Monday, 1 March 2010

How a Wee Trip to Glasgow Can Go Wrong

I know it’s been a while between entries. I don’t know why, I think it was a pretty uneventful period—I mean who would really want to hear what I made for dinner or how many loads of laundry I did...etc. So, I waited until I had something to talk about.

First, for all the people who have been asking, there’s really no change in my leg, which unfortunately, means no real improvement. I’m kind of in stasis for some reason. It’s gotten no worse, but really not gotten better yet. The skin that had become irritated around the original wound and around the bandage has improved and is a lot less sore, thankfully. The nurses are still coming out twice a week to dress it and we’re still going to the hospital clinic every Thursday.

I had gotten a letter from the UK Border Agency (Immigration) about my visa application the first of February. I was instructed to make an appointment online to report to their office (the nearest one to us was Glasgow) within 15 working days to get my biometrics. This turned out to be getting my “finger scan” (finger prints) and a photo taken. I thought at first it would also involve scanning my retinas but it didn’t.

I really don’t know how people who don’t have a computer were supposed to make these appointments because they gave no contact phone number either, I had a hard enough time myself and I’m no beginner. The web site address they gave in the letter wasn’t actually correct and I had to Google the right site and then still had to be savvy enough to find the actual site to book an appointment. As you’d expect on a government site it was more complicated than it needed to be.

After checking with Robbie’s schedule we decided he would take Friday the 19th off and we’d go in the morning. I’d heard that the part of Glasgow—Goven—that the offices were at is a rather bad end of town so we wanted to go there in the daytime so I made my appointment for 10:30. The letter and the later emails told me that I needed to be there a half an hour before the appointment time so we figured that to get into Glasgow at that time of the morning we should leave the house no earlier than 8:30.

Now those of you who know me and know that I am NOT a morning person will understand when I say that even after two cups of coffee I was not a happy camper but I was able to get ready and out the door by 8:30. It actually was a lovely sunny morning with mist lingering in the folds of the hills looking wispy and mysterious but it was also cold and frosty. It was nice to be going off for a drive in the car, though, but I couldn’t find my sunglasses—I know I left them in the car but it’s been SO long since I’ve needed to use them that I had no idea where I had left them.

We made really good time on the motorway into Glasgow and didn’t hit any rush hour traffic like Robbie was afraid of. We got off the right exit according to MapQuest and made the first two turns correctly but after that it all went wrong. He was in the wrong lane (even thought I told him to get over to turn ahead of time) and kept making random turns until we were hopelessly lost. Glasgow has a lot of one way streets and that confused the issue even more. We had a small print-out map but by the time we were off the map...and had no idea where we were.

To make matter worse, I had become desperate to go to the bathroom! We were in some sort of industrial area with empty factories and road construction making the traffic even worse and confusing. Finding public facilities over here is a hit and miss proposition in the best of times—there aren’t a lot of restaurants or McDonald’s around or anywhere you could really duck in and use the bathroom. Robbie said he had to go too and pulled into a subway (underground) station and assured me there would be a toilet there. When we got in, thought, the very nice ticket lady told us there weren’t any there in the station except down at the platform for passengers. She told him there was a little café across the street that we might try.

Now, this café was about a block along across the parking lot and on the other side of a very busy 4 lane road. I was sure I would never make it across the road considering my leg and my condition. I was almost at the point of having an accident and then calling the office and telling them we couldn’t make it in! Robbie grabbed my arm and said, “You will make it over there. You can do it.” So off we went with him holding my arm. Happily the café was open and they let us use their bathroom and relief was great! When we came out we wanted to buy a drink or something to take with us just to repay them for letting us use the facilities but the girl behind the counter was so sweet and said, “You don’t need to buy anything” even though we insisted.

Finally, after many twists and wrong turns we “happened” onto one of the main roads and Robbie thought he knew where we were. We finally found one of the streets mentioned on MapQuest and I was able to navigate from there. The office was in a sort of office/warehouse type of area with a security guard at the gate.

Robbie let me off there in front of the gate and the guard came out and questioned me as to why I was there, what I was going to be doing and who was that in the car. I thought, uh oh, this is not going to be nice but I answered all his questions with a smile. The guard then became very solicitous and told me that Robbie could pull in and take me up to the door if I wanted. I told him I thought I could manage to get to the door even though he pointed out it was all away along to the end of the series of buildings. I still assured him I could manage and waited while Robbie parked the car across the street and joined me.

Inside, we were met by more security guards and put through an airport-type of security scan—plus! One of them went through my purse—and I mean went through it, taking everything out. I was reminded of the time I went to the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. and the security guard there pulled out my tampons and pads. Embarrassing, to say the least. After all of our adventures getting there, Robbie and I were like two bumbling idiots I think, forgetting to turn off our mobiles even though the sign was right in front of our noses, setting off the metal detector (for me it was the snaps on my coat for Robbie it was his keys he had forgotten to take out of his pocket) and just acting clueless. I couldn’t help but laugh and joke with the men and they turned from stern to friendly to the point that when we got out to retrieve the things they had held for us we were chatting like old friends.

Inside, I had to sign in at one desk and be issued a number. It was very much like going to the DMV in Virginia in that you waited for your number to be called and told which number desk to report at. The only difference was that the cubicles you reported to were in another room separated by curtains behind a glass door. When I was called I reported to a really nice young woman who had me fill out and sign a form that said that all the information I had given was correct. I also had to fill in that I was also known and had applied by another name: McCord. For some reason, they had issued the letter and my papers to “Mrs. Ledger” which is still the name on my passport. I hadn’t had time after the wedding to change the name and I’m hoping that shouldn’t make a difference to the visa because the one that had expired was issued as Janet Ledger McCord. Surely these bureaucrats are used to name changes because of marriage.

The girl asked me then if I’d had my fingerprints taken before for my previous visa and I answered, “No, and not for any other reason either.” She laughed and said, “That’s good.” and had me put my right hand (not the thumbs) on a sort of scanner like in the grocery stores. She asked me eventually if I’d had trouble with dry skin and I definitely said yes. My hands have been so dry this winter no amount of hand cream has kept them from getting wrinkled and old-looking. She said that sometimes if your hands are dry and wrinkled the fingerprints don’t come out clearly so she gave me some hand cream and we tried again. I joked about having “old granny hands” and we tried both hands and the thumbs but apparently the computer didn’t like my “granny hands” because she was getting error results. She had to call her supervisor and he had to override the error.

After all that fun (ha!) she had me turn in my chair and she took my picture. Very reminiscent of DMV! I told her thank you very much but we wouldn’t be asking for copies for the family album. I was sent back out to the waiting room while they apparently checked my file and forwarded my results on to the Home Office to continue processing my visa application. That was that, I was done and they didn’t do a retina scan like I thought they would, thank goodness. The idea of that was giving me the willies!

As I said, when we went to collect our things outside the security guards were joking and chatting with us and one of them even came out of the office to join in. One of them asked where we were going next and I said if we didn’t get too lost we were going to go somewhere for lunch. I said I’d heard rumors that there was a Burger King somewhere in Glasgow and one of them said, “Oh no, he can do better than that,” but they agreed that I was fighting a losing battle getting a Scotsman to spend money. They really made the experience enjoyable for me (even though I don’t think that was part of their job description). I really have to say, I have run into some of the nicest people over here, either that or they’re just being nice to me because I’m a foreigner—but I don’t think so.

We really did go to lunch at a Burger King and I had a Whopper for the first time in almost 3 years. It tasted just like I expected it to which was wonderful. The Burger King was in a little shopping enclave that included a cinema, a Chinese restaurant, Chiquito’s (the only Mexican restaurant we’ve been able to find), Harvester (a sort of family-style restaurant alá Shoney’s) a casino and a bingo hall. Other than the last two things, it was a lot like a little shopping center or area back home. I hope we will be able to come back sometime. There IS life in Scotland!

We thought about trying to see a movie after lunch but the times weren’t in our favor—we had just missed the afternoon showings of some of the ones we wanted to see—so we just decided to head on home. I think we were both feeling tired and I certainly looked forward to getting home and putting my feet up. I actually had a hankering for a cup of tea! Am I going native after all?

So, after much time apart I have another adventure to report to you all and you can enjoy laughing at our bumbling! Luckily, it all turned out well. Going into March we are covered in snow again since last week. The sun is out but it’s cold so none of the snow is melting. At least the roads are clear today. Because of the clear skies and sunshine I guess you could say March came in like a lamb so guess we’ll have to brace ourselves for the lion at the end of the month! Hope everyone is keeping warm and cozy. As always, we’re sending love to all!


  1. Janet,I LOVED reading this about your life! sounds like this is such a good fit for you,,,,,,you are where you were destined to be(smile),don't know if I told you ,,my good friends out here,the Roses, their daughter Cindy is married to Allister Offer and they live in Edinburgh, he is from there,they have lived there and have 2 young sons,,,,,my friends go see them often acutally,,,,,,,and they come visit maryland 2 times per year,,,,,,am on the way out door,do not work today, my Ben will be 12 this thursday and am getting some stuff togehter for him to suprise him! ha we are actually moving back to mo where I am from in July,,,,,boys are getting excited about it,,,,was going to wait til they graduated before I moved back, but God literally took the decision out of my hands, which was good! they will be going into 5 and 7th grade and it is a good time to go now,all family is there,,,,,,tons of loved ones for them,,,,,,,and it is sosoos much cheaper for me there,,,,finally had to come to the realization that I would prefer not having to make money for a 2,000 mortage on east coast when I could have a 400 mortgage in a fairly new home in mo,,,,,,and Lord willing,will be able to set up a free (thru govt funding and state funding) drug counseling clinic! am sososo psyched over that! God bless ,will talk to you soon, just ever so happy that life is good for you!!! hugs, Lisa

  2. So funny. Our bumblings, it's all bumbling when it's new to us. I love reading your story and thanks for the update on your leg. Happy for you about getting the Burger King Whopper. A great taste of home! Can't wait for the next edition.

  3. Great blog! I so enjoy reading about your adventures in Scotland, but for some reason, I'm hungry for a Whopper!