Taking Stock with Rob Stocks - June 20, 2011

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If I could name one thing I’m terrified of losing, without doubt I’d say it’s my passport.

Aside from the obvious identity theft issues, it’s an item I’d struggle to do without, what with my passion for travel and in-laws living in France.

When I’m on the road, it never leaves my person – living in an inside pocket or, in particularly hairy spots, a money belt.

This goes some way to explaining why, these days, it’s in such a tatty state – having been bumped around half of Europe, a good chunk of South East Asia and South Africa, as well as the Big Apple. I can never understand these folks, a popular feature on airport documentary shows, who manage to turn up at check-in without their passports.

I’d be more likely to turn up without my suitcase – having spent much of the journey from home to the airport checking my pockets for passport, tickets and wallet.

What else do you really need?

Clothes can be washed, or bought but without your passport you’re, quite literally, grounded.

Of course, this ticket to the world doesn’t come cheap and these days everyone in the family has to travel on their own.

We’re just preparing to get the twins sorted ahead of a summer trip to see grandma – at £49 a pop, the passports work out far more expensive than the airline tickets to Paris.

This seems a little odd to me.

In the olden days, a little one couldn’t make it out of the country without mum and dad, on whose passports their names were listed.

It’s not even as if the passports are particularly useful.

Get one at the age of six months and it’s yours until you’re five – complete with baby picture, a trauma in itself.

We all know how strict the passport picture rules are.

There’s that incredible sheet which comes with the form explaining just what is acceptable (make sure we can see your head, make sure we can’t see anybody else’s, no profile picture and silhouettes are most definitely out of the question.)

Try then getting the perfect shot of someone who can hardly sit up, never mind sit still for any extended period.

When everything’s filled in, it’s time to head down to the post office where (for an extra charge) the chap behind the counter will pore over your form before telling you somebody’s signed the back of your pictures in blue ink not black – a serious passport no-no.

It’s all a bit of a hassle and, without doubt, another good reason to keep my passport close to my chest, wherever in the world I may be.