Thursday, 5 May 2011

"Err...there's a problem with your passport sir"

A few weeks ago my brother was listening to Ken Bruce on radio 2 when he heard him ask the listeners to email the show with any stories they had about passports.  He promptly emailed a story about something I had done many years ago. Ken obviously found the story funny because he read it out on his show, to great guffaws.
When I was a student I spent a few weeks of my summer holiday one year staying with my friend Mike in Kent.  One morning we received a post card from two of our other friends who were travelling around Europe in a VW van.  Not a camper van mind you, this was simply an old VW van.
It was the early nineties, so pre-mobile phones. This meant a post card was the only way they could communicate with us to let us know how they were.  From the sound of the post card they were having a great time, whilst we were stuck in boring old England.  At the end of the card it said ‘tomorrow we’re catching a ferry from Italy, so by the time you get this card we’ll be in Corfu’.
Feeling spontaneous I suggested that we fly out to Corfu immediately and surprise them, how cool would that be? We didn’t know where they were staying of course because they were in a van and hence ‘of no fixed abode’ we also couldn't let them know we were arriving but we thought ‘how hard can it be to find them, Corfu is surely only the size of Worthing with a few donkeys wandering around isn’t it?’  We immediately booked ourselves on the next available flight, which was set to leave in three days time.
After booking the flights, I realised there was a flaw in our plan.  I didn’t have my passport with me; it was at home, so I phoned my brother and asked him to send it to me in the post. Luckily it arrived the very next day. I put it to one side never thinking to open it and have a look.   
To say we travelled light was something of an understatement.  We had no hotel booked, we had no campsite booked, we didn’t have a map nor did we have a tent but hey, who dares wins, right?  In fact we had little more than hand luggage. 
On the morning of the flight we got up ridiculously early and arrived at the check in desk at Gatwick by 6.30am.  We went over to the passport control and I was first in line to show my passport.  However I wasn’t prepared for the reaction of the passport control woman.  She took my passport, opened it at the photo page and immediately burst out laughing.  This wasn’t just a snigger you understand, it was a proper throw your head back belly laugh.  What the hell was she laughing at? I know passport photos don’t exactly make you look your best but I didn’t think mine was that bad.
Wiping away her streaming tears the passport woman said “in all my years working here, I’ve never seen anything like that before, that’s brilliant” and handed me back my passport. I immediately looked to see what was so funny. 
Before sending my passport to me my brother had cut out a magazine photo of Sammy Davis Junior and stuck it over my photo. It fitted perfectly; his face and beaming smile, on top of my shoulders.  
Incredibly I travelled to Corfu and back to England using this passport photo, every time the passport controller roared with laughter.  Not one of them checked to see if it was actually me underneath the Sammy Davis Junior photo.       

PS Even more amazing was that we bumped into our friends the next day walking along the road - the look on their faces was priceless!


  1. aahhh the good old days where trust was involved, eh? That's made ME laugh today to - ta for that!!

  2. lol I came here via Nickie (above) tweeting your link. Glad I did - it's the best laugh I've had today ;)

  3. thanks for reading, glad you liked it