Rant 1 (New Zealand): Ken is trying to get New Zealand citizenship and passports for the boys, and for this we have to provide not only a startling amount of money but also passport photographs. The UK passport office slightly relaxes the requirements in the case of very young children. The New Zealand one doesn’t, and has rejected our picture of Hugh (taken by the chap in the photo shop) because it’s slightly blurry (fair enough), too dark (looks fine to me) and has a background which they contend is not a perfectly even blank (come on, now – it’s a sheet of white paper). So we now have to get another picture in which a two-year-old stands perfectly still against a white background and looks straight ahead with eyes open, mouth closed and a neutral expression. Guess what? It ain’t happening. Both Ken and Hugh become increasingly hysterical with every attempt. For my part I am perfecting my fatalistic shrug, but this doesn’t go down too well with Ken, who had to send off his driving license as part of the application and needs it back. He rang up the NZ Dept of Internal Affairs and a bass-voiced female confirmed that, yes, we have to jump through every hoop and they’re not giving an inch.
The New Zealand way: the rules will not be bent, however stupid. We don’t let just anyone into this country.
Rant no. 2 (Ireland): a week or two ago we got the letter telling us to book Hugh a flu shot, and now we’ve had another summoning us, as Frank is too young to have the shot so they want to immunize his family. The first letter told us to book an appointment at Cabinteely Health Centre, either by ringing the special number or by using the swineflu website. I wasted a couple of days intermittently ringing the number, which is always either engaged or allowed to ring out, and then we settled for an appointment in Christmas week, which is the first available through the website. On getting the second letter, I tried ringing the helpline and once more couldn’t get through. Then I rang Cabinteely and asked if we could get our shots at the same time as Hugh. No, I was told: the clinic is for under sixes only. The letter in fact doesn’t tell us where to get our shots, but the address at the top is – guess where? – Cabinteely.
The Irish way: the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing but they are united in refusing to communicate with the feet.
Grrr. But it’s snowing today, which is quite nice, isn’t it?