5 August 2022

A weekend away

I ran through the list of what I would need for the journey.

Passport – still valid for five years, driving licence, tickets, cash for the return journey, cash for contingencies, cash for daily costs, cash for any legal fees and other state costs, vaccination certificates, blood test results, COVID-19 test results, COVID-26 test results, contact telephone numbers at home, contact telephone numbers for each stage of journey, proof of accommodation for each stage of the journey, entry visas for all outgoing stopovers, exit visas for all outgoing stopovers, proof of right of return to UK, entry visas for all return stopovers, exit visas for all return stopovers, proof of right to reside in the UK, proof of address in the UK, certificate of health insurance, certificate of travel insurance, certificate of sexual health, certificate of sexual orientation, certificate of employment, good conduct certificate from employer, good conduct undertaking for rail company, good conduct undertaking for airline, good conduct undertaking for public transport, good conduct undertaking for hoteliers, export certificates for phone, camera, book reader, and laptop, waiver of consular rights in case of breaches of dress code, moral conduct, blasphemy, political agitation, trespass or breaches of copyright, waiver of consular rights in case of failure of insurance company, separate waiver of rights in case of failure of airline, waiver of of consular rights in case of failure of rail company. It didn’t seem to matter that I wasn’t travelling by rail. List and description of all bags, List of contents in each bag to be checked in.

I looked at the folder containing all this information, carefully indexed as per the Travel Documentation Regulations. Next to it were three more, each one containing translations of the first into French, Arabic and Greek, each one also carefully indexed according to the appropriate regulations for those languages. I still didn’t know why I needed the Arabic, but I didn’t dare take the chance.

I moved on to check my bags. Double-checking the contents against the list, I discovered an extra pair of socks. There was no time to update the folders, so took them out. Each bag had its own documentation to be checked. List of contents again, carefully categorised as per the Baggage Contents regulations, with a label firmly attached also containing a QR code linked to an online copy of the list. I checked the code worked on both bags. Certificates of fumigation for each bag. Copy of manufacturer’s statement on materials used, copy of certificate of freedom from use of carcinogenic materials, copy of manufacturer’s warranty showing at least 12 months remaining. Manufacturer’s certificates showing unloaded weight of each bag. Certificates of weight of each bag as packed.

Next the stuff I needed for the period before I checked in. ID card, Certificate of Authorisation to Travel with dates of travel and times, certified copy of exit visa, certificate of approval to enter a designated place, (ie the airport) with period authorised, copy of equivalent for taxi driver, copy of taxi company certification to operate for private hire, copy of taxi company certification to operate in a designated place, approval for use of automobile in a residential zone, waiver of airport operator’s liability in case of delays to travel for any reason.

My wife had been going through the same checks. We were not allowed to share luggage so she needed the same set of documentation as me. We were not travelling with children, thank goodness. The travel documentation was a little simpler, but taking a child out of the country was appallingly complex, doubly so if they were adopted. Don’t even think about taking a nephew or neice! We took a deep breath and then swapped over. From bitter experience we always checked each other’s documentation before we set out. Fortunately this time there were no hitches. We both had everything required of us and it was all properly listed.

The next step was simple, we had to log on to the travel documentation website and digitally sign a statement that we had done all the necessary checks and absolving the company who operated the system from any liability from errors on their part or ours, or from the consequences of any changes made to regulatory requirements after we had signed but before we checked in. Once we had checked in, we were probably OK. Most countries didn’t enforce changes made once a journey had started. So long as we didn’t get diverted to Turkey or Macedonia (either of them) we should be OK. As usual, the web site was busy, so it took me half a dozen attempts to sign in. Then my wife had to repeat the process on her own behalf. Luckily we made it within the margin allowed for people travelling together.

Check in was eight hours before the flight, so it was time to move. We had to be outside when the taxi arrived or we would lose the booking. That was another lesson from experience. At the airport we were dismayed to see a new procedure had been introduced. We now had to go through a pre-check in check. Fortunately this was relatively quick. All we had to do was register our arrival at the airport, entering the serial number from our certificate of approval to enter, then sign another waiver of our rights in case of any delays. We had aimed to check in three hours before the deadline, we didn’t make that but were still a good hour ahead by the time we joined the queue.

It was grindingly slow. I was sweating by the time we reached the counter. My wife went first, we couldn’t check in together, and it only took her 10 minutes. By now it was 20 minutes to the last check in time. I stepped forward and handed over the three files. The check in clerk looked at me sourly, not a good sign. He picked up the Arabic folder.

“Section four says you are staying at the Hotel Europa in Athens for one night. Why?”

“By the time we get there the last ferry will have gone, so we have booked an overnight stay.”

He picked up the Greek folder.

“Section 6 says your ferry time is the same day as you arrive. Why?”

“The ferry company have flexible tickets valid for three days, in case we want to change. They chose to start the time from our date of arrival in Greece.”

“Section four here, says you are staying at the Hotel Europe, but this one,” he held up the Arabic folder in his other hand, “says Europa. Which is correct? Why is there a discrepancy?”

“I don’t speak Arabic or Greek, but perhaps it is a consequence of different scripts.”

“Translator certification.” He thrust out his hand.

I pulled from my pockets the Translator Certificates of Competence and passed them over to him. He took them and sniffed again.

“These should be in the front of each translated folder. Why have you not done so?”

“I understood that the first document was a translation of each certificate.”

“It is, but you also need copies in English.”

He sniffed loudly. “The addresses are the same, so I will allow the error to pass.”

He looked at his watch. “It is now three minute past the last check in time. Your authority to travel is now voided.”

I wrote this satire in response to this article in the Guardian.


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