Robinson needs a new passport. She can no longer pass freely without let or hindrance in the Name of Her Majesty.
Her grand days as a freewheeling member of the European Union are over too. Her passport expired quietly in a COVID wasteland back in February but Boris Brexit had already shrunk her domain by then.
Now, curiously, she can’t even renew her passport here in the Antipodes even though I’m pretty sure ailing thin Lizzie is still our Queen. Robinson must apply for her new passport online to what I’m guessing is an impressive stone building somewhere in Liverpool, England.
Step One in the rigmarole is to procure a passport photo. You can go to chemist or a post office to get one taken. Or you can ask your husband to take it, saving time and money but ruining your marriage. That’s what we decided to do.
There are lots of rules. White backdrop. No shadows. Well lit. No glasses. No make-up. No smiling. No wild hair all over the place like you’ve just come in from the wind. Head and shoulders only. Not blurred.
I lined Robinson up with all these rules and took my first shot. She looked odd, even to me.
‘My God! I need cosmetic surgery,’ she exclaimed, seeing it.
‘No cosmetic surgery. That was one of the rules.’
‘You’re standing too close,’ she said. ‘Move back!’
‘It’s got to be head and shoulders, not half the room!’ I said loudly. I don’t think I was shouting.
‘Delete that one. Take another one.’
It’s hard not to smile when someone points a camera at you and this time Robinson overcompensated for the horror my first shot. She smiled. She looked much better but I gave her the strap, and deleted it. ‘No smiling,’ I said sternly.
Ever the actress, now she performed all forlorn and serious and I took another shot.
‘Where are my lips?!’ she almost shrieked, seeing it. ‘I’ve got to put some lipstick on.’
‘No make-up,’ I said, a portrait photographer morphing into a bossy public official. I don’t think I was shouting. ‘Just relax and look at the camera as if you were watching TV.’
None of this would be happening if she went to a chemist to have it done. She would get what she was given by a sullen 22 year old assistant who didn’t care. One shot. No correspondence would be entered into.
By now Robinson had tried on another face. She looked like she’d been poisoned by the Russians. Some sort of nerve gas.
Too frightened to just run away, I took another shot. It was a mugshot of someone who’d been in Wentworth Women’s Prison for a decade. PICK A BETTER SHOT the camera phone app suggested. I quickly deleted it instead.
‘Just take lots of them,’ Robinson said. ‘I’ll pick the best one. Passport photos are always bad.’
She was right. She would be in this case anyway. There are too many rules. My flair was hemmed in.
In the end, in tears, she chose one and uploaded it to her application.
‘Maybe you should become an Australian citizen now that we have a Labor government,’ I said. ‘You can come out of the attic and sleep with me. We can go shopping together.’
‘No thanks,’ she said cruelly. ‘Anyway, I can’t go out looking like this.’