It's, sadly, passport renewal time. If I want to go abroad next year, my trusty passport will be past its expiry date in June. Just look at all those stamps in it, too - I wasn't sure if I was ever going to use the thing when I first got it. Now, if they gave you a stamp when you went to Europe, the passport would be full to bursting with exotic ink colours. Even so, it's still pretty cool.
The first page has Malaysia, 01 Oct 2003 arriving, 06 Oct 2003 departing. World Memory Championship, I came third and took a lot of people by surprise with how much I'd improved since the previous year (that was the year I debuted the "Ben system"... ahhh, happy memories). Next page has the USA, 26 Feb 2007 - Las Vegas, during my unemployed-waster phase, justifying it to myself by saying that it'd help me write my book if I had a change of scene. The page after that has the USA again, 01 Jul 2009, my recent jaunt to Pittsburgh, and Bahrain in 22 Oct 2008 where I triumphed in the World Championship last year. Blank page, then Japan, 24 Oct 2009 - I never realised it was exactly a year after the WMC - to have my brain scanned and sing karaoke. Six more blanks, then we come to the middle pages, which a lot of passport-stampers seem to favour. USA, July 02 2002, was a trip to Chicago to hang out with Jimi and the gang, wow, seven and a half years ago, and Brazil 09 07 06, for that brilliant TV-star holiday in Rio. The other half of the middle-page spread has two more American stamps - Jan 17 2002 was Las Vegas for the first time, Nov 16 2002 was back to Vegas for the second time because I'd liked the first time so much. Six more blanks, then again with the USA, Mar 05 2009 - New York this spring. Next page is a mostly faded black stamp of some kind, I don't know what, and USA for Feb 21 2005, which was another Vegas trip. I do love Las Vegas, although on that trip I caught the flu and spent the whole time ill in bed, so it wasn't the best holiday I've ever had. Four more blank pages, then we get Bahrain, 29 Aug 2007 to 03 Sep 2007, where I spectacularly failed to win the World Championship but still had a great time. And then on the last page, US Immigration on Oct 21 2000, my first ever trip abroad, visiting Washington DC just for the hell of it. There had been talk of having a housewarming party for CV when he moved over there, that didn't happen, but I eventually resolved to go to Washington anyway, because who says you need a good reason and I'd never been anywhere before. And I'm glad I did!
You don't need to get the renewal form and photos countersigned if you're still recognisable from your previous photo - I think I just about qualify, more or less:
Just look at that young stripling with the naive smile, the smooth chin and the last vestiges of a trendy hairstyle on top of his head. 23 years old, never left the country, never competitively memorised anything, never spontaneously quit his job for a life as a waster... and wearing a cool Zenith badge ("Never trust a hippy") that I wish I still had. I'd try to picture myself looking back on now, ten years in the future, but I really can't imagine getting any older than I am right now. 43? I'm never going to be 43.