The Great Name Change of 2016: Hey, I Have Legal ID Now!

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I didn’t actually realise the UK passport has just been redesigned. My new one just turned up and, oh, it’s gorgeous.

I applied for it thirteen days ago with no expedited processing or anything. I just filled in the forms online, paid and then took it to the Post Office and sent the packet recorded. The passport office rang me on Monday to check about the Braille sticker on the back (I am blind; I promise). The nice courier has just turned up bearing not just my new passport but my old one and my official enrolled deed poll (which is now as important to me as my birth certificate).

Seeing my names on credit cards (all of which now bear my new name) is one thing but a passport is totally different. It’s also my only legal form of photo ID. I have other things with my photo on it, a cinema card, my Guide Dog ID, my bus pass, but this allows me to travel. This allows me to prove I am who I say I am (which when you can’t drive is really, really hard).

Oh the bus pass, that’s been a fun one. You see Norfolk County Council, who issue my pass, has a computer glitch. They know it’s there but haven’t fixed it and this year there had to reissue a few thousand passes because of a problem with the card not talking to the bus pass machine on most buses in Norfolk. As a blind person, I have no only a disabled pass, I also have a companion bolt on which allows someone to travel with me for free.

For those of you who’ve never seen one, this is a disabled bus pass (just replace the county council logo):

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This pass means I can travel on any bus in the country for free. Within the county it means I can take someone with me. Which is awesome when you consider I commute to Norwich maybe four to five times a week (which would cost me £5.30 return, £21.00 a week and a whopping £790.00 a year … Fuck me, I genuinely didn’t know that). Oh and that’s one just route. I sometimes take four or even six buses a day depending on where in the city I need to be, each different routes and sometimes companies (of which there are two main ones operating in Norwich, Konnect and First).

FYI: Blind people get passes because we can’t drive, we have no option other than to walk or get a bus so the government funds our travel. I’m probably in the top 1% of visually impaired wanderers, I’m not the norm by far.

To give you an example of how I routinely travel: The other day, for example, I took the 8 into Norwich, got off and switched to the 11 as I’m lazy and it drops me right near Starbucks, then I later got a 12 and then a 25, finished with another 8 to get home again. Tomorrow, I will take an 8, then an 11, then another 11 to get to an appointment across the city. Oh and then the 8 in order to get home, assuming I don’t just decide to go to Morrisons up on Riverside on the 25/26 and get the 8 from there.

I am very good at making use of my bus pass, it’s the one thing, aside from my phone and my keys I never leave home without.

So back to this glitch. It basically meant that even when you tick the box on the online form which says ‘must have a companion bolt on added to the card’, NCC were issuing them without. I then have to ring them up, explain, hope they don’t hotlist my existing pass in the mean time. The guy I spoke to on Wednesday, when my new pass arrived and didn’t work, said I must have had close to five passes issued in the two years, at least three of those were down to the glitch.

Sigh.

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To be fair, the Concessionary Travel people know about this glitch and they reissued my passes (even the one with my new name on it) without charging me for it. I know it costs between £5-10 to do so and the fellow I was quite honest when we discussed the ‘Is your pass valid?” campaign from earlier  last year.

But I have my new pass and it does actually work so I can now travel freely with a companion other than the hound.

I think, touch wood, aside from the vet and the dentist, I’ve now told everyone of importance. The vet, despite it being about the hound/cats, still need to see my deed poll and when I went in, unexpectedly, I didn’t have it on me. Good job I’m a regular then.

The point is the validity of not being Former Me. It’s all done and officially official. There’s been little, if no, disturbance to anything (though all my direct debits go out tomorrow so I might be a little premature on that note). Changing my name has been an incredibly worthwhile experience, both for my psychological healing and also my sense of self. I’m who I want to be, not what others have made me.

That said, there’s no way in hell I’m doing it again.

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