Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A visit from the moos.

This was actually written a while ago, its seed first planted just over a year ago on my first visit to Susan's relatives in New Jersey, including my new (in at least two senses) niece.

She was eight months old and had
never seen a beard before. It
bewildered her, scared her, she
shied away from this furry monster.
But a week of my silliness made
her curiosity overtake her terror,
and she finally reached out a tiny
hand to touch and examine this
extraordinary thing. She performed
a small act of science, and got her
first lesson in the truth that different
does not equal bad.

Friday, 15 April 2011

A post among posts

I was in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago, on 23rd March. In Bothwell Street. Number 215. Stayed at mum's the night before because she was coming with me and it seemed easier than any alternative we could think of. Had to get there for 0945 you see.

215 Bothwell Street is where immigration appeal hearings take place. Susan had taken all the documents, made copies of them, collated them, indexed them, sent them to the appeals bods and the Entry Clearance Officers who have repeatedly turned us down. She did a fantastic job; she's a brilliant organiser, my woman. I/we had spent a lot of time racking our brains to try and work out how it might go, what might be our top points, how to counter what we thought they might say to keep us apart. I was going to be there, Susan naturally enough not, as she has no visa to get into the country to do so. We had no lawyers supporting us. I had mum for company.

We got there on time. Fifteen minutes early actually; well it's not the sort of thing you want to take chances with. There was pretty tight airport style security to get in, which I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by, but it helped to rack up the pressure. Most of the people there seemed to be strangely happy considering where they were and what they were there for: maybe they were all as confident as I was about the rightness and historical inevitability of their cases, or maybe they were past caring. I don't think either of those applied to the wee boy, about three I would guess, who was merrily going around the room high fiving everyone. He was the most popular person there, bar none. There were people wandering around who seemed to be lawyers or officials of the Immigration Bods, as I believe they're correctly known. I was sitting there feeling relaxed but tense (I know, I know, but believe me, it's possible). We had been told we might have to wait all day because they couldn't be sure how long each case would take, so they were doing their best to make us all feel as uptight as possible. But Susan and I had done everything we could and just this one performance was left to accomplish, in defence of a case we thought was unimpeachable and unanswerable, just as we had done the previous times we had been rejected.

As it turned out, it was only eleven when my name was called. I got up, being careful to need my stick, and followed the name caller to a door, which she opened and beckoned me inside. It was a proper little courtroom, with a judge's bench and everything, and up went the pressure again. I hadn't expected that. A few minutes later a white haired, white bearded man came in followed by a courty dude who shouted "RISE". He must have been smart, because he did not shout "ALL RISE", which would have been incongruous as there was only me in the room, but then, why did he think he had to shout rather than just speak?. By the time I got to my feet, the judge was motioning me to sit down, apparently not being one to stand on ridiculous and redundant ceremony.

When he spoke, he had a Northern Irish accent. Susan and I named him "the honourable right honourable Lord Ulster of the kempt hair". His hair and beard really were VERY well-kempt. When she told her friend Anthony about him he immediately said "or His Kemptness for short", so that's what he has since become. Anyway, His Kemptness asked me to explain the history of our case to him, and let slip that he had a bit of a downer on the Home Office for refusing too many immigration applications-- "some of them seem to want to stop all immigration". WE HAD DRAWN A LIBERAL!!! Guess what aspects I concentrated on? "Well they seemed to reject that without even READING the documents I sent...", "we had sent them everything they asked us for but they seemed to ignore that..." accompanied by an irritated shake of His Kemptness's head. At one point he asked why we wanted to live here and not in the States. I answered that with my medical history I'd have to be insane to live in the US. "Yes," he replied, "it says here you had spoken about your medical history but there was no evidence of it". With blank-eyed innocence I told him that was odd and there should be a letter from my doctor among the documents... "is it this one from Abbey Medical Centre?" His Kemptness asked. "That's the one ", I wearily answered. He started to read it out, I helped him pronounce "craniopharyngioma", and he shook his head again and made another note.

Well, at the end of it all, he told me, not that we had won or lost anything, but that he would have to go away, weigh all the evidence, that he sometimes had to literally juggle it ("Not LITERALLY literally...?" I suggested, feeling good by this time and imagining how difficult it would be to juggle pieces of paper). And as he was more or less leaving he said to me "good man". A Northern Irish colloquialism. Hell, I thought, if he's getting colloquial on me it MUST have gone well... Anyway, he also said it would be about two weeks before we heard anything, so it was to be another nailbiting fortnight.

We both felt we had done everything we could and that no reasonable mind could look at us and say we shouldn't be together, that there was no way we could be considered likely to be a burden on the state, or anyway more so because of Susan's presence. As I told the judge in my summing up spiel, by being here and supporting me, she's likely to reduce the need for professional assistance, so if anything she should SAVE the British state some money. I even told him "she will be" (WILL, not would; got to get that positive reinforcement in) "the first immigrant here since about 1793 to be looking forward to the weather". He answered laconically "God help her". Anyway, we knew there was no more we could do except wait to see what His Kemptness would decide.

Well, two weeks and three days later my phone rang. It was a tearful Susan. She garbled and yelled down the line "WE'VE BEEN ACCEPTED!!!" to which my thoughtful response was "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!". Then she hung up. I called her back. She read the entire decision letter to me, and oh it is wonderful. Slams the Entry Clearance Officers for ever rejecting us, points out that you can't get much clearer evidence of employability than an offer of employment (which she has had from my niece and which point I had made at the hearing), and rules that they had disproportionately interfered with our right to family life under the Human Rights Act. I had a grin on my face by now to put the Cheshire cat into retirement. And then she read the bit that said the Home Office had five days to appeal. So we had even more waiting to do.

Five days later I called the number at the top of the letter and gave them our appeal number. I asked what we should do now, what was the timeframe, and so on. The first words I heard were "the Home Office has NOT appealed".

All we have to do is wait for the letter that Susan will receive telling her where to send her passport to get it stamped with her visa. There's no specific timeframe on that but apparently it CAN take up to twelve weeks. Which means if it takes that long something has gone terribly wrong. On past experience, that should mean maybe a couple of weeks.

It's over. The waiting and worrying are over. We have won. Susan's coming home.