Thursday, March 22, 2007
The Malaysian High Commission
Every five years or so, holders of Malaysian passports gravitate towards Belgrave Square to renew their passports. They alight at Victoria Station and strike straight down Lower Belgrave Road, which turns into Upper Belgrave Road which leads to the Jalur Gemilang (flag) fluttering above the basement premises at the Square itself.
Perhaps they may pause at the photobooth at the station to get their passport photos (£4) or head to Kennington Road after 9am to the hardware shop where a spotty youth may aim the camera at you himself, and try to get your face absolutely straight while you press yourself up to the wall and try not to blink(£6).
Get there at 8.30am to put your name down in the book on the wooden "pulpit" at the front of the room. The formidable lady who processes you will not even speak to you unless your name is there.
Sit down and read all the signs on the wall. They generally contain vital info which one may find in the FAQ section of any good website. If the High Commission had a website which worked, they might not have to repeat themselves so much, as this information could be disseminated this way.
This lady is the heroine of the establishment, day after day, year after year, she mounts the wooden step and dispenses firmness, information, forms (25p), maps to passport photo takers, translation, humour and genuine kindness to those she judges are deserving - the truly clueless souls of our country wandering lost in this foreign land. She occasionally breaks out in a spirited lecture to those needing one for their own good eg. for not ever renewing their IC since they were 12. And no excuses for never going back to get one. She gives you a number while you scramble to get all the pieces of your application together and come prepared to use your Form 5 Malay. Without this lady, the world would not go round for the High Commission - I hope they recognise the jewel in their crown.
Proceed to the back room with the glassed in counters, they will call your number to hand in all your papers. Sit down. Then you go up again to press your thumbs against the machine and in the ink. Sit down. Then you sign another bit. Sit down. After 20 minutes they hand you an all-important receipt and say come back at 3pm. It is now about 11am. A major breakthrough.
Run away and occupy yourself. Drink a few cups of coffee or tea in a cafe and read a book... Have some Nasi Lemak or Mee Goreng from the canteen under the stairs and a bottle of water (£3.80). While you are doing all this you are also trying to answer nicely all the personal questions people are asking you because your mum taught you to be polite, but you think she should have also taught you to be rude.
Being Malaysian you plan where you might go to eat lunch. I found this place here close to Lower Belgrave Road towards Buckingham Palace - it was absolutely packed full of people! It was called Noodle Noodle.
They had a problem seating one person but were very nice about it and took my order first so I wouldn't have to wait. They seated me at the window:
I had some good warming seafood noodles with tender well cooked seafood: 2 mussels, 2 scallops, tender squid and prawns and fresh veg for £6.95. I was happy.
Then walk it off back to Belgrave Square by 2.30pm to wait to pick up your passport - at 3pm you go straight to the room at the back where they will call your name roughly in the order of the morning - listen carefully! And if you're lucky, then it's time to get another tub of Nasi Lemak for your dinner because you have been too tired from waiting around too much - and home you go.