While the process for tying the knot here in China, is pretty simple assembling the paper work wasn’t as simple. Living in Riyadh made the whole thing complicated from the start as it meant I’d need to fly back to the UK to do the legwork, as it wasn’t possible to do it in Saudi.
The first step on my journey was to visit a notary public, and I flew into London so that I could spend some time with my little brother and go to a notary around the corner from him in Greenwich. The fee for the visit was a fairly reasonable fifty quid, and all I had to do was sit in front of a very nice lady who warned me of the strict legal implications for telling porky pies, and promise I’d never been married before.
Well it really doesn’t get much easier than that, and so the whole thing was over in ten minutes and she printed a couple of nice notarized documents that essentially said, I’d said I was single.
After that it was a mad dash across London to get on a train to Milton Keynes, which is where the Labour government in their wisdom had decided where the foreign office should be moved to. I hate Milton Keynes, I’ve been there are a few times before and the depressing American grid system combined with featureless architecture has done a good job of keeping me away from the city except when I’ve been working there.
I arrived in Milton Keynes just before lunchtime and it seemed sensible to jump in a taxi to get to the foreign office. And true to form the cabbie took my fare without indicating that the office is less than 2 minutes’ walk around the corner, and I’d have got there more quickly and much more cheaply on foot. The bar steward. So five pounds lighter and a whole lot wiser about thieving taxi drivers, I popped into the building and was immediately relieved of all things electronic by an extremely pleasant security guard. You aren’t even allowed to have your mobile phone on inside the place.
It’s worth mentioning that the security guard may be the most pleasant public servant I’ve ever encountered in the UK. He was genuinely engaging, respectful and kind, it’s one of the few moments I’ve ever really been proud to be British. Foreign visitors must love him.
Then it was into a fairly featureless room, covered in crappy plastic chairs bolted to the floor, the obligatory “wait your turn” ticket machine and a row of little windows with employees scowling out behind them. It wasn’t much of a wait, and I turned over my paperwork (and another 30 quid) so that the foreign office could stamp it, to say that yes, really I said I was single. Then I had to wait a couple of hours to get the form back. I went outside and it being Milton Keynes there was nothing else around of interest, so I popped into a 7-11 (or something like that) got a four pack of beers and some cigarettes and sat outside drinking and chain smoking until I got my form back and headed off to London once more.
It was late in the day when I got back so I had some time to spend in the pub before commencing the next part of the paper trail.