In a very short amount of time I’ll be going to Italy. Flights were first booked many, many months ago in a flurry of excitement about travelling in one country for an extended period, working and writing as I go. It’s a step towards a much-anticipated personal dream.
Back when I booked my flights, March 29th 2019 was just a vague date; all sadness about not wanting it to happen aside, it was nothing more than the final day of the UK being a part of the European Union. By then I expected deals to have been thrashed out and signed and the UK would be all ready to step away, knowing at least the basics of what was to come next.
As concerned as I’ve always been about leaving the EU, I figured I’d cope: I’d know what I was dealing with personally – and I could act accordingly. I expected travelling to be a little more problematic, particularly at airports, but this is my profession and I could get to grips with the new ways even if I didn’t like them.
But there is absolutely no way I considered, even for one moment, that with just 3 days to go there’d still be no resolution to ‘bloody Brexit’ (one of my kinder terminologies for it)!
Who could have predicted such a disastrous mess, such a blunderingly botched, God-awful period of time – or such a hopelessly ineffective government? Their squabbling and in-fighting has disgraced, embarrassed and negatively impacted upon the UK in countless ways. But more importantly, it’s meant that they’ve overlooked the real people they’re supposedly governing: those whose lives and jobs are being directly and indirectly affected by it. And where are the people who seem to care?
With every new day of shambolic uncertainty, failed deals and party politics, minds and dates are continually changing. The consequences for my trip are that I’ve got no idea whether I’m going to be facing really long queues and lots of awkward security questions at the airport, or even which queue I’m going to have to join when I get there. Or maybe there’ll be nothing like that. Without any significant info coming our way, it’s the horror stories which take over – and there are plenty of them!
Having been waiting for some kind of resolution, I’ve realised that none seem to be imminent and so today I went out to buy an International Driving Permit for driving in Italy. I may not even need one – even the government website is relatively ambiguous…”If ____ happens by ____ date then you’ll need to buy ____ to be able to travel to ____. But if it doesn’t, God help you” was the message I took away from it.
So I spent £6 on getting passport photos done (as ever, they were awful – I may not even be permitted to hire a car because the photos make me look like I’ll probably commit terrible, murderous damage with it!) And I drove to a post office that was able to issue IDPs – beware, not all of them can do it. In order to buy something I may or may not need after 28th March. Or 12th April. Or the twelfth of never. Who knows?
£5.50 payment in hand, I finally got to the counter and asked for my 1968 IDP (yes, there are a few different versions depending on the country or countries you’ll be visiting) to be told “there’s been a huge demand for them and we’ve run out…come back tomorrow morning.” ??♂️ Wtf?!
It seems as though everyone has had the same idea; scrabbling about, or getting in early, to try and ensure that they’re not confronted with personal embarrassment or distress while travelling – in the face of the reckless cataclysmic fiasco that’s unfolding all around us!
Yes, in the grand scheme of things an International Driving Permit is fairly insignificant and no great expense. But it’s what it represents which angers me: a document that I’m having to pay £11.50 for (including the photos) that I’ll possibly never need; all because of sheer relentless incompetence and inability to agree on something that I never wanted or voted for in the first place.
It represents the worries that I’ll always have about Brexit; about how it will impede upon and affect my everyday life as well as my future travels; how it’s made me feel overlooked and alone in my home country, underlining the differences between myself and my neighbours; and now unable to fully trust the authorities and systems which should be governing me.
And I know that little knot in my stomach which has been there and steadily growing since June 2016 won’t get a chance to subside until something gets sorted.
Main photo credit: Tumisu