I’m a Kiwi and proud of it. My formative years were filled with summer Christmases, batches, the beach, sand dunes, opossums, Southerlies, houses without central heating and packed lunches.
My, slightly, less formative years with Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, The Eagles, uni flats, motorbikes and other bits and bobs best not mentioned here.
I joined IBM. I bought a house with my boyfriend. We sold the house and moved to London. I got a good job. He got a good job.
He had dual citizenship. I did not. But one beneficent grandfather (thanks, Dick) allowed me to gain residency in Blighty where I have remained, for the most part, through the last mumble, mumble aeons.
I love London. When I arrived in Maggie’s England I felt I’d come home. I guess in a way I had, ish, with relatives aplenty hailing from the Welsh boarders, Manchester and, pushing it a little, Eire. Lots of them. Remember the potato famine.
But really I felt at home because I could buy Vogue before the month printed on its cover rather than three months later. Then, oh yes, there is a god, I could go buy the clothes, accessories and other fripperies displayed within its covers. It was London but I thought of it as my little piece of Heaven.
I became a permanent resident and voted here. Renewing my New Zealand passport I got another permanent resident stamp popped onto Page One.
And again in the subsequent passport.
At one point I did attempt to get a British Passport, filled out numerous forms, sat in Petty France with my numbered ticket for numerous hours, only to be told “You’re not going to like this….”
“Oh,” I smile my most winning sale closing smile. “Is there a problem?” I’m shaking my head as I ask hoping that my keen attitude will overcome all obstacles.
But no. Whatever I’d done/hadn’t done there was going to be no British passport for the future Mrs Carmichael that day.
I went home and forgot all about it for the next decade or so.
I split up with my boyfriend. And met Mr C. Not quite in that order.
Truth be told it was quite nice to have thousands of stamps in my NZ passport, visas (entry and exit) and not so nice (but quite exciting) to endure a couple of close shaves that included:
1) A Midnight Express type experience in Tahiti (just after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior) where my good friend, Gracie was allowed entry while I was hauled off to a bare room with a flicking strip light, a whirling ceiling fan and a mean Frenchman who confiscated my passport.
2) A wee day trip from our hotel on the Costa del Sol to Gibraltar resulted in my having to fly home from there because my Spanish visa was single entry only.
3) A New Year’s Eve wasted in the French Legation awaiting a visa renewal (they still hadn’t got over the Rainbow Warrior) so I could drive one inch through France to my Swiss skiing holiday.
4) Not being allowed to arrive on these hallowed shores before Mr C after a three year absence and having to tell a white lie to get in (advice given by the Home Office).
I could go on but really it’s been fine.
Now it’s all getting rather silly.
In order then, this is what has happened over the last few months.
Thinking we’d done so well as a nation with the Olympics I actively wanted to gird my loins and try once more to gain a British Passport I girded my loins and tried.
But I cannot get a British Passport now without paying £800 odd to get citizenship for which I must study. Apparently the test’s quite hard.
I flagged it and bought a Kate Spade handbag instead.
I renewed my New Zealand passport. The new one looks nice – all black with a silver fern. The renewal price was a tad on the high side -£90ish.
And it’s only for five years! Which, of course, means four and a half because most countries demand a six month validity on entry.
I had a wonderful trip to the Antipodes earlier in the year and because my passport was so hot off the press I took the old one just to be on the safe side.
Coming back into Heathrow I had cause to wish the guy in Melbourne had stamped me out because it seemed as if I’d had a bit part in The Terminal and never left airside Terminal Four.
But, once I explained that New Zealand doesn’t stamp my passport, I fast tracked Australia by glaring into a camera etc etc it was all good, I got my entry stamp and went home.
Then I went on the Costa Brava mini break of which so much has been documented and on arrival back at Luton my troubles began.
“When are you leaving the UK?” I was asked.
“I’m not. I live here. I’m a resident.”
” You don’t have a resident’s stamp. Have you got your old passport?”
“No. I wasn’t asked for it last time I came in so I didn’t bring it this time.” Winning smile.
“Hmmm, I’m new. I’ll have to ask someone to help me. I don’t think you have any right of entry.”
Really????? This, I could tell, was going to take some time.
Help arrives. For him, not me.
“Why have you got a visitor’s stamp in your passport?”
“Yes you have,” That was louder. “Which means we can’t let you in unless you have your old passport or a letter of entry.” That was spoken slowly and very loud.
“Please don’t shout at me. I didn’t put that stamp in my passport. If I’d been asked anything I would have explained, showed my old passport and got the stamp renewed.”
“No you wouldn’t. Border Control doesn’t issue leave of entry stamps anymore. The Home Office does. They cost £350.” (I’m rounding).
“What are we going to do about this then?” I ask. It’s a great sales tactic – bring them into your problem. Sometimes it even works.
“Sit over there, please.”
I was directed to the naughty seat. Where I sat for quite some time. I ignored the image of a cell phone with a cross through it and phoned Daughter #2 who was outside waiting for me. She was less than amused.
I text Mr Carmichael, still in Barcelona, to share my inconvenience.
I sat a while longer and finally I, wife of twenty five years to a Brit, mother of British daughters, homeowner, tax payer, voter, was stamped in for six months.
I was in and that has to count as a good thing.
So, I now have the choice of studying, sitting a test, paying £800 for citizenship and then another £70 for the passport.
paying £350 for that tiny little stamp up above which I will have to pay another £350 in four and a half years because of NZ’s Lilliputian durated passports.
carrying two passports for the foreseeable.
Obviously I chose route three and packed both for my recent sojourn to Mallorca.
It’s all good I think as I walk up the Luton’s Border Control. I was the first in line. That is unheard of you have to understand. There was a time when Gracie got home before I cleared immigration.
“This is my kinda’ queue,” I say in a pathetic attempt to make friends.
The next minute I was back on the naughty seat.
Apparently, because I was given a fixed six month’s entry that limited, clock ticking stamp overrides the residency one in my old passport. FFS.
“What are we going to do about this?” I ask through gritted teeth.
She’s handwritten something that she says may keep me off the naughty step and given me the biggest rubber band to strap around my passports.
I guess life’s supposed to be an adventure. I just don’t want all of mine to be in UK airport queues.
I’m off to America on Sunday and packing two passports, a handwritten note, rubber bands (plural) and my winning smile.
Wish me luck. I think I might need it.
If you can bear any more of this: