Greetings from Witney, Oxfordshire, at the beginning of a 3 week leave period here. So up at 1am. on Friday morning - 11pm Thursday evening in the UK - to go to Dar es Salaam airport, intermediate stop Istanbul and then on to Heathrow, finally arrving in Witney at about 8pm. All travelling very smooth if somewhat exhausting, bags joined me without a problem. Very good to be back for a bit time out, everything carefully left to minimise problems back at the office in my absence - I hope!
So, first stop on Monday is the passport office. Not because the current one is out of date, it has nearly 5 years still to run. No, the problem is that the travelling I do means that I am running out of visa space. And because I need the renewal done quickly I need to visit the passport office in London. With the old passport, 2 passport sized photographs and the form duly filled in.
So, task for Saturday morning is to get the photos sorted out. No problem, I discover that there's a photo booth at the local Sainsbury's. Which is fine except for one thing - when I get there the booth is out of order, call this number to find out where the nearest replacements are. So I call the number to get an automated message, "We are now charging you at an exorbitant rate and padding out this message as much as we can in order to take advantage of our incompetence in not running a reliable service." Actually, this may not be an exact quotation but it was something along those lines. Finally get to a human voice who tells me that the other booths in Witney are in the Coop on the high street and in Marriotte's Walk. Which shop on Marriotte's Walk, asks I? Don't know, it just says Marriotte's Walk here.
So, set out to the Coop on the high street, look all the way round, no sign of a photo booth there. On to Marriotte's Walk, no sign there either. Do a little bit of shopping at Marks and Spencer's - ah, the bliss of an M&S in Witney! - and ask the shop assistant where the nearby photo booth is. Response: go out through the food hall and it's on the right. So, I got out through the food hall, look to the right - and no photo booth.
Somewhat frustrated by this time, I go to plan B (C? D?) and instead go to the local branch of Timson's where a real person takes the photograph and the pictures come flying out of the machine a few seconds later. Bit more expensive than the booth but I can check that everything's in order before paying. OK, checklist for the photo - don't suck a dummy, no head scarf or hat in the way, no hair in the way of the face, all those OK (Hair in the way of my face? Chance would be a fine thing!). Look straight into the camera and no smiling, that's OK as well, even if the result is a bit gruesome. So, finally, after a good bit more time than i was expecting, mission accomplished, I have the photos I need for Mondays' visit to the passport office.
Actually, quite glad I went through all of that. It's very easy in Africa when contending with various issues - like buying drinking water, for example, have to match the brand of the container being returned for the new container and shops often don't have a complete set of brands - to think that life is one endless hassle, whilst everything back in the mother country super easy straightforward. So good to be reminded that things do not always go smoothly here either, not everything always works out. Which may sound a bit obvious but memory is a strange and malleable thing, and to quote a cliche - it can always seem as if the grass is greener on the other side, when actually that is not necessarily true at all.
So, looking forward to a visit to London tomorrow and then the rest of the time pure leave which will be nice. And watching programmes through BBC iplayer on my Smartphone a great luxury, picture surprisingly good! Look forward to writing more about leave soon, meanwhile, thank you for reading, I'll be back soon.