Simply complicated

They really couldn't make it any easier. Name and address, delivery address, old passport number and not much else. That's done on-line, then you pay - just short of £103. Next you print out the form which tells you the documents you need to enclose, a couple of passport photos and away in the post.

Spaniards carry ID cards so even the smallest town has a photographer to take the appropriate photos. There are photo booths too but I thought a photographer would know the rules. The photos of me were pink and silver haired but then that's me. I thought there was a lot of shoulder and chest though and not enough face. True enough when I tried them against the template on the passport application form my face was too small. Also the photographer had guillotined the photos with a serrated edge which gave them a nice 1960s feel something I suspected that HM Passport Office may not find quite so charming.

So I drove to a photo booth in Cartagena. The blurb on the outside said the photos were suitable for passports. This time my face was not only too small but the photos themselves were a few millimetres short of the required size. I knew my face was going to be too small as I stared at the screen so I tried sitting closer but a message - out of focus - flashed up on the screen. No option. The strip of photos included six of the undersized version but two larger versions. I painstakingly cut them down to the required size. I re-read the Passport Office instructions. Photos should NOT be cut down from larger photos they read.

I phoned the Passport Office helpline. It wasn't the first time that the chap I spoke to had encountered the problem. Send multiple photos he said and hope that the controller agrees to use a couple of them. Not exactly the best solution.

Instead I went to another photographer this time armed with the Passport Office template. He grumbled and moaned about the odd size but he produced some even pinker and greyer photos which fulfilled the size requirements and had nice straight edges.

Fold the application form only once said the instructions. I had envelopes that would require no fold and envelopes that would require two folds so I went to a Chinese shop to buy some C5, one fold envelopes. They didn't have any, neither did the second or the third shop and I had to go to a bookshop where, with a bit of searching, they unearthed the appropriate size. Unusual size said the man in the shop.

You wouldn't think that something as ordinary as envelope and passport photo size would have national characteristics would you but, apparently, they do.

Anyway it's away. I am passportless in a country that requires you to carry ID at all times. I mentioned my travails with the photos yesterday on Facebook and people came back with stories of interminable delays, of photos rejected because they were smiling. I fear the worst. Fingers crossed.

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