You always considered yourself to be a decent member of the Dutch society, and all the sudden you find yourself amongst asylum seekers, fake marriages and lots of Eastern Blockers, Chinese and other people, who don’t speak one word of English. The only other person present that does speak English, is a woman, about my age, who is accompanied by her husband, who’s name is Mohammed and who is not a year older than 20. When they get the question “Did you marry abroad?” her answer is: “Yes.” (Do I need to say more?)
Anyway, this is me at the Jobcentre Plus in Liverpool, trying to get a National Insurance Number. I’m twice the age of all the other applicants, speak English very well (I think), and carry all the necessary paperwork (I hope).
The interview starts.
“When did you leave Holland?” is an easy question.
“Have you been in the UK before?” is easy as well.
“How many times?” is a little bit more difficult. I honestly don’t know how often I came into the UK on holiday, or with the morris team, or on trips with Lawrance. But no, I’ve never stayed more than 30 days.
“What is your address in the UK?” is the question I fear the most. My only proof of address is the mooring agreement with Scarisbrick Marina. But to my surprise the lady easily accepts it, saying with a smile: “We don’t get THAT very often…! When did you move onto the boat?”
Since the Dutch government registered me as being divorced (and I’m not sure if the UK will contact Holland) I can only answer “Divorced.” to the next question. And I’m very glad that I took my divorce papers with me to the interview, because the lady wants to know my ex husband’s full name (with all three first names, that won’t even fit in the space on the form), his date of birth, our marriage date and when we got divorced.
“Do you have proof of all this?”
Do I have a job? No, we will cruise six month of the year, and I will try to find a job for the other six months. To apply for a National Insurance Number while being self employed is next to impossible. I would have to proof so many things, even in my Dutch situation (being self employed for 20 years) I would not have been able to proof all this.
Then, after some silly questions like: “Are you going to apply for a student’s loan?” (do I look that young?) I have to sign the interview form, and I’m told to go back to the waiting room and wait for a couple of minutes. After that I would get my passport back.
After the promised couple of minutes the lady indeed is back. Not with my passport but with: “I think we have a little problem here…” So it’s back to the desk.
I told here that I left Holland on the 24th of June, and that I moved onto the boat on the 26th. Then comes the question: “Where was you during these two nights?”
Well, I left Holland on DFDS, so the first night of course I was on the ferry between Holland and the UK. And for the second night… At that very moment I decide to bend the truth a little. Imagine the reaction if I would say (truthfully): “I spent the night in a lorry.”
Yeah, right! Immigrant, lorry, that would probably set off every possible alarm in the Jobcentre’s office. And Lawrance paying a hefty fine for bringing illegal immigrants into the UK. So I tell her that I spent the night at my partner’s place. Which is the truth (kind of). We did go to his place in Newmacher (to load half my belongings into the car) and we spent the night in Kinellar, in his other place, i.e. the truck.
After this intermezzo it’s back to the waiting room again, and this time I do get my passport back after a couple of minutes. And I get a form, to give to my employer, should I find a job before I get my National Insurance Number. Which is due in six to eight weeks time.