Regular readers will be aware that this year my passport had to be renewed, and like most things associated with South Africa it can be one heck of a mission. Theoretically I was going to do it in February, but as things turned out floods ruined my plans. I then rescheduled my trip for March, but on the day before I was due to leave London, the UK went into lockdown and the embassy was closed “until further notice”
The document expired in June, and it can take anything up to 9 months to get a replacement. Not to mention the mass of documentation that is required, as well as 4 days leave to try to get it done. Its like going on an unpleasant roadtrip except you end up standing in a queue. Last week I saw a message that the Home Affairs Dept at the embassy was now open for appointments and I dashed off an email which was promptly responded to on Monday. The only problem was that the appointment was for tomorrow (Thursday 20th) at 10am.
I live in a “dorpie”, there is no direct train to London and you have to go to Cheltenham to get your London bound train.
The first bus leaves here around 6.30 and by the time you get to Cheltenham Spa Station the train that would have gotten you to London Paddington on time would have left already. It takes 2+ hours to get to Paddington and anything up to an hour to get to Embankment Tube Station. I have no idea how often the tube is running at the moment so a taxi may have been an alternative (and expensive) way to get there. My other option was to travel to London on Wednesday (today) , stay overnight in a hotel and come back after the appointment. It was do-able BUT…….
I first went to check for a room at the Easyhotel, only to find that there was no space at the Paddington hotel I had stayed at in 2016. I then checked their Victoria branch and there was space available so I chose my room, filled in the dates and when I went to pay the payment part of the website went down. I have been suffering very poor internet speeds lately so it may have been related to that so I changed over to my mobile broadband and the same thing happened. I was unable to reach the hotel as it was already early evening so I left a message for them detailing my woes.
I then logged onto the Great Western Railway website and selected my train and dates and when I got to the payment section it too fell over. I tried a second time with the same result. Not only did I not have anywhere to stay I had no way of getting to the place where I was not staying! I was devastated. It really felt like the bottom had fallen out of my already precarious world. There was no way I was going to be able to make that appointment so I emailed the appointments address again and asked for a new appointment, preferably next week.
On the next day (Tuesday 18th) I took half days leave so that I could be at home if a favourable reply was sent to my request. By 15H00 I was panicking. If I did not get a reply should I go to London? or should I stay at home and retry for an appointment a bit later. There is no information available on how these things are done either and what alternative options there may be. The website for South Africa House has been down for almost a month so there is no information from that source. It is also possible to do a postal application but that required “rolled” fingerprints which could only be done at a police station and very few private companies. I had contacted the Gloucestershire police office that handled fingerprints but they too were closed because of the pandemic.
By 15H10 a reply had come through that my appointment was rescheduled for next week Wednesday and I retried a hotel and train booking but using a different hotel and train operator and by 15H45 I had confirmed train and hotel reservations. Voila! Light at the end of the tunnel (even though the tunnel was bricked closed).
Of course I will be a realist and say that I am not quite out of the woods yet. I hope that my paperwork is all correct and that the trains are on time and and and….. I will only be able to break out the bubbly once I am back home on Wednesday afternoon. Which means I will continue this post when I get back. As they say in the classics “deuxième partie” will be continued next week.
My preparations are more or less complete but the weather for Tuesday does not look good at all with heavy rains and strong winds forecast. I have quite a lot of walking to do on Tuesday morning so this is not good news.
And we’re off! Gathering my goodies I bravely ventured forth into a strong wind and a light drizzle. What lies before me? You will have to turn the page to find out I am afraid. I will however admit that by the time I got to Cheltenham the wind was blowing very strongly but fortunately it was not raining. I caught the 10H58 train for London and was soon on my way. The train was not too full and most people were masked although the smart alec who climbed on at Gloucester did not bother and that was probably because he was on his cellphone for most of the trip and we could hear every word of his convo.
And then I arrived. London was calling. Turn the page to read all about it.
DRW 2020. Created 19/08/2020. Updated 26/08/2020.