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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Passport to Pimlico: the Sequel

You may recall that I ended Monday's post on tender hooks awaiting a call for the Passport Office. Did or did I not apply for a passport at some time since August 2009?

After writing the post I had a text from the Passport Office. They'd tried to phone my mobile but had no reply. They would try again.

On Monday evening there was a frantic tapping at the front door: it was 'er in doors. Apparently I'd shut the front gate and on returning home from a hard day at her atelier she couldn't open it. She phoned me on the mobile and land line with no success and had to ask a passerby to open the gate for her. She was not happy. I tried to explain that as far as I knew the mobile didn't ring and the land line call ended before I could reach the phone.

On Tuesday morning I carried my phone with me constantly so I was surprised to receive another text from the Passport people about a failed call. They would try just one more time.

By now I was getting concerned that my mobile wasn't ringing. I dialled the mobile from the home land line. All I received was a missed call message and no "ring, ring". I went to "Settings" and "phone". Everything was as it should be. I then noticed that the switch on the side of the iPhone was in the "silent mode" position.....

It all became clear. I was at a meeting last week and instead of switching off my mobile, I'd silenced it and forgot all about it. This would explain why I had had so many missed calls.

This morning the mobile rang. It was the Passport Office. Yes, they had issued me with a new passport in 2010, and as I appeared to be suffering from early onset Alzheimer's having no recollection of ordering or receiving the passport they'd cancel it.

They also suggested I apply using the paper application and the Post Office checking service - just  to be on the safe side. I was tempted to point out that that still wouldn't guarantee I'd remember receiving the new passport.

Now where did I put my false teeth?

Monday, 10 October 2016

Passport to Pimlico

It all started when my friend Peter suggested that I join him on a winter trip to see the Northern Lights. He thought that we two could have a boys' perpetual night out in either Svalbard, Kakslauttanen, JukkasjÀrvi or Reykjavik. I said that I thought it was a good idea but I hadn't a passport.

When I mentioned Peter's idea to " 'er in doors" she was strangely enthusiastic since neither of us like spending too long away from the other. Given her encouragement I decided that I could at least get a new passport.

I tracked down my old passport, which had lapsed in August 2009. The front and back covers had the right hand corner cut away. This I thought only happened when the  Passport Office cancelled your old one and returned it to you, after issuing a new one. The accompanying piece of paper marked from the Home Office's Identity & Passport Service stated that "Your passport application is being processed. The documents submitted in support of your application have been noted and are enclosed."

There was no date on the piece of paper and no dated cancellation stamp on my old passport. The two pieces of evidence did, however, strongly suggest that sometime in the last 7 years I'd applied for a new passport, except I have no recollection of having ordered or receiving one. I checked my bank statements right back to August 2009 but no payment to the Passport Office was recorded.

I phoned their Help Line. I thought if I explained the situation they could check to see if a passport had been issued. The first person I spoke to was very sympathetic and suggested I checked with the Passport Office's Validity Team. I dialled the number she'd given but it was a dead line. I phoned the Help Line again. The person I spoke to said she'd never heard of such a team in the Passport Office. After I gave her my full name, date of birth and address she made some enquiries but with no success. She suggested that I log on to their website and report the passport as missing. This I did.

I went out this afternoon leaving my mobile at home. When I got back I found I'd missed a call from the Passport Office. They'll phone me later...

Am I going mad? Did I receive a new passport but have forgotten all about it? Did someone intercept my passport on its way to me? Is there someone out there travelling around the globe as me?

I am on tender hooks.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?

You've got to hand it to the V&A, they're pretty smart - even if they refused my offer as a volunteer. They really know how to hook us baby boomers - you know the ones who have floated up on the 40 odd year house boom, index linked final salary pensions and the triple lock. The management at the V& A know that we are desperate to spend our pension pot and equity release money before either the tax man or death or both catch up with us.

Their "You say you want a revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 -1970", might not be the catchiest of titles but for someone like me it was irresistible. From September to March there is a whole universe of memories, remembrances and failed affairs to recall in that august establishment in South Kensington.

At £15 (plus a discretionary donation of £1.50) the tickets were perfectly pitched. Not too expensive - us pensioners like to think we're careful with money and not to cheap - that wouldn't do. Having ordered on line and printed out two tickets my mate Peter and I headed for South Kensington last Friday.

I have to say that South Kensington underground station, where we met up, is definitely unfit for purpose. At almost any time of day it cannot cope with the crush of humanity. This Friday at 11:45 am was no exception. The thousands of people disgorged by the tube hadn't the faintest idea where they were going. Having navigated the ticket barriers, they invariably stopped suddenly,  wondering where they were, causing those behind to swerve decorously or not to avoid harm. Avoiding any mishap we made our way along the tunnel leading to London's finest - the National History, Science and V&A Museums.

Before entering the exhibition we were fitted out with a piece of electronic wizardry and headphones.It was a truly remarkable device, for as you went past each section, exhibit etc it would stream the appropriate audio into your headphones.

The exhibition itself was pretty comprehensive starting with Kennedy, his commitment to landing on the moon before the end of the 60's, his assassination in Nov '63 right through to the early 70's and Germaine Greer's "Female Eunuch". In between we had the Beat Poets, Dylan, the Beatles, Carnaby Street. Then there was Black Power, Women's Lib, Gay Liberation, Black Music, the Vietnam War, draft dodgers, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, David Bailey, the Who and masses and masses of music.

The standout exhibit was a room dedicated to Woodstock, the music festival on a farm in up-state New York in August '69. There were the costumes worn by the artists, their instruments, LPs from the bands playing there and items showing the administration behind that huge happening. For example there was a grubby ancient typed list of some of the bands playing and how much they were paid. Joe Cocker and the Grease Band received $1,000, Jefferson's Aeroplane $7,500. Then there were the three screens - high up so for the best view you laid down on bean bags provided and watched and listened to "Woodstock" as it was meant to be seen.

One really nice touch in another part of the exhibition was a record display, just like those you'd find in your local record shop on the High Street in the '60's and there were all the LPs you remembered and you could flick through, pick up and read the sleeve notes. Hugely nostalgic.

You forget how young we all were then. Leonard Cohen,  Grace Slick, Donovan. Marianne Faithfull staring out of 1966 newspapers following a drugs bust.  And of course Christine Keeler and that infamous chair (now owned by the V&A).

There was Vietnam - over 2 million young Americans went to war against the Commies, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives destroyed. The protests, the revolution of 1968 in Paris. It was all there asking how could I have forgotten so much. I suspect that like me many of those there who'd experienced the '60's were lost in their own reminiscences.

As we left we were reminded that the V&A will not let us go so easily for in May 2017 there's " Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains."   

Not 'alf.