Back in the UK and it seems I have coincided with at least a few half days of sunshine it what seems to have been the most unimpressive stretch summer weather for many years. It is very strange to be back, it hardly feels like 4 months since I was last in Surrey and stranger still that in 48 hours time I will be in Sri Lanka.
On Wednesday evening I went up to the Globe with my parents to see a production of Othello, one of the few Shakespeare plays I’ve neither read nor seen performed and it was a fantastic production; Tim McInnerny as Iago and Eamonn Walker as Othello were really outstanding!
One of the reasons for having a few days in the UK other than the pleasure of catching up with family and friends and reading the final Harry Potter book…was to go to the Indian embassy in London and get a six month visa for my trip there in October as I’ll be in Sri Lanka and Nepal beforehand!
6.00am – wake up
7.30am – have a lovely breakfast with my friend Alex in Covent Garden.
8.20am – arrive at India house to join the huge pre opening queue for Visa applications
8.40am - get into the waiting area with my ticket09.50am – get called to the counter and hand over my completed form, money, passport and photos
9.51am – am told I need to go to the side door as there is a problem with my form10.20am – the man at the door returns the form telling me I cannot have a visa. When I asked why, slightly incredulously he said they needed to see letters of employment, I asked why as I needed a tourist visa not a business one and explained I am not working but travelling for a year. He then said I needed to show them letters from my job seekers office to say which benefits I was claiming. I explained I wasn’t because I’m not unemploed but on sabbatical. Eventually he said I needed to get bank statements, utility bills and letters from my prev employers before I would be issued a visa.
10.40am – frantic phone calls to Mum to get her to search through my files, the reception guys at the onealdwych hotel kindly offer me use of their fax machine.
11.20am - documents are faxed through and I run back to the embassy.
12.00pm – I am told I can have a visa but only for 3 months which as I explain is no use because I’m not arriving into India for another 2 months as they start from date of issue. Irritated the guy tells me I will have to try and get one in Nepal or come back to the UK in september and refuses to tell me why I can’t get a tourist visa for 6 months.
Charming! It turns out after a few converstaions with visa companies in an effort to see if I could get an agency to apply for me, the fact my mother was born in Nigeria may have had something to do with their reluctance to issue me a 6 month visa and why I had to get the other documents. Indeed they have put a mark by her name on the visa applaicaiton where I had to state my parents place of birth and nationality. So I will have to try in Nepal. I couldn’t help noticing that among all the people waitng with issues on their applications, the only other three people there with British passports and no apparent conflict were all black. It’s funny but in nearly 27 years I have never felt victimised because of my race or mixed origins until this week in the Indian embassy.
Well several beers with my mate Mark and then wine with all my friends who popped in to see me in Putney that evening soon calmed me down. It has been really nice to see people, if only briefly, although I think thanks in part to facebook it’s been brilliant to keep up to date with everyone I know, see photos, here the gossip so I felt less far away from them all as I might have done whilst travelling. I got to indulge in one of the nicest things about coming home which was retelling all the stories, showing the photos etc. Also it is nice to realise that some of my friends are reading my blog and it’s not just my Mum and Dad!
So having blitzed through Boots and Primark to restock myself with clothes and toiletries and wet wipes for the next 9 months of my trip I busiest my self with the far more pressing task of reading the final Harry Potter book which ,although I was secretly afraid of being disappointed by, I thoroughly enjoyed. It may not be the greatest work of literary fiction but after having become so at home with JK Rowling’s world of quidditch, dark magic, hogwarts, history, gobblins, house elfs, politics and conflicts it was wonderful to disengage from reality and have all the intrigue and suspense built up in the previous six books finally brought to a satisfyingly meaty conclusion. Now if only I get that confusion charm to work on the Indian embassy….