The only thing that seems consistent with the way the British government treats is expats is the level of contempt with which it treats them.

Consider the case of renewing a passport. Until a few years ago one went to the British Embassy or nearest Consulate, handed in the old one and picked up the new one a few days later, or had it posted to you. Simple, convenient.

Then they changed the rules. You had to send a photocopy of your passport to Hong Kong to apply for a new one. (In Thailand one is legally required to keep one’s passport about one’s person at all times, hence the photocopy.) There was also an outrageous charge for DHL to courier your passport back to Thailand – not that DHL actually delivered your passport to your door – that was done by the Thai Post Office, which employs rather too many light-fingered posties.

Then they changed the rules again. This time you had to send the photocopy to the UK.

And then once more they changed the rules. The process has been privatised, and now one must go to the offices of VFS (a Swiss company) in Bangkok in person not once, but twice. The thought of VFS fills me with dread. I had to use their service to apply for a visa to India. The place was noisy and chaotic – a little taste of India before you arrive. So, rather than having the passport returned to you at home, it’s returned to VFS. However, you still have to pay the £23 courier charge. Outrageous! There will also be a VFS “processing fee”. It’s not yet clear how much this will be.

Consider the case of an elderly pensioner living in the far North, somewhere like Chiang Rai, 800 km from the embassy. There’s no way to make a round trip in a single day, so not only will renewing a passport take 4 days of the pensioner’s time, it’ll also involve two night stays in an hotel. That’s a lot of extra time and cost.

Also consider the case of someone living near the border with Malaysia who loses their passport or has it stolen. They’re 1150 km from Bangkok. They can’t fly (no passport), so have to go by train or bus – around 17 hours by train or 16 by bus each way – and there’s only one train a day which is frequently cancelled because of track failures. That’s a total of 8 days off work and a lot of gruelling travel.

Have the civil servants responsible thought this through? Do they really think this is an acceptable way to treat the country’s citizens?

Anyway, it’s a couple of years before I need to renew my passport. Doubtless the system will have changed again by then – I hope for the better.


what do you call Whisky Portrait
nine pomeranians
in a prison cell

a start

good joke


well it s not so funny
if you re in the cell
next to them

i ll explain what happened later

here s a photograph of
the pomeranians

Evil Incarnate

Evil Incarnate

i think they re being treated
the same way they treat
rohingya refugees*

the navy has put them
back on a boat
and is towing them
out to sea

but back to my problems

i failed master

i m mortified

a frog almost got inside
the house to kill us all
in our beds

in my defence
it was very high up
and i didn t see it

Frog on Wall

Frog on Wall

still master was not happy

he put me in prison to punish me

it wasn t fair
i went on hunger strike in protest
apart from the tasty bits
in the food

master was so afraid
of being attacked by frogs
in his home
that he fled to singapore
when i wasn t there to protect him

i guess they don t
have frogs in singapore


* Master adds: Thailand isn’t a signatory to the The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its treatment of refugees and other stateless persons is at times questionable. There are repeated and persistent reports of the Thai navy’s intercepting the boats of Rohingya (Burmese Muslims of Bangladeshi ancestry) fleeing interracial violence in Burma – in particular in Rakhine state – and towing them further out to sea. It has also been alleged that Rohingya refugees have, after arriving in Thailand, been put back into their boats, given food and water, and towed back out to sea. In some cases (again alleged), the boats have not had working motors. The Thai Navy denies all the allegations.

They’re back, and this time it’s personal.

After a break of several months, the Oriental Magpie-Robins have deigned to nest in my light fitting once more.

Oriental Magpie-Robins, the Third Batch

Oriental Magpie-Robins, the Third Batch