Waiting for Three Lions

Days pass without a passport (or, for that matter, visa).

I apply for an Emergency Travel Document on gov.uk. The website takes £100 and instructs me to present in Dakar. Dakar is in Senegal. I am in Cape Verde. This is international travel. I have no documents. I cannot leave.

I call Dakar. They’re super-helpful. They contact London and Accra to try and make this possible. Nonetheless, the document cannot be produced in time. I resolve to apply for a new passport. My man in Dakar kindly returns my £100 (the fee is for applying, not succeeding, after all).

I call work and try not to lose my job. A colleague calls me a ‘tit’ and a manager with twenty years’ experiences says ‘this is a new one’. Otherwise they’re rather nice about it.

I call my parents. Mum takes the news well. I think this is because I have been sensible enough to inform them only once I have a plan. My father suggests I’m incompetent. I am, a little, but now is not the time to tell me this.

Hours pass. I read in the hammock in the yard. There is little else I can do. In any case, the hammock, and the yard, are rather nice. I am at the luxury and inconvenient end of being without papers, rather than the destitute and fearful. It is important to keep this in mind in a world where people face far more serious and pressing issues.

I receive a message from Mum saying she’ll apply for an Emergency Travel Document on my behalf. I instantly panic as this will both delay my passport application and invalidate my passport if it is found. I call her and we argue. The fulcrum of the argument is her incredulity that I expect her to do nothing. But sometimes doing nothing and waiting is all that can be done.

I go for dinner with the Danish lady. I sleep. I wake to a message from Mum saying the document can be produced by the Portuguese Embassy in Cape Verde. I email my man in Dakar. He calls me back immediately saying he’s finding out. A UK Government employee in Portimao calls me. She’s super helpful too. I won’t make it out of here on my booked flight. But I will be home in time for work.

I book multiple island transfers and flights. I thank mum and we apologise to each other. The lady in Lisbon calls me back. She notes down my travel plans. She’ll call the Portuguese guy in Cape Verde. She emails a form to complete and return. This will declare my current passport lost.

I call work to say I’ll likely be there this week. They say they’ll pay my expenses today. In language that sounds more like that of an international drug cartel than a bureaucratic solution to a problem I thank my lady in Leeds for this money that I will use to pay my Senegalese man in Dakar, my British lady in Portimao or my Portuguese man in Cape Verde to get my papers to fly to Manchester.

I pour myself an 11am glass of wine. I’m pacing the terrace humming ‘Football’s Coming Home’ before I realise what I’m doing. I like neither Englishness nor Football but somehow the sentiment seems appropriate. I only briefly have time to burst into song – ‘three lions on the shirt…’ – before being interrupted by my phone ringing. It looks like I’m going home.


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