Not long after I moved from London to Norfolk, my passport expired. Years ago, I would have renewed it immediately, without giving that a second thought.
When I got my first passport, in the 1960s, it made me feel very grown up. UK passports used to be blue, with a hard cover. They felt like a very official small book, and the old-fashioned words inside imbued the small document with a sense of history. Even the cover was impressive, and though I was unhappy with the photo of myself, I didn’t mind. After all, who likes their passport photo?
(Not my actual passport, obviously)
Once I started to use it to travel abroad, I was excited to see the stamps placed inside it by foreign customs and immigration officers. Dates and places, foreign languages inside the oblongs or squares. They were often stamped carelessly, with no attempt to center the mark on the page, or to follow on from previous stamps by using the same page at the back. For me, that all added to the mystery of travelling abroad.
As I ventured further afield, I got new stamps and visas. These were often distinctive and quite lavish, as in the case of my trip to China. I was also disappointed to discover that some countries only stamped in the accompanying visa, (like the DDR) so I returned home with no visible evidence of my trip. When the first passport expired, I applied to have it returned to me with the new one. They would cut the corner off to invalidate it, but I still had the opportunity to look back on my old stamps with fond nostalgia, and to smile at a photo of me taken ten years earlier.
I last used a passport to travel to Prague, in 2011. Since then, I have not ventured outside of the UK. One reason was that we got Ollie in 2012, and didn’t want to leave him in kennels so that we could go abroad on holiday. There was also the expense. On a retirement income for me, and lower salary for Julie, it seemed unlikely that we would ever have the money to explore places we hadn’t already seen, short of an unexpected inheritance, or lottery win. Even if money became available for some reason, that still left the problem of what to do with our much-loved and loyal pet dog.
Almost seven years later, and I have settled into the idea that future trips abroad are unlikely. If they ever do happen, they will probably be no more than a weekend city break, so Ollie can be accommodated with friends or neighbours. My passport has still not been renewed, and sits in its ‘safe place’ in a drawer. I don’t even need it as an I.D. document any more, as my driving licence or bank card is acceptable almost anywhere.
Almost fifty years after I received my first passport with excitement and expectation, I am now wondering if I will ever need one again.