Help......? You're more of a hindrance.....! Civil.....? Servant.....? It's all a joke, but not too amusing....!
Some time back, I started an epic task - getting a new passport from the British Authorities, at Marseilles, France, the Consulate responsible for my Area.
Now, having been a Civil Servant myself, I know all about the mentality of said "Civil Servants" - They are generally neither "civil" nor "servants", but this time was a real goody, and I'd like to partage a few of the (up to date) events with you. This epic task is far from being finished, ie - I haven't yet got my new (and hopefully last) Passport, but I'll take the risk of arousing the wrath of those so "civil" servants of the British people, both at home and abroad.
Basically, it all started with a simple email, asking for the necessary details, like the application form, instructions prices, addresses to send the completed application to.
Some days later, I got a phone call from the Consulate in Marseilles, a youngish lady, who asked me what exactly I wanted. I asked her, in turn, whether she had read my email, to which I got the reply, "Well-no, not all of it!"
Now what use it is to receive an email, not to read it, but simply call the sender (happily I had anticipated certain problems and had put both my email address and my French Telephone Number in my email), is rather beyond me, but there we are.
I patiently explained my request, once again, things like to whom I should make out my cheque(s) - as stated on the instruction leaflet, only French Bank cheques would be accepted, but it didn't say to whom they must be made out.
Here all hell broke loose, and after various "excuse me - I must put you on hold for a moment", during which I could have sworn to hear the clink of tea cups and spoons, I finally realised that I was dealing with an application form and explication thereof which hadn't been updated since the year "......dot".
Finally it was determined that Cheques were decidedly a "no-no"! No Cheques, from any Bank, would be accepted since a short while ago for Consulate "services"! What I had to do now, was go to the French Post Office, buy "mandates" ( a sort of French equivalent of Postal Orders) made out in the name of the British Embassy, Paris! No - not Marseilles, but Paris!!
Mandates carry a handling charge, not negligible, so I found myself with an increase in charges, apart from the ALREADY increased Passport fees of 185euros!
Then, of course, there had to be a return, self-addressed envelope, franchised as a "Registered letter" - another 5.21euros!
Not to forget, naturally the postal costs of sending the whole kaboozle as a Registered letter - another 5.21euros!
Oh - I had forgotten to include the upwards of 5.00euros photograph fee to have the photos required, which - of course - are only available commercially in packs of 4 photos, although only 2 are required!
So - if you can do mental arithmetic (which I doubt the British Government agencies are capable of doing) you'll come up with a total sum of somewhere approaching 200euros!
This represents more than 25% of my monthly income!
Probably (as an act of vengeance for this article, or as a state of normality) the whole thing will be returned to me - "something missing/form filled in wrongly" etc.... etc.... and we can start again with the postal fees!
All very "civil" and doesn't smack at all of "servitude"!!
Anyway, we weren't finished by any means! The youngish lady (according to her voice anyway) then asked me (because I had already told her it was the case) if my Application Form and Photos had been countersigned by a UK Citizen. I confirmed this fact, and added that this had taken me considerable time and effort, since having left UK over 40 years ago, I had no personal friends (apart from the one who had countersigned) in UK.
"Oh!" came the answer,"Really we would prefer a French countersignature - don't you have anyone in France who could countersign?"
At this, I'm afraid that I became rather uptight! I had taken the time, the effort, the charges, to get these countersignatures from a British Citizen, and here (in these Terrorist troubled times) was a British Consulate member in France, telling me they/she would prefer a French Citizen!!
"There will be no French countersignature, I'm afraid," said I,"don't beleive for one moment that I'm off to get new photos and new forms for that!"
"OH - I suppose that should be alright, in this case", came the astonishing reply!
This recalled another email I had sent to the Embassy in Paris, as a sort of back-up, and the only reply I had become was from a "Vice-Consul" NOT replying to my questions, but with the very curt message - "Dear Mr. Mitchell - May I ask you how old you are?" I replied, in short terms, with some of my personal information
No further communication has been received, to this date, from this Vice-Consul, nothing of "civility" or politeness to be seen there either. I mentioned this to my Phone-in friend. and asked her how come he couldn't have given me the answer to my questions and then asked me my age, all in the same email? I also asked her where the politeness and "civil servitude" was to be found in the story.
I think the young lady was in need of more tea, because I was put on "hold" again, and on her return, there was no effort, on her part, to talk in an even moderately friendly tone. Just that normal "arrogant - seen & heard it all before", voice.
Well - just great - In my time, both as a Soldier of Her Majesty, and a Home & overseas Civil Servant, politeness was rather high in the order of pecking, and as a Civil Servant, I would have seen the door if I had conducted my business for Her Majesty in the same manner as those nowadays - or at least those who I have had the misfortune to deal with.
But then - I suppose modernity is above all, and the current "non-civil, non-servants" simply put people like myself in the closet as "stupid old b*********'s"(Frankly, in that case, I'm quite proud to be so!)
So the story will go on, and I have the full intention of keeping you informed about the progress and outcome!
Should any of you have similar horror stories with Banks/Internet/Administrations/Government/ or any one els, why not let me know about it? Revolutions can bring about changes, as all the one time Kings/Queens/Dictators (and their Civil Servants) could tell us - if they were still alive to do so!
(iwmpop) Mr le Marquis Ian Watson Mitchell email@example.com
(Photo rather old-20 years ago)