So how did it go? Did I get my new visa?
Thanks for asking.
Yes. It took no less than eight hours. That's dedication. That's some serious dedication to a country that hasn't had one sunny day in 120 consecutive days.
Waiting around for eight hours in a place, which as She Who Also Loves Tweed describes as, "Croydon can crush the human spirit like no other town."
For six out of those eight hours, I had no idea what was going on with my paperwork or my biometrics. (Biometrics is the second desk out of four stops during this arduous adventure. Entails fingerprint taking and signing of a declaration form about not being deceptive towards Britain).
I can see why people don't bother to renew their work permits here. It's really quite an ask.
For those six hours of nothingness, I thought about kicking it with the rest of the other waiting people around me - perhaps just to bond over an Anglo-moan - but everyone around me fell into either of two categories: no speaky the English or looked criminally insane.
I had bought with me about 5 energy bars, the Middleton biographic, (still total horse shit, really, don't bother), and a full reserve of fake sanity.
Rumours through the hallowed halls of Lunar House reverberated betwixt screaming children and dribbling adults (kids having to wait around for the same period is just cruel, as far as I'm concerned. At least my veteran status allows me to entertain myself, even if it is through voices in my head), that the placed stopped processing visas at 4:00pm.
I had been there since 9:30am. It was now 3:45pm. Fifteen minutes, and I had no idea if they'd even seen my passport. Last calls were taken, and by some miracle my number was called. I wiped away my drool and screamed "YEEEEEESS!" really loudly.
This meant I wouldn't need to come back. Or go to another Home Office in Little Shitting, Lincolnshire, to try again. I was going to walk away with a renewal. And wouldn't need to come back here for a whole three years.
It felt like I'd run a mental marathon, but I'd made it. I walked out, clutching the forms, in a frenzied state of shakiness, and because I couldn't get out of there fast enough, made my way straight to Croydon train station.
One would think this exciting adventure, documenting the woes of immigration, was now over, but my life never works like this, never has and never will.
I saw the sign for Clapham Junction (home!) pointing towards Platform One, and literally took a running leap and nosedived onto the train.
And ended up in some south London ghetto instead of aforementioned destination.
I knew something was wrong when there were gangstas everywhere, a garage soundtrack going on in the background (or in my head?), and that leaving Croydon wasn't getting better, it was getting worse.
Mobile phone was dead, so was helpless without it, obvs.
I remember standing on a platform in God Help Me, waiting for a connecting train to take me to another place, to connect to yet another place, in the rain.
And after an hour of fannying about on the wrong trains across greater Surrey, I thought:
When I finally get home after this trying little ordeal, I will celebrate. I will celebrate like a motherfucker.
Having quit smoking (again), the only thing that was of any appeal was
A big, stonking pasty, VAT inclusive.
It's been a while since I wrapped my chops around a pie. Damn it was good.
Three more years until I can apply for residency. Four more years until I can apply for citizenship. Being a British citizen isn't as far away as it used to be. So that's terribly exciting. Hell have I worked for it. Just sitting through that endurance test of a lifetime, for starters.
PS: I got asked twice if I would bother to apply for a British passport at the end of all of this. The people asking have obviously never met a South African before. Or one with a Green Mamba. When that day arrives, you can bet your asshole that I will be in that queue.
PPS: Same people then asked where South Africans can travel without having to apply for a visa. They couldn't believe that, in fact, it was easier for me to go to Arkansas for the weekend, than Paris. (America gives us a ten year visa, France not so much.) Or that the three countries we can visit in Europe are Ireland, Turkey and fucking Kosovo.