Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s good to see you, but on balance I suppose I’m glad that you’re still around – even if you are a grumpy-looking old sod.
If I think back to your 1975 iteration, your first as a grown-up, you were a grumpy-looking young sod. In fact, apart from the absence of beard the only real difference from forty years ago is that you had more and rather darker hair than nowadays, albeit that your rich auburn was lost to the world because back then you had to be in black and white.
However, you had the same knitted-brow, accusing look that once prompted a work colleague to accuse you of seeming to be looking for somebody to cut in half. Never mind, at least I understand that it’s just the way your jaw is set; you’re naturally of an austere demeanour. In appearance – although in absolutely nothing else – you’d have fitted right in with a group of seventeenth-century Puritans.
Deep down, though, you’re just a pussycat.
The 1975 edition was the first of three to be taken at a photo booth in a railway station; in that case it was Manchester Victoria. Ten years later it was Edinburgh Waverley. It’s long enough ago that I can tell you now that I really didn’t like your 1985 look. The pudgy cheeks were bad enough, but that tweed jacket was, as Craig Revel Horwood would say, ‘a dis-arster, darling’.
In fairness, on that occasion you were taken en route to a supplicatory meeting with your bank manager, so could hardly have been expected to be in the best of humours. Nonetheless, ten years without parole is a harsh sentence for the petty misdemeanour of needing a bridging loan.
What with all the international jet-setting you were doing at that time, I saw more of your 1995 edition than any of the others, so I was quite glad that your usual sternness was moderated somewhat.
Even if it was only by the blinding hangover – with grace notes of an ill-advised Brick Lane vindaloo – you had that very early morning on the Liverpool Street concourse. And actually, with the pin-striped jacket and the Hermes tie, I like to think of that particular edition as the City Boy version of elegantly wasted. Or something like that.
In 2005 I’d go so far as to venture that you looked pretty good. Certainly the pick of the bunch, with a little bit of Abu Dhabi tan, an open-necked shirt and almost the hint of a contented smile. Like you always said, it helped that you were allowed to take that one yourself, so you got more than one shot at it. And life was good.
It still is, but no such creative flexibility this time, of course. According to the Passport Office guidance notes, smiling is right out in any case, so you must have felt right at home.
Apart from the fact that you were in Morrison’s.
Anyway, me old mate, we’ve known each other a long time. Keep in touch and I’ll be very interested to see how you look in 2025.
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Inspired – for want of a better word – by a prompt included in WordPress’s latest Writing 101 course that invited us to ‘reinvent the letter format’. This is as close as it’s going to get.