It is just eight days before I am due to leave Cape Town and fly to Amsterdam for my grandson’s Barmitzvah.   Plans have been ongoing for some months.   Flights have been booked for the family. Accommodation at our destination has been reserved.   For the past few weeks I have been sewing – creating African style yarmulkes for the men to wear at the religious ceremony.

Acting on a Spontaneous Thought

It is seven o’clock in the evening, and eight days before our date of departure.  For some unknown reason, the idea entered my head that I should check the expiry date on my passports.   Having been born in London, I have both a UK Passport and a South African one in addition.     My local document is used for leaving and returning to my home country.   My UK passport allows me to travel freely in Europe without having to go through the rigmarole of acquiring visas, as most of my South African friends and family need to do!

I search for the pouch in which I store my passports and look for the place where the expiry date is recorded.   It takes me some time to locate the information for which I am searching.   What a shock I had when I realised that both my passports are out of date.   I had travelled overseas just over a year ago.   I should have immediately applied for new documents as I was aware of the expiry date of my present passports was very close.   But then I forgot.

Nothing could be done at that Time

You know that sinking feeling you experience in the pit of your stomach when you are suddenly shocked by the rude awakening of disturbing information?    What was going to happen now?   Would I be able to acquire both a temporary South African Passport and a temporary one for the UK in just one short week?

The only research I could undertake at that time of the evening was to do an internet search to see if I could find information about obtaining passports in an emergency situation.   Relevant information eluded me.  I had to give up my search and await the following business day to find out the possibility of acquiring an emergency travel document.

The Following Day

My travel agent Zeenat looked happy to see me as I walked into the Flight Centre to seek her assistance.  When I told her my tale of woe, it was clear she was presented with a problem which was new to her experience.  Probably not many of her clients have a UK passport, and most of them are better organised than I am.

Zeenat examined both my documents and announced some relief for me when she pointed out that my South African passport, in fact, expired only in October 2020.    In my state of anxiety the night before, I had clearly not been thinking straight.   However, the UK passport had expired in July of this year, 2019.

Her first idea was that maybe I could get a Dutch Schengen Visa for my South African passport.   However, the enquiry revealed that as a British Citizen I do not qualify for a Dutch Visa.   That solution was out of the question.

The next phone call was made to the British Embassy.   I listened patiently whilst Zeenat made the first phone call.   A new passport for the UK takes six weeks.   “And, what about a temporary UK document?” Zeenat enquired.   The polite British lady asked her to hold on whilst she made enquiries.

How will this end?

During the wait for her response, my mind was working on what possibilities existed if she came back with a negative response.    My flight ticket would be jeopardised.   My grandson and his parents would be bitterly disappointed.   My carelessness could put a damper on a celebration which had been many months in the planning.   This irresponsible grandmother living in Cape Town would have her good standing in the family tainted.   Maybe many negative vibes would be introduced into our family relationships.

Zeenat’s face started to come alight.    Her telephonic advisor had returned with the relevant information.   I examined her expression and noticed a glimmer of a smile emerge on her face.   Yes, indeed things were looking positive.   It seems that a temporary passport may well be possible.

A Positive Response

And it was with some relief that Zeenat reported to me the details of her conversation.    There is an online form to be filled in for an application for a temporary UK travel document.   We accessed the document on the internet and as we worked through it, my agent filled in the details whilst I supplied the personal information.

The form was filled in online.   Now I needed to pay online.   Yes, I did have my credit card with me.   I did have my previous UK Passport as well.   We can fill in the appropriate number on the form.   All that now remained to be done was to make an appointment online to visit the Embassy and take along my passport photographs.

The online form that we had filled in was ready to be printed.   Payment had been made.   The appointment at the Embassy was in two days time.    All that remained was for me to have passport photos taken – they had to be photos taken within the past four weeks.

The Challenge has been Concluded

Between 7 pm on Monday evening, and 11 am on Tuesday morning I had traversed through a range of emotions.   I had woken that morning thinking I need to acquire two new passports in one week.   And now I was in the position of knowing I would have two suitable documents for my trip that was to take place in seven days.

It was with great relief that I went to the local confectioners to buy Zeenat her favourite Fabiola Tart, give her a hug, and return home with a much lighter feeling than I had when I left a couple of hours ago.

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