|Google image - but my auntie was a smiler!|
Last month I suddenly realised my British passport was due to expire at the end of June 2017. I didn't plan a trip any time soon, but it is less complicated to renew one's passport before it expires than afterwards, if you are living in another country. Needless to say, things are much more complicated than they were ten years ago when I simply went into Cape Town, spoke to a person, picked up a yellow form, returned it to the Cape Town office who sent it up to the Embassy in Pretoria and I would collect it in person in Cape Town again. Now applications can only be made "ONLINE", and couriered up to the north of England to a town called Durham.
Full or nerves, I anxiously viewed the website and was made more anxious because you can't print out your blank form and study it. No. You have to complete it, a page at a time, PAY, and only then can you print the document. Two weeks later, I had managed to track down two acquaintances who had successfully performed this feat, so I sat down (with my husband next to me) and braved the cyberspace. Wasn't so bad: in fact, it was quite user-friendly, once you had scrolled through all the instructions for if e.g. you were adopted/transgender/result of a surrogate pregnancy etc. etc. The worst was having to courier my documents, which had to include colour photocopies of EVERY PAGE INCLUDING BLANKS of my South African passport. Ironically, I had just obtained a new one - 31 blank pages, just one stamp for Walvis Bay, just up the coast from CApe Town, when we were on shore for two hours in January of this year. Another big expense. Anyway, another irony - at the moment in time that I handed my passport over to the Courier Company, my very dear Aunt, the last of her generation, pivotal in my childhood years, died in the UK, at the venerable age of 96. The funeral is to be on 6th June. I am without passport. I do have my SA one, but I would have to buy and obtain an Emergency Visa for the UK - another big expense. Luckily, my cousin phoned me this week - it doesn't sound as if she expected me to go at all. In fact, she said that for the last three years, her mother, although basically healthy, was wheelchair bound, saying she couldn't see the point of still being around, as she couldn't do anything. (No Altzheimer's). My cousin sounded OK. So I am not going. We are off to the Karoo instead on 1st June. My brother-in-law is now bed-bound and asking for us. In fact, I left England in 1975 and am married 40 years next year. Nevertheless, loving relatives from one's formative years are hugely important in the big picture. I also quailed at the prospect at travelling alone: (reference the bomb explosion in Manchester on Monday). But I know my Aunt would understand. Just out of interest - I wonder when my new passport will arrive? Hope it is before we go away.