The scene upon first entering Trafalgar Square this morning was a little bit like an episode from Dr.Who, everyone was milling about in a thoroughly normal manner except for the presence of the strange robots in their midst...one could far too easily imagine Billie and Tennant strolling right up to Theo as he adjusted one of his Strandbeests before it went for its first stroll of the morning. Rather wonderfully no-one seemed to be asking what they were for. The artist and his team were keen to answer questions but no-one seemed to need this one answering. The Strandbeest were clearly far too magical to require such an enquiry, people wondered about the hydraulics and excitedly sent video clips to friends whilst trying to describe what was going on. In this way it reminded me a bit of the Sultan's Elephant. Not as grand a spectacle but still very magical in its own way.
The pictures here cannot do them justice as it is when the Beest move that one really feels the magic. Apparently Theo's plan is ultimately to release them into the wild and just see how they get on. In the meantime they leave Trafalgar Square tonight for St.James's Park where they'll be until Sunday. Go see them if you can.
This is what actually lead me to it being insect week. Or, specifically, this, the larval stage. Do you remember me mentioning the influx of alien Harlequin Ladybirds last year? Well, this week I found what I thought were the larval and pupal stages in the garden. After checking back to the Harlequin recording site and sending them a picture or two I had my suspicions confirmed. This morning the pupa hatched and out trundled the fully grown adult.
Greenfly view of approaching Harlequin here.
Bloody hell! We're half-way through National Insect Week and nobody told me. Just because it's always insect week round here doesn't mean I don't need to know. Here's a Large Red Damselfly sitting on the water lilly that had just flowered in our allotment pond yesterday. Though they're called "Large" Red Damselflies they're still only just over an inch long... so not even as big as they appear on screen. This one seemed particularly obsessed with the flower... I'd say it was laying eggs except it's a male. Maybe some gender issue thing going on?
I started this blog with Mrs .Overall nearly four years ago. So always nice to have her visit in one way or another, is it not?
One of the problems of even a short time is how one gets institutionalised. Everything runs (more or less) to a set timetable. Thus it has been that, without fail, every morning just before ten as Zee and I have been sitting there chatting and waiting for the tea trolley to come round, the cleaner has come in to do her bit. It doesn't matter what is going on, she has to wipe all the surfaces, empty the bin and then drag her 'enry 'oover around. I'm sure she's still be doing it if there was an emergency resuscitation going on.... she'd just henry round the crash team. It does remind me, however, as she plugs in her vacuum, of the old joke in which the cleaner un-plugs the life support system to plug in her apparatus and it takes the doctors ages to work out why patients keep dying at 11am every day.
Luckily Zee doesn't have any such sensitive equipment plugged in. In fact the only medical equipment she had was the Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA). This wonderful apparatus enabled her to dose herself up with morphine as and when she required (obviously with maximum-dose safeguards built-in). A former nurse friend said it was one of the best developments in patient care of recent years. They didn't have it when I broke t'leg ten years ago. More's the pity. Other friends have asked if they can borrow it for solving hang-overs.... sadly Zee no longer has it as she's well on the way to recovery... should be home tomorrow. Then she just has the sad prospect of six weeks (at least) sick leave.
Do Warships have mobile phone antennae too? That would certainly explain the resemblance between our local maternity ward roof and the pride of the fleet. I vaguely knew that Whipps Cross Maternity wing had a mobile phone mast on its roof following DG's link to find the nearest phone mast to one's abode, but I'd never sat and looked at it until last week when I was collecting newest nephew from hospital.
This was followed at the weekend by noticing a similarly large collection atop the nice little hospital where Mrs.Planarchy is spending a few days (she's doing fine and will hopefully be home soon). I know that all the research supposedly clears such masts of any health risks but is siting them on hospitals really the best place for them?
Meanwhile these same hospitals still have signs asking us to switch our mobile phones off as they might interfere with sensitive medical equipment..... hmmmm.
We will get back to the Corfiot holiday soon..... really!
OK.... thanks for waiting, here's the final installment.
As was suggested by the twelve year old (well that's how old she sounded to me) who was supervising Kay's application, I waited a week before phoning to see how it was going.
"Yes, we received the new photograph yesterday (!!!!!), it's acceptable and we'll be issuing the passport later today," (cue seraphim trumpeting and other signs of excitement or maybe just relief at Planarchy towers).
"So, it'll be with us within a couple od days?" I ventured.
"No, but it should be with you by the middle of next week," she replied with a definite hint of weariness that everyone always expected a passport to arrive a couple of days after it has been issued (I mean how unreasonable of us!).
A man on a moped delivered it three days later, more than a week before we were due to fly orf to Corfu. Never have we ben so glad to see a man on a moped.
What lessons did we learn? Maybe we should have applied earlier. We certainly will next time.
But should the Passport Office not have informed us as soon as they encountered a problem, perhaps even using the email address that there was room for on the form and that we supplied? Then again, should they not have actually replied to our enquiries within the 24 hours they promised (it never happened, we just got lucky with one operator telling us to keep trying until we could get put through to the next level). Finally, and still of most concern, is the fact that they could see red-eye in a picture where there was none. Forget not that these people are going to be in charge of issuing ID cards.
We're fecked, basically aren't we?
.....but in the meantime we went to Corfu and it was loverly...... more to follow on that, obviously.
Back to the passport palaver later.... meanwhile I know you wanted to be kept updated on the dragonflies of East London. Earlier this morning I found the first mature male Broad Bodied Chaser of the season basking in this wonderful sunshine.
So, three weeks after sending in the application and without having received even the old passport back, I phoned the helpline. I was initially very impressed as they answered my call within one ring. After the reference number was exchanged I was informed there was a problem with the application.
"What sort of problem?" I enquired.
"I can't tell from this screen sir, I'll try to transfer you to the relevant department."
So hold for less than a minute before I'm informed that they can't get through but will put in an email request and promise I will be contacted within twenty four hours.
Twenty three hours later I have still heard nothing so I phone again. This time they are not even sure that there is a problem but once again they can't transfer me but will fax the relevant department who will get back to me within twenty four hours. After explaining that I was told this yesterday I am told that it is a very busy time of year but someone will get back to me by tomorrow.
They don't. I phone again and this time a more informative person suggests I keep trying to get through by phoning throughout the night. Zee and I take it in turns. She is finally put through to someone who can see the right screen which tells him that the problem is down to red-eye in the photograph. It can be caused by a flash apparently(!). He gives us the contact details of the person in charge of the application in Peterborough who obviously won't be in until the following day.
Here's the picture that was rejected due to red-eye. No flash was used in the taking of this picture. Hence no red-eye. Well none apparent to you or I, anyway. Clearly the Passport office know better.
Written confirmation arrived two days later and I took this along with young
Kay back to the photo-shop for a third attempt. The manager who had
taken the picture and who I know fairly well as a nice and even tempered bloke
was not amused.
"How can there be any red-eye, we don't use a flash?!" he said. He was straight on the phone to the Passport Office asking if they had the actual picture in front of them, could they re-scan it, how could there be red-eye when no flash was used, he'd been taking passport photos for thirty years and never yet had a red-eye rejection..... but no movement from their end. Their computer said, I assume, "No."
He re-took the picture and kept back one of my copies of the "red-eye" version to bring to the attention of one of his other contacts at the Passport Office (he worryingly had a collection of variously rejected pictures which all looked fine to him and me).
This new version showed no red-eye either... but was this a good thing?
I duly returned it post haste to Peterborough. There was now less than three weeks until we were supposed to be traveling to Corfu.
We'd got to the stage where my worry had infected Zee. We began to make alternative plans. Maybe the Scilly Isles where I'd taken most of my childhood holidays but never taken either Zee or the girls. And maybe a trip oop Norf to see the girl's foster parents. Day trips to Southend and err, other seaside places we've never been to. We had quite a hectic schedule planned.
One way or another we were going to have a holiday.
Passport Palaver Part 2 coming soon but in the meantime a big WWW.welcome to the world to young (about three hours young) AR, Zee's eldest brother's first born child....I'm an uncle again :)
Young Kay needed a new passport.
"Never mind," we thought, it's eight weeks before we go away and they normally only take two or three weeks. I duly dragged teen Kay to Sainsburys for a snap in one of those wonderful photobooths. Three pounds and fifty pence for a shite picture!
Off to the friendly little local post office to make use of their Check and Send procedure.
"Hmmm," said friendly post-person sucking air through his toothiepegs.
"I think you may have a problem with Kay not looking the same as she did before," he added.
I could see his point, she was now a thirteen year old (looking at least two years older) rather than the angelic looking seven year old that smiled (secretively) out of her old passport.
"We can submit it if you want, sometimes they get through but it will cost you another five days or so if they reject it.... I wouldn't if I were you," he finished.
I decided to take his advice... now all we needed was a counter signatory.
This is where it started to get really interesting. We have Doctors, Teachers and even Lawyers in the family but relatives are not allowed to countersign. Sometimes it's not so good to be a planarchist whose daughter has only recently started at a new school and whose teacher hasn't known us long enough. Are we the only people who have this sort of problem? We started to worry. Well, I did, anyway. It's what I do. For England. I could worry for Engerland, could I. If there was a World Cup for worrying I'd be there. Oh yes.
By the afternoon of the next day (a Sunday) we'd remembered that Zee has a former work colleague who is now a fine and upstanding policewoman. She was happy to oblige but working nights until Thursday. In the meantime I'd begun to worry about how crap the new photo of Kay was anyway and so went to our local photographic printing parlour to get a proper picture taken. Four pounds fifty! Only a pound more than the booth but now a picture that actually resembled teen Kay.
So, with still seven weeks to go, the forms, the old passport and the shiny new pictures were returned to t'Post Office. The receipt said the passport should be with us within two to three weeks.
Do you think it came within that period?
If it did do you really think I'd be breaking this story up into more than one episode?
Part two tomorrow.... or maybe the day after.