I've always imagined it must be quite interesting to work in the Post Office. There's a constant stream of customers, each with their own specific enquiry, probably utterly divergent to the one that went before. Airmail to Spain? Of course. Car tax. Do you have the correct documents? Electricity meter cards. Currency Exchange. One of those annoying red cards which means you have to queue up to collect a parcel that was delivered during the only ten minutes you left the house yesterday? All in a days work.
And then of course there are the idiots like me providing plenty of extra entertainment.
We are off to France in May. Complicated maths with the Tesco Clubcard points we have saved for almost 2 years means we've been able to book a completely free apartment on the outskirts of gay Paris for a week. There's only one small problem, which is that until now, T has not had his own passport.
I get the forms, fill them in, retrieve both of his parent's passports and write the numbers in the correct box with black pen being sure not to go over the edge. I carefully fold his birth certificate and put it in the envelope. Just the small matter of the photos then.
Our nearest passport photo booth is inside the Post Office. It's one of those clever ones that gives you three goes at the photo before it prints. I find four pounds and feed them into the machine, each giving a satisfying clunk as it falls. Whilst the electronic voice blathers on about taking off your sunglasses and looking 'neutral' I spin the stool upwards to make it the correct height and sit T on top. Only the top of his head is showing on the screen. Hmmm, OK. I begin to think that perhaps this was a bad idea. The booth is now telling me to press the big green button when I am ready to start taking photos. T's fingers stretch out, magnetically attracted to anything pressable. I mange to catch them just in time. I try to make the seat taller, but I've obviously rotated it to the top of the thread. The two halves come apart in my hand. T is running for the exit. I catch him, wedge him into the booth with my leg, slide the top section of the seat back onto the pole and commence plan B.
I wind downwards again and stand T on the stool, holding him around the middle. His head is now in the correct position, but I am in the way of the screen. The booth gets fed up of waiting for me and starts to take the photos. My (not insubstantial) backside appear on the screen, a small shock of toddler hair visible over one hip. 'Would you like to keep this photo?' I press red for no and the booth goes back into wait mode, I must press the green button when I am ready.
I take a handful of dungaree in both hands (disguising my fists in the folds of his too-big cord overalls) and retreat behind the curtain. I am just trying to work out how to press the button when T decides that standing up is not what he would like to do and goes jellylegged. As I grab him through the curtain, controlling his movements Wizard of Oz style, the booth takes another photo. This time there is a red-faced toddler at an odd angle struggling with what looks like two giant woollen octopus tentacles.
I press the 'red for no' button and hiss at him to 'stand still'. I'm ashamed to admit that I also told him there wouldn't be a holiday if he couldn't have his photo taken, a threat that a) I wouldn't carry through and b) he couldn't understand anyway. By this time the staff behind the Post Office counter are laughing so hard there are almost tears. One has even come out to have a look.
I stand him back on the seat, hold, press and hope. He looks at the camera like his world is ending. Big, sad eyes. He's in the middle of the frame though, my arms are out of shot and I have entirely run out of patience. The bloody booth has the cheek to put all three photos on the screen and ask which I would like printing. I toy with pressing the left hand key for 'fat bottomed Mummy' or the middle one for 'woollen octopus', but I'm also out of pound coins, so 'grumpy toddler' it is.
I wait by the booth for the photos to print, ignoring the still giggling Post Office clerks. A kindly woman in the queue tells me about a service at Maxx Spielman where they entertain your toddler and take a picture without fuss.
I resolve to do more research next time!