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.