Monday, 17 January 2011

Occupational Therapy...

I had cause to use my passport today. I wasn’t going anywhere. I just needed photographic evidence of proof of identity and, as I still have an old style driving licence, my passport is it.

The first time I travelled abroad, to Switzerland as a schoolboy, I travelled on a temporary British visitor’s passport bought for a few shillings from our local post office. I’ve had several passports since then and you can’t get temporary passports any longer (they were stopped in 1995). I’m not greatly travelled, but I’ve been to some places a lot of times, and a few others once or twice.

My most recent passport is three years old and only has two entries, a stamp admitting me into Philadelphia, and another to Hyderabad in India. How I’ve slowed down. At one time, only a few years ago, those visits were almost monthly events, weekly on occasion.

My passport photograph shows a somewhat dazed, washed out, puffy faced chap in a blue shirt with slightly windswept grey hair. It isn’t the me that I know, but it is a version of me and everybody that knows me would recognise me from it.

Interestingly when I turned to the details page - the page where my age, and sex, and place of birth are declared, the page that officially declares me a British Citizen and makes me even more official by giving me a number and displaying a facsimile of my signature at less than half size, not everything I expected to find was there.

I expected to find a statement of occupation. I don’t know why I expected to find it, other than I’m sure that it used to be there in my other passports, but it isn’t there in this one and (to my real surprise) nor is it in the one before (I checked). Apparently it hasn’t been required since 1984.

Isn’t it funny how you can be so sure of a thing only to find that it isn’t so at all?

I could go on, but let’s stick to passports and the non-requirement to state your occupation any longer and how it’s probably just as well given the state of my occupation currently.

It’s a pity really because on my next passport I was toying with the idea of declaring myself a ‘writer’ or ‘painter’ rather than the ‘Operations Manager’ I erroneously believed my passport has labelled me for the last thirty years or so.

Well, why not? I wonder if Van Gogh had ‘Occupation - Painter’ on his passport given that he only ever sold a single painting, and I wonder if Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee put down ‘Writer’ as their occupation.

What allows you to claim that something is your occupation anyway? Is it the doing of it once, continually, or is it as simple as making money at it? What gives you the right to put your occupation down as clown, or private investigator, or visionary, or poet, or archaeologist?

I wonder what I’ll be putting in the now-non-existent ‘occupation’ box on my passport in a few years time.

I really wonder.


  1. Tricia Kitt commented on Facebook:

    how do you still have an old-styledriver's licence? I keep getting reminders that if I don't update my photo I can be fined a gazillion pounds - I'll just send them another photo of Liz Hurley and pay my £20....

  2. I had a temporary passport. Dr Beer signed it and we had to go to Oxford to get it approved.