Troubles always come in threes. Isn’t that what they say?
I’m writing this on April Fool’s Day and, boy, do I feel like an April Fool.
Let me explain my trio of troubles.
Earlier this week, I booked a holiday that included a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. The place—since you ask—is Sanssouci, the summer residence of Frederick the Great, at Potsdam near Berlin.
On a previous Spring holiday in Berlin, there were several inches of snow on the ground. Berlin’s transport worked a treat. People were langlauf skiing in the Tiergarten park. We visited loads of wonderful museums. And everything was open. Except Sanssouci. My fault for not checking before I booked that trip. So Sanssouci remained on my ToDo list and when the chance came up this week, I couldn’t resist.
So where do these troubles come from?
Trouble number 1 came via the small print in the booking confirmation, after I’d paid the substantial deposit. It was small print about passports.
Now, my current passport doesn’t expire for over a year, so I was sure I was fine.
The travel company’s small print pointed out that, for travel within the EU for third-country folk like me, the passport has to be within 10 years of its issue date. And has to have at least 3 months to run on the holiday dates.
I had renewed it early, so it SAYS it is valid for 10 years and 9 months.
Not in the EU it isn’t. Not since Brexit. Ten years from the date of issue. Full stop.
There’s a simple solution, isn’t there?
The obvious solution to the first of my troubles is to renew my passport, yes?
Um, no. Or not easily. And that’s where the second of my troubles arises.
First, the Passport Office advises that renewals can take up to 10 weeks. And tales abound of renewals taking weeks or even months longer than that. My booked holiday is only slightly more than 10 weeks from now. Not a hopeful route for me. Not really.
However, there is a fast-track (and expensive) renewal system. I can use that, no?
Um, doesn’t look like it. And this is the heart of trouble number 2. When I checked, there were no appointments available for the face-to-face interview required for the fast-track system. And there may not be any appointments available in the foreseeable future, at least partly because…
…from Monday, passport office staff are going on strike for 5 weeks. Don’t think the standard 10-week delivery time is going to be in operation, do you? Possibly not face-to-face interviews, either. (I should say here that I have every sympathy with passport office staff. They’ve had a very raw deal in recent years. But their industrial action ain’t going to help solve my troubles, I fear.)
What to do about my troubles?
I don’t see any good options here.
- I can cancel the holiday and lose my deposit.
- I can keep trying to renew my passport via the fast-track route and hope that I succeed before the holiday starts. (If I don’t succeed, I may be denied boarding at the airport. And I’d have paid the full holiday price which I would probably lose. I don’t think my insurance would pay up for my mistake.)
- Or I can plead ignorance to the travel company and ask them to transfer my booking to a future holiday, months and months from now. They might do that, but they wouldn’t have to. It would depend on whether they were feeling kind or not. And there are no future dates that include Sanssouci, so I’d have to pick something completely different. Sigh.
The more I think about it, the more I’m tending towards unsatisfactory option 3 as the best (least worst) way of dealing with troubles #1 and #2.
What do you think I should do? All suggestions and advice welcome.
OK that’s two troubles. What’s trouble number three?
When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions [Hamlet, Act IV, Sc V]
That line is spoken by Claudius (about Ophelia). And Shakespeare, as usual, has it right. Hamlet himself also confronts his sea of troubles [Act III, Sc I]. Today, when I have my own mini sea of troubles, Hamlet has to be my go-to play. (You are allowed to laugh. I probably will, too, in a year or so.)
Last night (pre April Fool’s Day) I was tearing my hair out, because it was my turn to blog this weekend. The third of my troubles was that I couldn’t think of a single thing to blog about. Not even something related to April Fools’ Day. I was getting increasingly desperate.
And then the light bulb came on. At about two in the morning 😉
Thank you, subconscious. You have saved me once again.
Of course I had a blog subject. It was obvious, wasn’t it? Troubles.
So, slightly tongue-in-cheek, dear readers, I offer you my battalion of troubles. And I do hope that you don’t have battalions of them, or even single spies.
Perhaps you are looking forward to lighter and warmer days now Spring is (allegedly) here? So, to lift all our spirits, I’ll finish with some spring blossom. It’s everywhere in my neck of the woods. And so cheering, don’t you think?
Best wishes from
JOANNA, the Troubled
LATE NEWS (on 26th April)
Delighted to report that I got my new passport yesterday, via the fast-track route at the Glasgow office. (No, I didn’t have to go to Glasgow. I still have relatives in Scotland who collected on my behalf, bless them.) Now able to pay balance of holiday without worrying too much. Thanks for all the supportive comments. Thanks also to the wonderful @ukpassportcheck which tweets when fast-track and premium appointments become available online. Since the timing varies, that info is a godsend. On the day I booked my appointment, all appointments were gone within 12 minutes so I did have to be quick!
So sorry to hear about your sea of troubles, Joanna and very grateful for the warning about passport renewals. I’d assumed my passport be fine would be fine for an early summer holiday in 2025 but now realise that, in the EU, it won’t be any use after early March 2025. I’ve made a diary note for autumn 2024! I hope you do eventually visit Sanssouci.
With luck, Charlotte, the passport office will be sorted out by autumn 2024 (and properly paid) and your renewal will go through swiftly !! Thanks for the sympathy but you are allowed to laugh. The position I’ve got myself in is ridiculous really. And it is my own fault.
Brexit – the joy that keeps on giving. Keeping my fingers firmly crossed for either a face-to-face appointment with the Passport Office or a sympathetic holiday company, Joanna.
Brexit… Yes, precisely, Liz. Not holding my breath for face-to-face appointment but you never know. And the holiday company are very good. I’ve travelled with them three times before so if they want to get my future custom…??
What Liz said, . And I’m checking my passport today in case I want to go on holiday in the next ten years…
It’s one of those unknown unknowns, Lesley. And it creeps up behind you and bites you in the bum. As it did me.
Oh dear, the clash of bureacracies! I’ve often thought that the worst bureaucratic traps arise when the officials in question are falling over themselves to be fair, as here.
1 UK Citizen renews passport early? Good and faithful servant shouldn’t be cheated of the last months of the last passport he paid for. Hence the extra months on the new one. Commendably fair and honourable.
2 Bureaucrat in another country – people can change enormously in 10 years, so the absolute maximum time we will allow a passport to be valid is 10 years from the date of issue. Perfectly reasonable.
3 Brexit irony – when we were in the EU our rules on the validity of our own passports were accepted, presumably as a courtesy. Or possibly no one noticed? Now they do. AAARGH!
You put it beautifully, Sophie. And from comments online, I know that I’m not the only one to be bitten on the bum by this particular bureaucratic wrinkle. At least I spotted it before the holiday started and have a chance to remedy the problem. Imagine being denied boarding at the gate? It has happened to some poor people. What happened to them wasn’t funny. My situation (remediable) is. Or it will be by the autumn.
Oh dear what a bummer. I now must check my passport – it all gets so stressful and confusing (being 81). Do hope you get your holiday. Best wishes. X
Thank you so much, Yvonne. TBH I think the holiday is unlikely but I’ll see what tomorrow brings. You never know, there might be a face-to-face interview on offer at the Passport Office. I believe they stopped adding extra months to renewed passports some time ago, so passports that have a while to run should be fine. But don’t take my word for it. Do check. I’m not a good role model here 😉 Definitely not!
What an absolute nightmare. I’d be tempted to keep trying, but this really is the last thing anybody needs. Anticipating a holiday is half the fun. Good luck x
Thanks, Christina. I did keep trying and yesterday (Wednesday) I managed to secure an appointment to renew my passport on 24th April. That’s 2 days before I have to pay the balance of the holiday. So, fingers crossed, it may be OK. Or, if it’s not, I’ll still be able to cancel or go on bended knee to holiday company and ask for a different and later hol. At the moment, I’m guardedly hopeful it will come out OK.
A very belated comment. Firstly I trust that your appointment tomorrow goes well.
Secondly, your posting made me look at my own passport and realise that it expires in August this year. Not having a holiday booked I decided to simply renew online: On the 17th I visited the local photo shop and got the necessary code after which I did an online renewal and posted off my old passport. Lots of emails from the passport office followed, the significant ones being on the 20th saying my old passport had been received, on the 21st saying my application had been approved and also on the 21st to say my passport had been printed and would be transferred to their delivery supplier in the next few days.
Assuming that they don’t muck up this last stage it looks like the process currently takes about 10 days rather than their stated 10 weeks! If you had only know this you’d probably already have you passport and would have been saved a lot of worry, travel and expense. I do understand though why you thought you could not risk it.
Thank you, Mike. On your experience, it takes less time to do it by post than to do the (much more expensive) route I took. Having made the appointment on 5th April, it took until yesterday morning for HMPO to approve my application which is 17 days. (I suspect no one looked at it till yesterday!) Fingers crossed that collection on Monday goes OK. Ditto with the postal delivery of yours.
My new passport arrived at 11am today, so 7 days after my application. I’m both happy about the service I got and cross about the way you were dealt with. I suspect that mine was almost totally done by a computer whilst yours had a lot more manual involvement.
My new passport arrived this morning (Tuesday), a day later than yours, Mike. I had to enlist help of relatives in Glasgow to get it since there were no appointments anywhere closer, but it went smoothly and passport was collected on my behalf and posted to me. Total process took 20 days but that was partly, I think, because nothing had to be done much in advance of the appointment which was yesterday (24th).
And, don’t know about you, but I’d say that the so-called “Blue Passport” is actually black.