The UK Passport Office

Now I know what you’re thinking (actually I don’t, psychic ability has never been proven), what has the UK Passport Office got to do with voice over? Good question, and the answer is absolutely nothing. It’s just that this blog is designed not only to showcase my voiceover skills to the world, but also to give people an insight into who I am as an individual. And every once in a while, that affords me the opportunity to enjoy a bloody good moan.

First, some context. The family are off on holiday in a few weeks’ time and we discovered that Felix’s (my son, for all you newcomers) passport had expired. At that point we were a little under seven weeks away from travelling, so there was no need to panic.

I logged on to the official UK Passport website and found that I could fill out the application on line. The completed form would then be posted to me, at which point I could attach the photographs, get everything signed and then send it off. Everything seemed fine and the website gave me a reference number and told me to expect the form within 5-7 days.

5 days came and went. As did 6, followed, almost as if there were a system in place, by 7 and, you guessed it – no form. I called the Passport Office and their lovely automated telephone system told me that I needed to allow 3 weeks for a new passport. As we were 5 weeks away I saw no need to panic, but I spoke to a real person just to be sure and they told me pretty much the same thing.

This went on for a week and the form still had not arrived. I called again and spoke with a supervisor who told me that the average processing time was now 4 weeks and even that was not guaranteed so it would be a good idea to book an appointment, go down there and arrange for their one week fast track service.

Brilliant! This would not only be more expensive, but would also mean the best part of a day off work. However, I had no choice but to go, and that place is weird. No seriously, it’s weird.

First you have to go through a typical airport security gate – so it’s belt off, jacket in the basket, letter from the doctor about the metal plate in your head (I don’t have one, but I imagine that would be required), bags in the X ray, all that crap. Then I go up to a desk where a woman asks for my postcode. As I am telling it to her I’m putting my bag on the counter so that I can put my belt back on and she interrupts me with, “Can you stop all that please,” in a very commanding voice. I wasn’t going to point out that all I was doing was actually answering the question she had put to me because I figured she was about to give me my appointment slot and if I pissed her off then she would press that secret button to give me an extra long wait.

Up I go to be surrounded by hoards of miserable looking people and after a 45 minute wait on a metal chair that put my bum to sleep I was called up. First thing she asks me is what am I there for. Now hang on one second, I have gone through a multitude of stages to even get this appointment, including verifying my details at the front desk but when I get there, it turns out that all of that was utterly pointless – she has no idea who I am or what I want.

I tell her I am there to renew a passport for my son, at which point she asks me where he is today. “At school,” I reply, and her question really annoyed me, because I had made a point of confirming that he did not need to be with me – which he didn’t, so why bother asking in the first place?

And that’s when it all occurred to me. The reason this place has hoards of miserable people waiting endlessly for their turn is because the staff there fill their days with pointless questions and small talk. None of us want to be there, so why prolong the agony? Ask me what you need to get the job done and then let me go – it’s not rude, it’s efficient.

And it gets better. I then pointed out that I had filled out all of the forms on line and yet nothing had come through and that I would like to know what happened. She said she didn’t know but that I was welcome to complain…wait for it….in writing! Well what’s the bloody point in that? It’s clear that written communication doesn’t work around there, so why bother? How about I write a detailed 20 page letter, print it out in triplicate and then set light to the whole frickin thing? Surely it would be just as effective!

Now I appreciate that it may be risky writing this – Felix’s passport is not due to arrive with me until Wednesday of next week, and that’s assuming that the people in charge didn’t all stop what they were doing to grab a coffee and spend an hour discussing the best cat video on YouTube.

Surely we deserve better than this? Rant over – I’m going to go and record an impersonation of a parrot. It’s not for work, it just soothes my nerves.