Pimlico’s Passport

 

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The Norwegian passport – cool, calm, and collected

The new passport is pure, unadulterated arrogant English chauvinism. And it’s without a shred of humour. It has to have been designed by a bunch of Whitehall mandarins enjoying a too-long liquid lunch in an upmarket restaurant somewhere in Pimlico, like a bunch of Mafia dons in their favourite Italian carving out their territory.

Flick the pages, [apologies for the faint images – that’s how the passport is printed] jaw agape, certain the British parliament is giving Scotland the finger. “You lost your country, now take your medicine like the bad boy that you are!”

It’s completely Anglo-centric.

Page after page depicts great historic figures of England’s past. Glaring omissions leap out at you, nothing from Scotland, Wales, or the provinces, colonies, or protectorates for that matter. If you are pushing England’s power why not include them all even if in a European Union passport? (Northern Ireland gets the Titanic museum building – awarded an architect’s ‘Carbuncle’.) The passport is a graphic mess and insulting.

Where is that proud sentinel of the empire, the Gibraltar Rock, the one Spanish customs officers like to hit hard with an entry stamp whenever it’s stuck under their nose? It has its own version of the British passport.

The new passport  has a multitude of buildings and landmarks from London, Liverpool, Manchester and… that’s about it. Oh, there is the Angel of the North, the not very interesting in-your-face symbol of Northern industry from sculptor Antony Gormley, and about as far north as any London politician dare travel without fearing for his life.

Nell Frizzell (real name!) in the Guardian (real name!) bemoans the fact that only two women feature in the new passport. One is architect Elizabeth Scott, a lover of English brick, used fairly unconventionally for her day, but more famous for coming from a long line of architects, Sir Gilbert Scott among them. The other is Ada Lovelace – look her up!

Frizzell lists a group of women she feels could have been included all of whom are English with the honourable exception of Muriel Spark, she probably included in error, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie novelist having lived abroad most of her life and not in the place of her birth, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Ms Frizzell’s list of notable female achievers covers a good deal of the second-rate, Tracey Emin, Maggi Hambling, Cornelia Parker, Tacita Dean, Sarah Lucas and Rachel Whiteread. Whiteread is the sculptor who pours concrete into empty rooms and huts and calls it art. Presumably she likes her tea with a jar of sugar standing in it.

Frizzell gets bolder and adds a few notables, “Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley or Mary Quant would have been a welcome illustration of women’s contribution to visual art.” Her novelists are limited to the obvious English roses, but she throws in JK Rowling to depress standards. Rowling and Shakespeare together?

She opines, “Alongside Shakespeare was there not room for Charlotte Bronte, JK Rowling, Shelagh Delaney or Muriel Spark? Not to mention Aphra Behn, Christina Rossetti, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Mary Wollstonecraft or Virginia Woolf?”

What? No Michele Mone? And where is Banksy?

But Frizzell is right, only two women guarantees those who crafted the new passport were all brain dead males, their female secretary made busy making coffee, such arduous intellectual tasks that require thinking past Page 3 of the tabloids, choosing people and places in the United Kingdom for fading immortality, left to the men.

Frizzel argues the reason Caroline Criado-Perez campaigned to have Jane Austen’s portrait on the ten pound note “pushed women into the day-to-day fabric of British life.” There you go, ‘British’ stops at the Angel of the North. Mary Queen of Scots would be an historic figure too far for Frizzell.

For the last two years, now cranked up a gear because we Scots are more uppity than ever, fear-mongers told Scotland it is too ineffectual a nation to figure in anything. They prove it by including Scotland in only one way they know it, kilted pipers on Edinburgh Castle.

Scotland is reduced to how the English see and use us, as a theme park, a weekend retreat, Balmoral and all. When Osborne, Cameron, Balls and Miliband concocted their wee conspiracy to deny an independent Scotland a share of the pound that Scotland had contributed to in billions since 1707, they planned to go all the way, that is, only within the English border, passports, high speed trains, English votes for English laws and all.

Why make all this fuss?

It’s only a passport, after all. We hardly glance at our passport until it’s time to take that business trip or holiday. It is the document we keep in a drawer next to our underpants, or in a desk with our divorce certificate, and Two-For-One cinema pass. More often than not it is lost down the side of the sofa, or still in the suitcase next to the can of insect repellent. Well, to some officious officials it’s what separates you from coming or going.

On one occasion I forgot to get my US Embassy (London) approved new work visa adhered to my passport, and seeing it slipped in loose, the US airport official turned me back from the plane.  I am told I look like a terrorist, long hair, grizzled visage, designer stubble and all. To make matters worse I sport no executive’s business suit, and I always travel light, my motto: take half the luggage you think you’ll need and twice the money. (You can buy clothes anywhere, cheaper than in the UK.) This makes customs officials even more suspicious of me. No luggage! Mistrustful looks aside, the point is, my British passport was of no use whatsoever. I was sent home.

The design theme of the passport is ‘creative Britain’, so right there the pig ignorance begins and the insult is planted in the soil. Belittling Scotland’s achievements and achievers goes back a long way. Late last century the R.L. Stevenson Society wrote to the chairman of the Royal Mail requesting he issue a stamp with the portrait of their hero for the anniversary of his birth. They got a curt reply, “The novelist is not well enough known to be eligible.” 

That’s Scotland telt! Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde, The Master of Ballantrae, Catriona, and A Child’s Garden of Verses are, by Royal Mail reckoning, all works few bought and fewer read. If only movie studios had seen their worth.

I mention the instance of Stevenson because it is symptomatic of the limits of English concern. You really have to mix with the London glitterati – as I have and do on occasion – the people who set the standards and dictate the criteria for selection, to see and hear how little they care about Scotland, yet are the first to say it’s part of Britain.

The Reverend Peter Hawkins offers some common sense. “None of us wanted to be born British, yet we have to put up with the fantasies of Border Control and Passports in order to enter and leave the place of our birth. (The present European Format is an improvement on the previous UK Cit format because it is smaller.) The only page of significance is the Identity Card at the back. The rest is flummery. UK Control is so insulting, we have the right to free movement of persons, but I still have to pay for the Westminster Circus.

Another hardy Englishman takes a less jaundiced view but plays loose with reality :

I’m a guy so that probably colours my view, but seriously, I don’t give a shit who is on the passport as long as it get’s me into the country I want to go to, and doesn’t get me thrown in jail.”

A lot of good a British passport did for British national Shaker Aamer, lifted in the night by false accusation and spirited to Guantanámo for  14 years of sanctioned hell with torture on tap, carried out without arrest, lawyer, or trial. And the British embassy was … where?

I can’t leave the last word to Frizzell because she thinks English is all of British.

“I would love to hand over a passport at customs that made me proud to be British.”

Good for her. I would love to hand over a passport at customs that made me proud to be Scottish, but I am denied that right. Then again, it is all part of the new colonialism: “The Scotland Office – part of the UK Government IN Scotland.”

Suck on that, Sweaties!

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24 Responses to Pimlico’s Passport

  1. Andrew McLean says:

    I have never felt more like a stateless person in the country of my birth.

  2. orri says:

    I too would love to hand over a passport that made me proud to be British. Wouldn’t we all? The fact that this latest one confirms it’s just not happening is just one more reason for wanting one that makes me proud to be Scottish instead.

  3. gregorv says:

    to be fair does look like the falkirk wheel in the first image you post – but does seem pathetic that taht and pipers are the only images when some obscure english architect is featured – Still it reminds us of our place in the UK and we should be grateful that they are not trying to pretend otherwise now

    • Grouse Beater says:

      Jeepers creepers – where did you get those peepers? Well spotted – but you still not think it was a UK passport.

  4. macart763 says:

    Jeez, I can’t remember the last time I had a holiday Grouse. 😀

    Still, not surprised at this reimagining of the ‘British’ passport. Right on the back of rebranding the Scotland Office and of course the drivers license.

    I look forward to the day when our own official documentation reflects the nationality of its owners.

  5. Grouse Beater says:

    We should organise a Wings ‘Crowd Fund Macart’s Holiday’ – goal £5,000. 🙂

  6. xsticks says:

    Thankfully I wont need a new passport until Sept 2019 so I’m hopeful my new one will be from the Scottish passport office 😀

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    We live in hope … and meticulous planning! 🙂

    • My passport expires next year. I will not be renewing it. I renounce Britishness and I will refuse a passport until I can have one issued under MY country.

      • Grouse Beater says:

        I understand your resistance. I travel only by car or train, detesting airport security and all that that humiliation entails. I do all I can these days by e-mail documents to the States, but my wife is forced to take the plane abroad.

  8. EphemeralDeception says:

    There seem to be a few major errors in this blog post. That it is totally anglocentric with token colonialism is accurate but not about British passport / provinces and colonies.

    In the UK we have an EU passport as a British National and is RED. It says European Union at the top and the holder is a citizen of UK (GB and NI). ONLY. It states we are a UK national and member of the EU and an EU citizen. (Allowing freedom of movement across EU)

    Other areas Gibralter / Falklands are not part of the EU. They are British subjects/citizens but not EU ones. Thay still have the old dark blue passports.

    Still, the New EU British passport, have essentially written out all other national identities other than English. I look on the bright side and conclude that the London mandarins have seen the writing on the wall and that Scots wont be part of the UK for much longer.

  9. Grouse Beater says:

    I can see why you think I’m confusing passports; the passport is the EU version.

    The essay is wholly concerned with the new interior pages of the red passport, not the exterior cover, the one of European Union membership, to which you rightly draw attention.

    Use of the Gibraltar tattered version top of the essay is there to draw attention to how a colony is given its individuality, its place as a functioning entity with its own laws and jurisdiction, (in Gibraltar’s case it represents England’s present power plonked on the Mediterranean) but the same respect is not given to a nation called Scotland.

    That said, I can only concur with your final remarks.

    • EphemeralDeception says:

      Thanks for the quick reply and clarifications. I see where you were going but wanted to highlight some points – now clarified..

      Gibralter though is a specal case coming from the treaty of Utrecht – it is so complex that it is best avoided re: Scotland / UK. Scotland and Catalonia campaigns for independence however seem to be incestuously related and worth following closely.

      • Grouse Beater says:

        You’re welcome. The various peace treaties of Ultrecht are indeed labyrinthine.

        I visit the south of Spain often, Andalucía mostly. My observations of the 30,000 or so residents of Gibraltar are people passionately proud of being British, and that includes the Scots who live there. They have a certainty that I hesitate to prick, a sureness reinforced by their use of the British pound and the Gibraltar pound. Nevertheless, one can find sympathy with Spain and its claim without dismissing Gibraltarian’s strong associations with England evolved since 1713, ‘British territory ‘in perpetuity‘. In that they share a lot with sections of Northern Ireland’s population. Anyhow, thank you again for your contribution.

  10. Inkall says:

    All the more reason for me to look into getting hold of the Irish passport I think I am entitled to via my grandmother.

    The fuss about there only being 2 women pictured will get far more coverage than the fact 8 of the 9 are English born and one Indian born who moved to London.

    While we do get our little shortbread tin picture of the castle do Wales or Northern Ireland have any representation at all?

    • Grouse Beater says:

      I can’t recognise any buildings that are not a town or English city. The manufacturers have to make it visually complicated to beat forgers but why make it thumpingly anglo only? There are other themes they could have chosen that would not be xenophobic.

      Incidentally, Spike Milligan had an Irish passport too, British, Australian and USA.

    • daibhidhdeux says:

      Inkall
      If a Scottish passport is not forthcoming after the few years left on my current abomination, I, too, am considering an Irish passport based on family connections from generations ago.

      Hell well be sealed under Arctic ice before I get this new provocation.

      • Grouse Beater says:

        I’m hearing more of your kind of rebellion. I have an Irish grandparent, and my wife works a lot on the West coast of Ireland, maybe there’s an escape hatch there…

      • daibhidhdeux says:

        Grouse
        Am picking up on it, too.

        These Anglo-British “elites” never seem to learn but always seem to pile arrogant piss-take upon arrogant piss-take without considering the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  11. Cloggins says:

    I believe it is not usual to depict livng people (men or women) in passports or on coins, unless they be royalty. They may have led an immaculate and laudable life, but there is no telling what they might do in the future. It could be mighty embarrasing….

  12. samdfb1 says:

    Yikes. It is *just* a passport, mate. That being said, you make some interesting points. Can’t say I agree with them all-but thought it was interesting read.

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