“The miracles of Earth are the Laws of Heaven” – Johann Richter.
Since I came back to S. Africa to care for my mum, I have been driving her car using both an international license and my regular British license. To get my international license, I had to present myself in person at a branch of the UK Post Office with proof of my identity and a passport photo.
The international license is only valid for a year. My last one was due to expire in May 2017. There was no way I could get an extension. But there had to be a cheaper way to renew it than flying back to the UK just so that I could go to the Post Office for this 10 minute process. What though?
Then I discovered via an internet search that the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) in the UK, does renewals by post and applicants do not have to be paid-up members to take advantage of this service. Thank Goddess – a solution!
In early March, I downloaded the forms, filled them out, signed a cheque for the fast 2-day processing service and then started looking around for a Divine Pigeon who would carry my letter from S. Africa to the UK and post it for me upon arrival in London.
Flight of pigeons on clothespins by Rodeofarm. Freeforcommercialuse.org https://www.flickr.com/photos/rodeofarm/8438229621/
Sad to say, I have learned to avoid putting sensitive items in the S. African mail especially if they contain personal data that could be used fraudulently. Professional courier services are a lot less vulnerable to corruption but also a lot more expensive.
No Divine Pigeons manifested for me in Johannesburg in March. On April 4, I flew to Cape Town for a short holiday and took the license application with me. My former student, Penelope, who relocated to Cape Town last year, had a neighbour whose grandson was going to the UK in a few days and he was willing to play pigeon. But he was not leaving till 20 April. No other pigeons were identified during the remaining days of my holiday so Penelope’s neighbour was my best option. While another former student, Miriam, drove me to Cape Town airport for my flight back to Johannesburg, I checked my application to the RAC, sealed the envelope and Miriam kindly delivered it to Penelope for me.
Then I waited. I did not know the name of the neighbour’s grandson and had no contact details for him. Penelope tried to get his email address for me but his non-techy grandmother could not help. There was nothing for it but to simply trust that all was under control.
In late April, I sent a message to my friend Carolina who lives in St. Albans, just north of London. She receives my mail in the UK. The UK Post Office redirects it to her from my old address in Canterbury rather than forward it to me in South Africa for reasons already noted. I alerted Carolina that my new international license from the RAC would soon be arriving in her mail box. In early May, Carolina sent me a message: there was still no sign of my license. Timing was tight as my old license was due to expire on 17 May.
Flight path, Johannesburg to London
Normally, it would not be a big deal to be without a driving license for a few days but my mother had just had a replacement knee operation and could no longer walk or drive. If I could not drive her to her doctors’ appointments or to get groceries, we would be “stranded” on her retirement complex and have some logistical challenges to deal with. There is no local public transport system in Johannesburg beyond the VW minibuses which are not usually roadworthy, (some are tied together with string!) and endure fatal accidents on a daily basis.
On 4 May I called the RAC office in the UK. Yes, they had received my application and processed my license and it had been sent to their mail department. The person I spoke to offered to research the Post Office tracking number for me so that I could follow up myself and she sent me an email with the necessary information.
Great! The license was ready. All I had to do now was find a Divine Pigeon flying from the UK to Johannesburg before 17 May. Well, at least, I thought that was all I had to do. The situation turned out to be a lot more “miracle-hungry” than I had imagined.
Engraving in Harper’s Magazine, April, 1873
Will tell you about the sequence of events and “near-miss stories” in the next blog post.
Appreciating the miracle of global communication via technology.