Identity politics

Notaries' offices are unfailingly dour and austere places to be. Nonetheless, the notaries themselves often try to lighten the mood by saying not very funny things, while grinning like Tommy Cooper. You'd be grinning too, if you were charging five gazillion euros for reading some stuff out about mortgage rates and then signing a few documents before waltzing to the room nextdoor to do the same all over again. I think it's fair to say they're paid more than the minimum wage.

Anyway, imagine my embarrassment last time I was in such a place when the moment came for all parties to present their relevant documentation. Out came the Spanish family's identity cards one by one, all present and correct. Then it was my turn. I took out my papers and could only look on in horror as my identity document disintegrated between my fingers and fell to the floor like confetti. It had been folded up in a wallet for about two years and I'd just presumed everything was hunky dory. It wasn't.

Cue middle-aged English bloke scrabbling under the table while everyone stared at their shoes not sure whether to help the poor buffoon or cut their losses and leave. One by one, I put the bits of paper on the grand table, smiling and sweating in equal measure. For some bizarre reason, I remembered my grandmother's advice from the time we did a jigsaw together in Kirkdale.

"Corners first, love. Always do the corners first."

Heeding her wisdom, I eventually managed to reassemble the offending document with the aid of some sticky tape and the transaction went through successfully, although I may or may not have paid ten times the agreed price, because I don't remember anything else whatsoever about the appointment and simply signed every paper put in front of me without question, partly out of respect for the fact that they weren't all sellotaped together.

The main cause of this fiasco was my negligence in not checking all documentation thoroughly beforehand. However, the ridiculous system introduced a few years ago which replaced the perfectly serviceable, pocket-sized foreign resident's identity card with a green paper the size of Malaga's football stadium, also played a crucial part. It simply had to be folded to be carried about - hence the humiliating disintegration incident.

Imagine my joy, then, when I went to the police station today to collect my new, wallet-sized document now that the powers that be have seen the error of their ways.

I've a good mind to buy a random house next week, just to know what it feels like to leave a notary's office with my dignity still intact.