The Easter weekend slipped past without any major issues. No running injuries, no DIY accidents and no blazing family rows. We were on the home straight; Monday afternoon. A couple of friends had shared lunch with us and we had moved in on the sofas to enjoy another glass of wine and laze the afternoon away. My pie-eating Labrador farted and twitched on the rug dreaming of younger days and rabbit-chasing while we chatted and laughed. Son no. 2, who was leaving for a jolly in Europe with his girlfriend early the next day, busily assembled paperwork and bags at the front door and asked about time zones and Euro exchange rates.
Then he discovered his passport had expired two weeks ago.
Little can describe the change in atmosphere that ensued. The warmth of the spring sunshine was evacuated in a moment. As he read and re-read the expiry date, first the air chilled in frozen disbelief then jaws descended and horror masks appeared around the room one by one as we absorbed the implications.
The sky cracked; “FUUUUUUUUCK!” as his inner peace left him like a blow-out in the fast lane and the excitement he had orchestrated around three days without parents in Amsterdam melted faster than a snowball on a hot-plate.
Slurred by an excess of particularly fine Gavi and a sturdy lunch with good friends, I knew that any attempt at standing up let alone serious research would take a Herculean effort. Stabbing fitfully at the keyboard, I Googled Heathrow, KLM and The Passport Office simultaneously across three parallel universes. Scrawling telephone numbers, I called them all; each slurring exchange referring me to the next and then looping back to the first. I got nowhere and even if I had, I’d have forgotten why I was calling and lost the will to live.
Convincing an Immigration clerk or an international airline to allow a teenager into Amsterdam with an expired passport is, well, ambitious. And getting a fresh passport on a bank holiday, whilst better for a few bottles if Italy’s finest export, was a bridge too far.
The Hotel wouldn’t cancel at short notice and the airline wanted a postponement fee and couldn’t guarantee the same rates for a new flight at short notice. The Passport office could do a 1-day turnaround but wanted a premium service fee and couldn’t give a slot till the following Thursday. By the week after that the girlfriend was away with her parents and thence back to college.
We lost an afternoon in a flurry of Googling and panicking and a few quid disappeared along the way but the teenagers will survive. I did, you did so they have to.