The Great Name Change of 2016: The Last Hurdle (AKA WTF Aren’t We Done Yet?)

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a list of who I needed to notify. It was a long one but I’ve been doing it in dribs and drabs updating as I go. My GP hadn’t updated my records, for example, and after a month (and because I happened to be in there) I asked them if they could do it. Ten minutes later I’m officially Asha Bardon on my prescriptions/NHS records. Fifteen minutes later I got them to remove the miscellaneous middle name they’d forgotten to remove.

It does turn out that GP records/mental health services and hospitals don’t talk to each other which means on my next visit to the Norfolk and Norwich (also coming up), I’m going to have to go through this all over again with them. At least the mental health people done it their end.

Hopefully, a deed poll and my passport should be it and the hospital records will update. Done.

This morning, as my railcard is due for renewal, I had to ring them and ask how to change my name (as I don’t yet have confirmation from the DWP they’ve even received the stuff I sent them; that’s for Monday). I need my benefit paperwork reissued in my new name because, now and again, I actually have to whip it out. In the case of a railcard, it’s easy: they’ve seen my Certificate which confirms I’m in fact blind so the deed poll which I emailed over should enable them to simply update the name on my account, allowing me to then buy myself a nice, new railcard.

That’s the theory anyway.

My big task for this week is to tell the Land Registry. In theory this should be easy, in practice it looks like I’m either going to have to make an appointment and go to Peterborough (!!!!) or go to a solicitor (again) and get the forms filled out/my title deeds updated. At this point I’m not sure which is easier so I’m going to wait for a local solicitor to ring me back with a quote/ring the Land Registry to double check. I like double checking and the awesome thing is, due to my own preparedness, I have all the proof of identity paperwork you could ever need from bank statements to council tax bills.

I’m, honestly, quite proud of myself just on this one front.

Seriously, changing your name is actually quite a minefield and I’ve done it in nearly three months. Yes, I still have to ring the DWP (boo!) but once I have the paperwork, it means re-applying for my Blue Badge at the end of the year should be easy. I am, however, a little scared of the cost possibly associated with this Land Registry business (I have a healthy fear of solicitors/the cost of legal services). But I signed up for this, I knew what I was getting into and it’s still worth it.

Interesting point of note on another front. Remember how I said Paypal doesn’t let you change your name? Turns out they do, it’s just horribly worded on their website. I rang them up after, due to opening a shiny new account, they decided to hold some money I’d been paid for a short story for THREE WEEKS (which is forever in Internet Time). Now having had a Paypal account since ’02 (holy shit!), I didn’t realise Paypal is basically like a bank/your credit rating: the more transactions, the longer you use them, the more they trust you.

As Asha I was a new customer and they, for all intents and purposes, had no idea who I was. So I explained my situation. No problem, they said, send us your documents, we’ll update your original account to confirm Lesley is now Asha and continue purchasing crap from the internet as you usually would. Once the funds in your new one clear and you’ve withdrawn them, close it and just update old account with new email address and you’re done.

I have my fourteen-year credit history back.

YES!

Seriously, of all my online accounts, my Paypal account is one I’m particularly attached too.

I am, however, just a tiny bit knackered. Also, due to the whole medication withdrawal thing, I have a tiny bipolar-fueled obsession. It’s not mania but I do associate it with a mix of my various mental illnesses. I do actually have OCD, fueled by the joy of the autism spectrum (my psychiatrist called them ‘tendencies’). Sometimes they’re smart (get a tattoo/get debt free/become a journalist), other times they’re questionable (buy a PS4). They’re also slow burners but do eventually go away (like the PS4 one). Unfortunately, while they’re here, they take up my entire line of thought, to the point of distraction.

This is fine if it’s something cheap/achievable. This one is totally nuts.

I want to tell my family about my name change.

Except I’m not wanting to do this out of pride (I wish), I want to tell one particular family member I don’t like that much just to see their face, hear the reaction in their voice … and possibly get disinherited. That bit, well it doesn’t bother me too much, but as far as I know, thanks to locked down social feeds/the fact my phone hasn’t yet run off the hook, they don’t actually know yet.

I was planning to wait a bit (incoming orphanhood) but this desire, it’s niggling at me. To the point where that and a mix of anxiety woke me up at 1am and valium can’t do anything for obsession. I know it’s a bad idea (as gratifying as it might be) but that doesn’t mean it’s going to fade overnight.

And so we continue on. This last mile has got to be the easy bit, right? A couple more people to phone, a possible solicitor visit (sigh) and that’s it?

I really hope so.

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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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