Saturday, 12 February 2011

How I got my first Passport

This is autobiography.

My first application for a passport was refused. That was in 1964. I was 16, about to take my A levels. Afterwards, I had got myself a job for the summer, working in a Swedish hotel - the Hotel Siljansborg, Rättvik. It would be my first time abroad, apart from a day trip to Boulogne at the age of 11, done on a valid-for-one-day- only disposable passport (yes, such things existed).

I needed consent from both my parents. My father, from whom I was estranged, declined consent and my passport application was refused.

I went to see my mother's solicitor in Dartford, Mr Hewitt. He knew all about my father's antics: my mother had obtained a separation in 1961 on grounds of mental cruelty and neglect to maintain. Subsequently, my father still neglected to maintain either my mother or me.

The solicitor, three piece suit and upright bearing, picked up the phone after listening to me and dialled the Foreign Office. When the phone was answered, he stood up. He got to speak to someone - he had their letter to me in front of him - berated the person at the other end, threatened to write to the Under Secretary of State, pointed out that my father by failing to provide maintenance for me had effectively disowned me anyway - and after a couple of minutes, put down the phone. "I think that's done it", he said, smiling, "Come back if it hasn't".

He charged me a couple of guineas.

I don't think it would be that easy nowadays. Probably, also, I was lucky to engage the sympathy of a good solicitor and a bit of a showman.

I write this now because in a forthcoming Blog I want to be more sceptical about solicitors.

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