Mutter April 14, 2007Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Thank heavens for events.
Darlings, it’s almost worth losing your passport so that you can get a phone call from your mother a few weeks later saying it’s been found. (Hurrah!) (Bugger. Transferred the 190 euros for a new one already? Dampen that hurrah.)
The Russian and I decided yesterday to celebrate not having drunk and smoked since Sunday/Monday by drinking and smoking. Thankfully, neither of us had lost the knack. “Darling, we’ll just have one glass (and one packet),” we said to each other simultaneously and earnestly as we sat down to join our friends in an excitingly spontaneous meeting yestereve. Mind you, the spontaneous meeting was in a (sort of gay) pizzeria on a mainish street and, even if the weather is glorious at the moment, it’s still arctic in the evenings and of course we had to sit on the street pretending we were somewhere nice, like Tirana, rather than Neasden High St., where we actually were, except in Berlin, and the queeny waiters – even the resident het has been advised to camp it up. And I know he’s not a real poof as I’ve seen him snogging a girl in a discotheque. He’s quite convincing otherwise though. One of David Beckham’s old haircuts, trainers… – bollock you back when you bollock them about waiting 45 shivering minutes for a beer to arrive.
We got in about three. Guaranteed ourselves hypothermia by going to a beer-garden, again in an attempt to convince ourselves it’s summer. Then to a bar, where I fell asleep.
So I missed my mother’s confused answering-machine message this morning about a letter, in German, and something about my passport. I was so excited when I heard it that I accidentally curled up for another few hours.
But, yes, it’s all been worth it just to hear my mother’s attempt at reading Deutsch… And there’s been quite a lot of it to be worth. All rather a fuss, this getting a new passport. Form-filling. Money-transferring. Biometric-photo-taking… And finding someone to countersign your forms. Now, darlings, if you live in the UK, this is fine. You can ask any old person you’ve known for a couple of years, as long as they’re not a dirty foreigner and, even more importantly, a chav. Oh yes. It doesn’t quite say so on the form, but what the instructions actually mean are, “Please find a middle-class (or above) person to countersign your form and write on the back of the photo that this is a true likeness of…” I suppose the worry is paternalistic in a way. The folk at the passport office must assume chavs can’t read and write yet and will ruin your photos by spelling ‘likeness’ wrong 100 times. “I ain’t very good at these long words,” they must imagine chavs throughout the land potentially wailing. So, yes, fine if you have High Court Judges sloshing around your address book, but what if you’re abroad? And what if you don’t know a gazillion British people?
I do, as it happens, but that’s not the point.
So I got the lovely B. to countersign my forms. I grilled her for a good forty-five minutes to make sure there wasn’t a hint of chav blood in the family. I thought of the questions from that famous chav-quiz. (My ex sent it to me. I scored about a bazillion points higher than him.) I asked B. if she called her grandmother ‘me nan’ and had EVER bought flowers from a petrol-station. She said not. So we popped down her profession as High Court Judge, as ONLY High Court Judges may countersign your passport application, and I lolloped home, as happy as a chav at a CenterParc (why that spelling? Center? In Leicestershire? Parc? On Humberside?).
Checklist… Biometric photos ? Check. Any old passports you’ve got lying around the place? Check. Lost-passport form GBLP17171717171? Check. Birth certificate? (miraculous) Check. Proof of payment of 190 euros? (tearful) Check. Forms and photos countersigned by not-filthy-foreigner, non-chav High Court Judge of your acquaintance of at least two years? Oh blinking buggery fucking flip. B., with considerable abandon, wrote honestly that we’d only known each other for a year. Fuck. Cue e-mail. “Darling, do you think if we think very hard about this, maybe we’ve actually known each other for two years?” I left the forms strewn around on a table, to give the Russian something to complain about, and wandered out, defeated, into the glorious sunshine…
“So there’s a letter about your passport,” my mother explained once I’d dragged myself out of bed. “Read it to me.” “It’s in German.” “Oh, but, luckily, German is almost perfectly phonetic.” I gave her a quick introduction-to-German-linguistics-and-phonetics telephone course and warned her not to come over all catatonic when she came across capital letters in the middle of sentences and she set off about butchering the language with due trepidation. My heart had begun to sink before she’d even finished the address as she happily pronounced ‘Straße’ ‘strab’. Hmm. She possesses neither a fax, a scanner nor a computer. No-one under the age of 70 was in the immediate environs. I listened on. Occasionally she’d strike it lucky and there’d be a run of three or four utterly comprehensible words but then she’d sometimes, without announcement, decide a word was too tricky to even contemplate tackling and would spell it.
Which sounds OK, but she’s Irish. Darlings, grab an Irish person in the vicinity – ask them to sign your biometric photos should you need a new Irish passport while you’re about it, presuming they’re a High Court Judge – and ask them to spell something for you. My mother actually left Ireland and moved to London when she was very young and when we (the other members of her family) were young, I don’t think we thought she sounded especially Irish. But then one day she swallowed a hot potato – no really – fainted before she could get cold liquid inside her – god, we mustn’t even have had wine with dinner. What chavs – smacking her head off the washing-machine as she did so and then, when she came round, she said, oddly, “Me face, me face,” and, even more oddly, in a rediscoveredly strong Irish accent, which has never gone away. And I have never understood a single word my mother has ever spelt for me. I think it’s an Irish thing. When folk spell something out, they run all the letters together, as if in a tearing rush to do something more important – my contact with old Irish folk when I was young showed that this mostly involved going to church. My ex, who knew my family well, once bumped into my aunt on a street, nowhere near a house of god but on a Sunday, and she said to him, “Anyway, I won’t stop you as you’re obviously on your way to church” – and you’re none the wiser.
So I might have my passport back. Once the Fundstelle – Lost’n’Found place, pronounced fund (fund as a Yorkshire person would pronounce that word) + shtella, pronounced fund (non-Yorkshire) + stell by my mother – opens again for business, for one second a week. If I’m not quick, they’ll send the bastard to Wuppertal before I know it. Though Her Majesty’s Government may have decided to cancel my passport in any case. Just no way of knowing…
Perhaps it’s not worth losing your passport after all.