Fast-forward to ten years later and I am now living in England, trying to get my Irish passport renewed. As it turns out, the Irish embassy has provided a handy guide to how to do this, which is all relatively straightforward until you come to the part where you have to get your photographs "endorsed" by someone.
Unfortunately, of the people on this list produced in Ireland, many seem confused as to the social responsibility they signed up for when they pursued their career initially. I myself would relish the opportunity to flex my community muscles, as it were, if I were one of those on the list. If I were a police officer, it would make my day for a young person to come into my station and I could help him with his forms, stamp and sign and feel like an authoritative member of society, which is why I would have become a police officer or bank manager or, lawyer in the first place. Maybe that's just me.
I thought I would get my MP to do it, but due entirely to my own foolishness I left it too late, and parliament dissolved, rendering my MP powerless to help me as he is now just some guy I met last time he was campaigning. Wanting to get it done sooner rather than later, I first tried the police station. On the weekend I cycled all the way from Withington to Didsbury only to find out that Didsbury Police Station is a Police station in name only, no actual police inside. So after work, I cycled to Lonsight police station which was manned by two female PCSOs who initially seemed not to know for certain what to do, discussing various reasons why they wouldn't endorse it. One reason they mentioned (with a straight face) was that they wouldn't endorse it in case I was actually a wanted criminal in Ireland. They followed this up by theorising that if the newspapers found out that a Manchester police officer had endorsed my application it would cause a scandal. They touched on the fact that they believed that I have to have known the individual for at least 2 years, as it is with an INITIAL UK passport application; this is not the case. I explained the facts of the case and they seemed to think it over before confidently claiming that they had seen them get rejected in the past, when UK officers filled it as it has to be a member of Garda Síochána and that I should "Google it". Well I did "Google it", I even tweeted my Embassy and they have reassured me that they would not reject the application if a UK police officer had endorsed it, and that unfortunately they can't force people to live up to their end of the social contract they agreed to when they applied for their career path.
Shortly after my less than helpful encounter with the police, I decided that maybe my local Reverend would be helpful and full of Christian charity. I may have been wrong about this, she turned me away without listening to me very well, insisting that she had to have known me for 2 years, the same story I was to hear again and again, despite it not being the case at all. She did have someone with her and I can understand her desire to get back to that person quickly if they were known for their petty theft when left unattended for periods longer that 3 minutes.
The following day I didn't start work until 12:30 so I cycled into Manchester City centre to visit as many High street Banks as I could, to get my application endorsed by a "bank official". I arrived at my own personal bank, believing that I had the best chance with the Co-operative; they have it in the name! Unfortunately the branch manager was unavailable so I had to try Halifax, who point blank refused, without going into any actual detail as to why. They will only Endorse or stamp internal documents. Full-stop. Okay, on to Barclay's, who were bend over backwards helpful, but unfortunately their branch manager was at the same meeting that every other bank manager was at that day. Santander and NatWest point blank refused, Lloyds had nobody to speak to. I had zero faith that I would genuinely get any help from a Bank, but still didn't think that they would quite be so obstructively unhelpful. I headed into work and on my lunch break went to the nearest doctor's surgery.
I walked in and confidently approached the counter asking if the Dr had any free time to take 5 minutes to endorse my form. The receptionist gave me 3 mutually exclusive excuses as to why this would not happen today; 1 this Doctor would not endorse my application because I am registered with a different Doctor, and he has to have known me for two years... 2 The Doctor doesn't get a spare 5 minutes as he has to do lots of admin work between patients, so I should book an appointment if I want my Doc to sign and endorse my form, 3 There is a £20 administration fee to pay. On the list of authorised professions, is accountant, lawyer and notary public, all of whom I expect without even asking would charge me to do this, but I really did not expect the Doctor to charge. I didn't even want to get the Dr to do it as he has sick people to deal with, who are his priority. For all I know my appointment will be cancelled to deal with a real patient, or emergency.
So the story is not over, I am still looking for someone to do it for me!
If you are an Irish Passport holder and have been through this; then please leave a comment with tips for me and others on how to get around this bureaucratic headache.
With as little expense as possible!
Why Don't Some Drivers Indicate Correctly?
I am a humble pedestrian, occasional cyclist but never a driver, so maybe it will be hard for me to understand the effort involved in remembering to indicate. I know some of the Highway Code, I was thinking about taking my test some day, but the way some people drive just makes me think too much about dying at the hands of a moron. I personally find this off-putting.
Of all of the initial lessons one learns when mastering the art of driving, mirror, signal, manoeuvre is a mantra too quickly forgotten on the roads. Those flashing yellow lights are for warning all other road users of your intentions, those you are aware of and those you haven't seen. On many occasions, this negligence has lead to me being stood directly in front of a car making a turn towards me, while I was crossing the road, on one occasion it didn't quite stop in time and gave me a bump. What was really galling was the fact that these drivers seemed so indignant and defensive of the idea that it was their fault for not signalling.
Maybe it's a generational thing, in my experience younger drivers tend to be more guilty of failing to signal. Older drivers tend to indicate every time; my Dad for example indicates round car parks because it has become so second nature to him. This leads me to believe that it may have something to do with falling out of the habit due to some form of encumbrance, such as not being able to indicate for some reason. I noticed that upon looking into the window of the cars that don't indicate, about a 30% were ON THE PHONE, 40% were sticking their left gear changing hand somewhere else (up their nose, on the gear lever, on their face, drinking HOT coffee, TEXTING!). At least another 20% were resting their right arm out the window, the other ten were miscellaneous in case you were wondering.
What Can Pedestrians Do About It?
I have personally confronted drivers about their failure to indicate or being on the phone, sometimes a simple dirty look is enough to evoke a look of shame and apology. Sometimes they get out of their car and harass you verbally for telling them how to drive, but the advantage of being a pedestrian is that I can walk away, they are making a journey of some kind and usually want to get along, in their car. Maybe if it was the norm for people to be openly critical of other's stupidity things would be better. As for now I am the one with a chip on my shoulder from being bumped over by a car driver in this situation.
Now I am finally blogging about it, maybe I can convince people of why it's important to signal at all times to get into the good habit. Mirror, SIGNAL, manoeuvre is not just for when you see other cars around, but all the time, for the people you don't see (like in your blind spot) too.
I started a Facebook Group about this after I nearly got hit again, and shouted at the middleaged lady driver only to get the finger for my wisdom. Please join it and invite your friends, it's open to all and only takes a minute!
In summation this current trend in bad driving could be due to many of the other bad driving factors I have seen, or it could be a phenomenon of its own. This does not matter, what really matters is that it stops being so prolific. We need to scold drivers with a simple phrase that will put them right back in the learners seat; Mirror, SIGNAL, Manoeuvre!
Headphones & Earphones On A Bike - Is It A Distraction?
As somebody who very occaisionally will take his bicycle out for a spin, and only on cycle lanes, I can honestly say I have never even contemplated the idea of listening to music whilst cycling. For starters, when listening to music I can't help but move some part of my body along to the rhythm of the beat. This is a very Bad Idea when urban cycling, which requires fast changes in tempo all the time. If I was listening to music I would be slower to react to a change in the speed of what was going on around me.
The other downside is that, essentially, you can't hear very much of what's going on around you on the road. This is obviously very dangerous considering how quiet cars are getting these days, and they will practically be silent assassins when they are all electric cars. As much as you should be looking around you at all times on a bike, you should also be listening. Most times a change in revs in the cars around you can be a great indicator that they are about to do something to endanger your life.
Is Cycling With Headphone/Earphones On Dangerous?
Here is a great example of the kind of accident that can happen due to this incredibly Bad Idea. I have seen so many people doing this on a regular basis, I'm surprised that there haven't been more accidents. Obviously, there have been more than just this one, they just don't all get reported, probably because the embarrassed cyclist doesn't want people to think of them as the fool they are.
Cyclists also seem to find it hard to understand what a red light means, I have seen so many near misses out of the bus window at traffic lights. A cyclist will come steaming past us (Red Light Jumping or RLJ) as we roll to a stop, and nearly get side-swiped by a car coming towards the lights from the left as they change. Combinations of two or more bad road habits are all it takes to guarantee a road traffic incident.
The worst example of stupidity I have seen recently on this subject has to be when I saw a cyclist on a road coming towards me in full proffessional gear, pointy helmet, shorts and all. Despite all of his expensive stretched latex and nylon strapping, he was using both hands completely off the handlebars to send a text message as he stared intently at the screen of his expensive looking phone. He was also wearing earphones, at first I thought he was changing tracks but he clearly had a separate mp3 player hooked up to his headgear.
Can Cyclist Listen To Music Whilst Cycling In Safety?
With products like the Soundwalk Audio MP3 Cycling Speaker Vest, or Slipstreamz Cycling Earwear for Headphones out there I'm not sure if this Bad Idea is going to end without government intervention. These products are trying to market themselves as safety devices, as in you won't have to wear earphones to listen to your music. You don't have to listen to your music on your bike in the first place surely, music is distracting no matter how it is blasted at your ears.
So dear reader I leave it up to you to spread the word to the people who are still putting their lives, and the lives of innocent others, in danger. Proclaim (loudly, earphones/headphones remember!) to them that it is indeed a "Bad Idea!", with optional mime of taking off a pair of headphones.
Text Walking - A Modern Phenomenon Menacing The Pavements
If you live in a busy bustling city anywhere in the world, chances are there will come a point in the next week where you will directly observe this modern phenomenon. A person marching towards you, head down, staring intently at the screen of their mobile phone as their thumbs stab wildly at the keypad or touch screen. Texting and Walking is a growing habit of the masses, yet it is a REALLY Bad Idea.
These people are completely oblivious to the world around them, even to you, as you casually sidestep them on the bustling pavement. Trouble is they didn't sidestep you at all, you did all of the sidestepping action. What happens when two people like that are heading towards each other? Two guesses...
While I was working as a charity fund-raiser on the streets of Manchester, I witnessed people walking into lampposts, bollards and each other on many occasions whilst text walking. I have even seen old ladies forced to give way, to people trying to change tracks on their mp3 player. Texting and Walking is so much worse when there are earphones or headphones involved, or a hood, sunglasses, or baseball cap.
As you may have already guessed, Texting and Walking is especially dangerous when crossing the road or walking down a flight of stairs. In fact there was a story about a man fairly recently, who fell down some stairs in a multi-storey building. He was on one of those reality talent shows last year if I recall correctly, and I also remember police stating that he may have been using his phone at the time. I myself have seen people walking lazily across the road, as they text their loved one that ultra important lol reply SMS to a joke they were sent.
Texting And Walking - Is It SO Dangerous?
After a little googling, I couldn't find what I was looking for, but I did find one that was even funnier! This young girl seems to have gone for the old classic slapstick staple of falling down an open manhole. Clearly if she hadn't been texting and walking at the time, she would have seen the massive gaping hole in the ground ahead of her.
People of the world, this practice isn't just dangerous, it isn't just plain ignorant, it's fully inconsiderate, deadly and a very Bad Idea! Simply stop, text then walk; or alternatively win a text walking Darwin award! Let people know of the danger and warn them with a stern "Look Out Where You're Going!".