Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Long Good Monday

Monday was a long old day. The weather was nice on Sunday, which meant that we had a bit of a lazy day, plus we lost an hour of course. By the time we'd taken Mishka for a nice walk, and I'd had a nap on a sun lounger on the decking (the weather was that nice), it was already tea-time.
Olga needed to finish filling in her forms for Lara's citizenship and passport, and for Olga's own passport renewal, then we had to go to the Tigress office in Marlow to print them out, so it was getting on for 10pm before we got home again.
I was planning how we'd get to where we had to go, and Olga had to pack Lara's stuff, and make sure all the forms were in the right folders and everything was organsied, so it was after 1am before we went to bed.
We had to get up at 5am, with a plan to leave in the car by 6.30. We drove to Hammersmith, parked the car, then took the tube to Westminster, and were in the queue at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to get four documents "legalised" by 8.45am. We were 10th in the queue, and by the time the doors opened at 9.30, the queue length had at least doubled behind us. None of that really mattered anyway, as we had our secret weapon - Lara. The procedure is that you show the papers you need legalising to one person, who checks them briefly before giving you your number, like at the deli counter in a supermarket. I guess this is a good idea so people don't waste time trying to legalise something that is incorrect. This person saw we had a baby with us, strapped to Olga in the baby bjorn, and wrote us a little note rather than giving us a number, and told us to just march straight up to the first counter and not bother waiting to be called :-) So, we did just that, and 20 minutes later, and £108 worse off, we had achieved the first goal of the day. We even had time to pop into a Weatherspoons next Trafalgar Square for a cup of tea and to feed Lara, before heading off to the Russian Embassy.
Lara had been very good on the tube, in fact she'd been asleep most of the morning, until she decided she'd wanted feeding just after we came out of the FCO. We were waiting for her to have a noisy nappy filling episode on a crowded tube train, which we were almost guiltily looking forward to, hoping to see the reactions of the other travellers looking round for someone to blame! She was a perfect lady though and kept her trumps to herself.
We made it to the Russian Embassy, via a Snappy Snaps to photocopy the apostilles we'd just got, at 11am. Like Embassies like to do, they stop accepting documents for applications at noon, so we felt we had some time, but still we were the last to leave there at 12.10, with Lara's patience now beginning to run out, followed not too far by Olga's, who had shown considerable restraint by not barking back at the old lady who was receiving the application forms in a manner which was helpful but tinged with the Russian trait of intolerance for anyone who's not filled the correct form in triplicate, in ink that is the correct shade of black, using handwriting that has been certified by a lawyer in Kamchatka who spent twenty years in a gulag for once not capitalising the first letter of the name of his milkman's apartment block on a form requesting one less pint of redtop on Saturdays.
You get the picture, anyway.
I had to fill one form in and sign it in front of this lady. I concentrated hard on getting it right, it was quadruple-checked by Olga, even Lara had a look at it, then we waited five minutes for her to come back from some important gossiping she had to do with a colleague; I managed to get through the "CJH" part of my signature before she turned away to continue her chat about the price of handbags or something. I didn't know if I had to pause my signature and wait for her to finish before completing it, but she was in no rush to turn back to watch me sign it, so I signed it anyway. It's silly things like that though that can get applications refused.
The jist is that we had hoped to apply for Lara's Russian Citizenship and her passport in one go, but the Officious Lady told Olga in no uncertain terms that this was impossible, that Citizenship had be granted first, then we could apply for her passport, and that Olga was clearly the village idiot for not knowing this in the first place. She didn't actually say this but I imagine it was implied in her tone.
So, Lara should get her Citizenship within the next two months, but she'll be travelling to Russia on her British passport, which means we need to get her a tourist visa.

After that the hard work was done, and we went into Hyde Park for a sit down, and give Lara her lunch. Two batty old English ladies were walking a handful of West Highland Terriers or poodles, or both, (is there a collective name for a group of small, very fluffy little dogs with bows in their hair? "Pack" just doesn't sound right. A "flounce" sounds better) which were off the lead. We know from experience with Mishka that we won't let him off the lead if we think we can't get him back without a chase and a stun gun. One or two of these fluffballs came to investigate us, and more accurately, the sausages we were nibbling at. The owners were very apologetic, and we were quite understanding, until one of them (the dogs, not the owners) jumped up and actually landed her paws on Lara's head, who was being fed by Olga. Luckily she was only a puppy and one of Lara's better farts would have blown her off her paws, and no damage was done, but there was a muddy paw print on Lara's hat, and the owner, and Olga & I all had a bit of a fright. The owner was even more apologetic, and both Olga & I resisted the urge to have a real go at her, but only because Lara hadn't seemed to notice at all and hadn't made a murmer. Hopefully the owner will keep her flounce on leads from now on, but I doubt it. We'll just watch out for them next time we're in the park and we'll let Mishka off. That'll teach them what an excitable puppy is really like...
Lara is still struggling with a cold at the moment, and we'd not brought the Olbas Oil with us to help her breathing, which meant she wasn't feeding as well as she normally would, so we went off to buy some, then stocked up with Russian nosh at the Russian deli that's nearby, and then decided it was time for everyone to go home. I wanted to take a photo of Lara next to some monument on her first trip to London, but in the rush to get to the FCO earlier, I'd missed out on the minor attractions of Big Ben, Downing Street and Nelson's Column, so we settled for the Albert Memorial instead:

We were home by 3.30 and asleep by 4! It's a big job done, and not one we'd like to do again soon, but it could have been a lot worse. We can now think about starting to plan for the holiday. The worst case scenario is that we can get Lara and I visas in one day if we pay a premium and turn up in person, but we've got two months to get them. Hopefully I'll get mine through work, and Lara's can be done by post once we get our first hotel sorted out in Moscow.

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