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.
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 😉
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!