It really is true that life is stranger than fiction sometimes.
Fiction—stories—have rules, and they can only be broken under certain circumstances. For example, one rule is that you can’t have too much happen to your character too quickly. You have to pace it right, or the story will feel unrealistic.
Life has no such restrictions. Life can throw as much at you as it wants. As I learned recently.
Sometimes Life is Stranger than fiction *guitar riff*
So, the story: I just got back from a week’s holiday cruising around Europe, but I very nearly didn’t go. The week before we were due to set off, life decided to test me. Life threw some shit at me, just to see if it would stick.
You see, a week before this cruise (which had been booked for months) my passport disappeared.
It usually lives in the metal Box of Important Things and only comes out when it’s needed for something. But the week before my holiday I checked the box and there was no sign of it.
I looked everywhere.
Then I panicked some more.
There was no sign of it whatsoever, no matter how hard I looked. I knew that if I left it a few more days and it still hadn’t turned up, then there wouldn’t be enough time to get a new one before we were due to set sail.
new passport time!
Hell, as it was, there almost wasn’t enough time to get a new one anyway.
At first I attempted to get a new one online, which was… interesting. Turns out that if you report your passport as lost or stolen to Her Majesty’s Passport office it can take up to two weeks for the replacement to come through. Which was obviously no bloody good. So I booked an appointment in Peterborough for the fast track service, only to find out (after paying) that not only would it probably not come in time, but you absolutely had to take the old passport with you.
I’m not going to lie, I cried at this point. And panicked some more.
So we rang the helpline. And by “we” I mean the ever lovely Jay, who was an absolute goddamn rock star throughout all this. The helpline helpfully told us that we couldn’t cancel the passport we’d just ordered and that there was no way of getting the money back.
Which was lovely.
The person at the helpline also told us that the only way to get a new passport on time was to drive to Durham that day for the last appointment slot before they closed.
So that’s what we did. We drove to Durham. From Nottingham.
Fortunately we made it to Durham nice and early. I even managed to start the interview ten minutes early.
Then I found out that I couldn’t reuse my old passport photos, despite them being less than three months old. I had to do new ones. And the passport offices’ machine was broken.
So I had to find the Boots in the centre of Durham to use their machine. Bearing in mind I had never been to Durham before in my life and I had no idea where I was going.
Once I’d located the precious photo machine, I had to find someone to get me change for my ten pound note. Twice, because apparently passport photos now cost a kidney and your first born child and the machine wasn’t accepting fivers that day.
Somehow, I got all my paperwork and the new photos submitted before closing time.
That was it. All I had to do now was wait. It was over.
Where life is stranger than fiction… and also super frustrating
The new passport arrived two days later, and I felt relieved for all of five minutes before it all came crashing down.
My date of birth was wrong. The passport office had misprinted it.
So we talked to the helpline again. Who said we’d have to go back to Durham that day to get the problem fixed. And that we needed to take my birth certificate to prove the correct date of birth.
The birth certificate my parents still kept as I had literally never had to use it until that point. The birth certificate that was in East frigging Yorkshire.
So we set off for Durham once more, knowing that the detour to collect my birth certificate meant there was only a slim chance of making it to the passport office in time. Fortunately my Dad, gem that he is, realised this and offered to meet us in Durham with the paperwork, which cut two hours off our journey time.
So, at this point three of us are racing to Durham to fix something that the passport office fucked up. At least, I was hoping it was their fault and I hadn’t filled in the form correctly.
Even under a time limit drivers need breaks, so we pulled into a service station for coffee. And while we were there the passport office called me.
They’d noticed their mistake and had already cancelled the misprinted passport and sent out a new one. We didn’t have to go to Durham after all.
At this point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I called dad to tell him to turn around and Jay and I headed home ourselves.
My passport arrived two days before the cruise, and I have never been so relieved in my life.
the moral of the story
That week I learned that it really is true that life is stranger than fiction. If I put those events into a story, no one would believe it, it would seem contrived. But all of that really did happen, I promise.
Despite everything I got to go on my cruise, and I had a fabulous, well-earned break. But not before further adventures were had, which I might tell you about later.
Anyway, shameless self-promotion time: if you’d like to help offset the monetary cost of my Great Passport Adventure, you can do so by buying any of my books from the retailer of your choice, or by dropping me a tip. Every little bit really does help.
Any extra will go into my cocktail fund for the next time life decides to dick me over.
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