't accept the evidence of their own eyes and are quite happy to accept a signed declaration by somebody they never met that somebody who has completely changed their appearance is who they say they are.
At least I have a photograph which has been accepted as me, I don't look like I just robbed a bank and just been photographed by police as so many passport photographs look and I certainly don't look like the terrorist on the old passport and I will have saved nearly £40 by posting in the application!
I'm a little puzzled as to the economics of keeping this bunker open, they used to deal with the several hundred people a day when busy now it is just a job creation scheme for a small crowd of very bored people, I thought they would deal with me just for something to do, just to prove that they did something for their money!