Friday 13 July 2012


My new passport arrived today, so my old faithful has now ceased to be, after 10 years and goodness knows how many air-miles and some sea- and rail-miles too. I was once anal enough to work out the distance covered in flights for one year, but ten is too much even for me. I'm not beyond counting up journeys, though, and here's the tally: New Caledonia, Fiji, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, Mauritius, Reunion Island, India, Macau, China, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands once each; Peru, Chile, Tahiti, France, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and the Cook Islands twice each; England three times; the US five times; and Australia just the 23 visits. I have friends who would scoff at such a pathetic total, but I'm pretty satisfied, on the whole; though it is disappointing to have nine whole pages totally unstamped.

That's more than 100 flights overall: plus a lot of standing in airport queues wishing I'd invented those retractable barriers, waiting at luggage carousels wondering which bit of my suitcase has broken off this time; watching airplane safety videos showing me how to fasten a seatbelt (Air NZ is far and away the most entertaining, even if sometimes toe-curling); and having the sniffer poked inside my hand-luggage - I almost never set off the metal detector, but I'm always getting picked for the explosives test. I wonder how many bottles of Lancome's Miracle I've accounted for, with a couple of squirts at every Duty Free? How many airplane meals eaten? How many actually enjoyed? How many movies watched?

But of course the passport's not just to do with the getting there and back again: it's really all about the bits in between - and what brilliant places they have been. Mostly. I wouldn't go back to Macau, or rush to re-visit Hong Kong or China; New Caledonia isn't calling to me either, and nor are Fiji or Tahiti. I don't think I need to go back to Mauritius or Reunion, lovely though they are. But everywhere else, I'd happily go again - England is a given, of course, and the US: and Australia is such a constant that it doesn't really enter the discussion. But those South American countries still have so much to explore; and Asia is so varied and colourful; and Europe? Well, of course..

I'm going to the Cooks again later this year: they'll do for Pacific Islands, for me. They'll be the first stamp in the new passport - I wonder what others there will be? I know, sniff, that I'm not going to get as many stamps from now on - I saw that already, travelling disconcertingly freely through the EU last month - because apart from anything else I'll be using the Smart Gate here and in Oz; but I do hope I get some African ones this time.

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