Thursday, April 09, 2009
Blue Screen Thinking
Today's post was going to be a pleasant ramble about how I should stop being so ungrateful about all the marriage paperwork. After all, there are people in the world who would do this much paperwork and ten times more for the privilege of marriage that we take for granted, but can't because they are a different religion or the same sex or not what was chosen for them.
But that's before Round 2 of the paperwork started. One fine day after my dad had couriered my birth certificate to me in Athens, I began making enquiries about getting it translated into Greek. I thought I'd get this out of the way while the 22 days the British Embassy wants to issue your No Impediment certificate pass.
A translated birth certificate is a necessary step in order to process your application for marriage. I checked with my other foreign and much smarter than me friend about what the translation office was like to deal with. And she asked if I had got the Apostille stamp for the birth certificate.
The what now? I rechecked all the papers. The Greek papers said all foreign birth certificates had to be legalised with an Apostille stamp and that most embassies would do this. But not the British Embassy. The only way I could get this done was through a government office in Milton Keynes. Doing it by post would take another three weeks on top of the three weeks I was already waiting for my I'm Not A Bigamist certificate from the embassy
So I altered my Easter plans and scheduled some days in London to fit in a visit to the Legalisation Office. I'd done all my checks online beforehand and felt satisfied at my own efficiency at solving the problem. When I boarded the train bright and early this morning, merry thoughts ran through my head. Soon I'd have my legalised papers and within a week we would finally have a date. Our wedding announcement had already gone to print with mine and my parents' names amusingly translated into Greek. Anxious friends would be able to book their tickets at last.
When I got to the Legalisation Office I was 15 minutes early and joined a weary looking queue outside the offices. Those mean government workers wouldn't even let us into the warmth until it was EXACTLY 9.30. I had not even had a morning cup of tea, but oh well. We were let in, issued numbers and then waited for one of the only two operating counters to free up as the numbers of hapless waiters grew and grew.
Finally it was my turn. And do you know what happened? After taking a morning train, trekking around in the cold, waiting 15 minutes in the wind and another 15 minutes while the employees finished a 'work meeting', I was out of that office in under one minute. Not because the employees are mega efficient, but because my birth certificate is laminated.
I'm surely not the only person in the country with a laminated birth certificate. Couldn't they write me a letter or something with the Apostille stamp and staple it to this? No. What about peeling off a corner of laminate and stamping it there? No. What about stamping the laminate and quickly putting some tape over it? No. Is there absolutely positively nothing you can do? No. But it's the only copy I have. Well then apply for another one. It'll only take till your first child is born.
These freaks have written an entire section on their website called Avoiding Delays where it says jack all about laminated paperwork. How long would it take someone to write "If your documents are laminated, roll them up and stick them up your backside but don't bring them here"
I should have guessed what a bunch of miserable and inflexible morons they'd be when their website declared warningly NOT to bring children and babies along when processing papers. Such items would have to be left at the desk on arrival. It didn't say that but it might as well have. Any office that bans children is out to facilitate the downfall of humanity.
I bet in their little morning meeting they pick numbers out of a bag and declare that Today's Number to Shaft is numbeeeer eeeeeiiiiggght! That was my number.
So I called Mr Zeus in tears of frustration at having come all the way to somewhere as unglamorous as Milton Keynes, paid money and missed half a day's work for nothing. He suggested checking if the British Embassy in Athens would issue me a new birth certificate. Which is what I did, and basically they told me to go get screwed since I hadn't been born in Greece.
Abandoned by my own embassy. I thought embassies existed overseas to make the lives of their countryfolk easier.
Well muchachos, you can forget me registering any of my future children with YOU. If one of them gets stranded somewhere godforsaken and I call for help, you'll probably send me a leaflet on conception so I can make a new one. You know, for all the talk of Greek bureaucracy, so far it's been dealing with the British side of things that has been a complete nightmare. It's the inflexibility of thinking that gets to me. In Greece, a few contacts and some silvered palms and you're on your way again. In the UK, if Computer Says No, Computer Says No, and not even God can change that.
So here I am, stuck without a legalised birth certificate with hardly any idea what to do next. In my fury I told Mr Zeus that I'd take my unstamped birth certificate to the translation office and just bribe the person on duty to translate it anyway. But I doubt that would work.
My checklist for you if you're a foreigner in Greece wanting to get married is this:
1) Don't do it
2) If you insist on doing it, don't be British