I love holidays. The spirit of adventure they embody, the excitement, the unexpected! Live on the edge, take risks and confront your fears! That’s why, on the way to Spain this summer, I threw my passport in a bin.
I probably shouldn’t have done it. I probably should have checked that, on the aeroplane, the bag of sushi remnants I passed over to be binned didn’t contain anything particularly important, like my book or my drink for later. Or the most important travel document I own.
But I didn’t. I threw my passport in the bin, like a child playing a joke. Except a child wouldn’t have to explain, in extremely broken Spanish, to a border official, that basically they’d been a fucking idiot.
Of course, I only realised what had occurred when it was our turn in the queue. The border guard sort of shooed me aside and assured me he’d phone someone. I watched him not phoning anyone for about half an hour, whilst my travelling companion reassured me by saying “You probably won’t get it back, you know. I really think it’ll have gone by now.”
When the near-interminable stream of gap yahs and the elderly had faded to nothing, the border man sort of shitted around with his friend for a bit, then I started to cry so he felt guilty and paid attention. (Editor’s note: apparently crying at authority to get what you want as a 20-something-year-old woman still works. VERSA in no way at all reccomends this. Nope. Not at all.) Not that he gave much consolation: “We can’t let you in. You have to stay here. You have no passport. No Spain for you.”
” I could definitely have sneaked some bomb parts onto the plane.”
By this stage it was all a bit funny – helped by the fact that whenever another member of my group found out what had happened, they burst into uncontrollable laughter. And (possibly backing myself too hard) I was not convinced they’d actually deny me entry. Indeed they didn’t: Border Man’s more sympathetic friend told me it was fiiine, the boss was on holiday, it’d be fiiiiiine, have a nice time in lovely Seville.
Which I proceeded to do. Beautiful Andalusian countryside, a pool to stave off sunstroke, delicious food, and quietly tense drives past police cars because I was technically an illegal immigrant.
Eventually we went to the British Consulate in Malaga, which was a dubious back-office near some scaffolding. It rained. A nice lady sorted me out with an emergency passport, I read a newspaper about how Syrian refugees were being denied sanctuary across Europe, and we went on our merry way – £95 poorer. But I have a vague feeling that if I’d cried again and the people around me hadn’t been bursting with laughter because yes, I did literally throw it in a bin, then perhaps alternative provisions could have been made.
Eventually, the time came for my solitary departure back to England. So, clutching my phone (which doesn’t make sound, frequently turns itself off, and remains bound together by sellotape and prayers) I set off on the return voyage.
[An aside: en route, we visited a fantastic castle just outside Seville. We climbed up to the battlements and perilous turrets – most of the voyage without handrails, or for that matter anything else to prevent us falling to our deaths. At the highest bits, had a single ankle twisted or a foot slipped and we’d have needed mopping up from the ground below. That being said, the steps were not so steep as to stop mischievous children scampering up whilst parents looked elsewhere. The sign at the castle entrance simply read “Danger! Bees.” Thank you, Spanish authorities. This anecdote may be taken as indicative of Spanish attitude to safety.]
Apparently emboldened by my success in entering Spain illegally, I realised that I’d accidentally managed to add a packet of matches to my hand luggage – which also contained a cigarette lighter and Swiss Army knife. The Spanish man at the scanning screen didn’t care: he was pressing the ‘next’ button to slide more bags through whilst yawning and looking at his watch. The other man, responsible for making me walk through an electric scanner, didn’t even give me a perfunctory feeling-up when I set it off (hair slides in pocket).
Whilst as a 52kg white female I don’t exactly look intimidating/like a big scary jihadist, I could definitely have sneaked some bomb parts onto the plane. (Clarification FAO the Rt Hon Theresa May MP: Ms Sharman has never and will never sneak bomb parts onto a plane. This is purely speculation for comic effect.) And I had two packs of cigarettes in my bag (is that even illegal? Who knows) that could easily have contained more – ahem – interesting substances than tobacco. Oh, well, there’s always next time.
So FAO all those fleeing warzones and unable to find asylum: you’re just doing it wrong. If you want to get into a foreign country without any documentation, any proper ID, and completely without a passport, all you need is to be a young, white, British female with the ability to cry on demand. Try Spain this summer.