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Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Spotlight: Linda Swift


In case we haven't met before, my name is Linda Swift and I write romance, women's fiction, articles, and poetry. My first ebook was published in December, 2008 and my second contemporary romance was released last month as an ebook and in print. I know you read a lot of essays about writing so I thought I'd share something different this week. I invite you to grab a cup of your favorite beverage and join me here at LASR. And I hope it will brighten your day.

My husband and I lived for a time in Kingston-upon-Hull, a city of 650,000 on the River Humber which flowed into the North Sea a few miles beyond. To celebrate my birthday weekend, we sailed by overnight ferry to Amsterdam. I had visions of storybook windmills, blooming tulips, and wooden clogs. But the only windmills I saw were those whirly blades on slender poles, and painted wooden tulips and clogs in tourist shops. However, the trip was fun and we soon found ourselves reentering the UK on an early Monday morning.

Only we weren't. After taking our blue passports, the immigration officer gave us forms to fill out. A long queue of red passport people passed through and then he motioned us to return to the gate and began our interrogation. Where had we been? Amsterdam. Why? Sightseeing. Where were we going? To Hull. Why? We lived there. Why? My husband worked at a power plant there. Where was his work permit? In process. Did he know he needed it to re-enter the country? No. We were asked to sit down across the room while the officer sorted it out. Another officer joined him and they kept looking at us as they talked.

My husband was due at work in ten minutes. He began fidgeting in his chair. "Don't act nervous," I hissed. "They'll think we're guilty of something."

The first officer returned after a time and said sternly, "I called the permit office and they never heard of you."

"But my work permit is in process," my husband protested strongly.

"You can't get a work permit while in the country. You get a permit first, then enter the county. Come with me to my office," the officer said. "I have to make more calls."

We sat in chairs outside his office while he talked on the phone. At one point, I heard him tell someone that if there was one American working there without a permit, there were probably more. Then he joined us and said he could send us back to Holland or to the United States today but he had decided to allow us to go back to our flat while the authorities decided our fate. We were to report to the main immigration office in the city centre on Wednesday and until then, they would hold our passports. He stressed that he was being lenient because my husband had told him the truth about his permit. And his colleague had said, "The guy surely would not have left the country if he'd known he couldn't get back in."

"Are we under house arrest?" I asked.

"No, just stay where you can be reached at all times," he said.

"Why are you holding my wife's passport?" my husband asked. "She doesn't need a work permit."

The officer explained that as his accompanist (or maybe accomplice) I needed a permit to use the country's medical service and that I should get properly certified. He said I also fit the profile of a person working without a permit and I could expect to be stopped every time I entered the country if I didn't have proper papers.

Meanwhile, the immigration people had checked at the power plant and discovered that all the Americans working there were without permits. So all were sent home until further notice and forced to work from their flats except to return to the plant site for meetings. This did not make my husband eligible to win a popularity contest.

We were in limbo until Wednesday when we met with the top immigration officer. He graciously gave back our passports and a six-month visa until we got it all sorted out and my husband was again commended for telling the truth. When compared to London or even Manchester, this office had little traffic and I surmised he may have gotten a promotion or invitation to have tea with the queen for catching so many big fish in a small pond. Eventually, all the men got permits and went back to work and I began to make plans for our next weekend excursion.

Meet me here tomorrow and come along.


M J Watson said...

Linda, What a great story. Did you leave the country at any time after that? Or did you just head home to the good old USA? Joyce

Becky said...

What a story. You would think that the power plant knew that the workers needed a permit to work there.

Celia Yeary said...

Linda--so did the other workers decide to forgive your husband? If that happened to me, I'd consider it a day off and go shopping. Excellent. And I know the answer to the question. Celia

Kathleen said...

Linda, I cannot even imagine what you must have went through. I would have thought your husbands company would have had all those permits done before you even left the US. I know my niece, when she took a job in England, her company had all the paper work lined up before she left. They even had her husband to be's paperwork done.
I am glad things got sorted out for you.
Good Luck!!

chey said...

What an ordeal! When I worked in the UK, I had to stay home (in Canada) until all the paperwork went through. It took 6 or 7 months.

Hywela Lyn said...

Crumbs - British Red tape eh? So sorry you had to go through all this, I suppose all countries have stringent laws for overseas workers but I'd have thought it would have been sorted for you before the US.

I hope you enjoyed your stay in the UK otherwise.

Danielle Thorne said...

Well that's scary! I always get nervous when I leave the country. I'm sure you look nothing like a terrorist, dear Linda!

Linda Banche said...

Wow, the things you don't know can certainly hurt you. Glad it ended up OK.

Linda Swift said...

Hello to all who have joined today's tour. I have been away from my computer all day and I'm just now reading your comments.
And I'll respond in order.

MJ Watson. Yes, we left the country several times after that but you can bet it was not before we were DOCUMENTED! And we lived in Hull a year and a half after the deportation debacle.

Becky: Yeah, the plant knew permits were needed. But company policy was to bring the men in and apply for their permits. So all were in process, so they said, but no one had a permit at that time!

Celia and Kathleen and Chey: Yes, my husband, the nice guy that he is, was forgiven. And even the wives eventually forgave me for having their husbands working from home for over a week.

Hywela: I loved every minute of living in Hull. Each day brought new advertures and I treasure all those memories. I have left a huge piece of my heart in England and I'd jump at the chance to live there again and explore eveything I missed first time around.

Danielle, it's those innocent looking little old ladies you have to beware of. That's probably why I was detained and searched before that became routine. I was only carrying two checked bags, two carry-ons, a large purse with a smaller one inside, and wearing a fanny pack (ahem) bum bag.

Linda: Yes, all's well that ends well. Could a romance writer have any other kind of ending?

Kaye said...

Your loved ones are very happy you both made it through that ordeal. You have so many great stories from your England experience!!

Janet said...

Linda, I love your England stories, they make me feel as if I visited and have been on a vacation. Can't wait to hear more of them. Janet

Linda Swift said...

Kaye: Glad you stopped by. And glad you're one of our loved ones.

Janet: It makes me happy to know my stories make you feel as if you have been there, too. I'm glad I could make it vivid for you.

M J Watson said...

Hi Linda, You were certainly persistent in trying to get out of those tickets. I'm glad you finally won the battle on one of them. I, too, loved the castles and gardens. Joyce

Linda Swift said...

Glad you stopped by, Joyce. And yes, persistence is my middle name. Remember, my sign is Taurus. Wouldn't you love to visit more of those castles and great halls and gardens this summer? Maybe next year.