Those young enough to remember back to January this year will recall that we went to Cape Town and voyaged back on the Melody. We were advised by the Trouble Agent to use SA cash to place US dollars into a charge card we would use for drinks and fings on board, rather than to do it with a local credit card. So, glaring warily at everyone who looked even slightly suspicious, and ready to zap with tazer anyone who put a hand anywhere near me, I carried enough cash to do the trick.    Our charge card was duly given a charge, and we plugged it in when we needed current – er, currency. When disembarking in Durban, we were paid out the balance – in US dollar notes.

  Now the fun started. I don’t go to banks very often, but when I finally got round to doing it at the end of Feb or thereabouts, happily carrying my ID, I was told I needed a passport. My wails that I’d only cruised up the coast of SA where I didn’t need one were received with casual shrugs.

  Next time, last month, I took a passport. Unfortunately, I grabbed the wrong one. This had expired. The bank official did more head-shaking. Again I protested. Again I was told there was nothing they could do. It was a Reserve Bank requirement, and there was no provision to override the system.

  Finally, I took my valid passport a few days ago, and this time, after lots of form-fillery and being robbed blind with exchange rate and charges, I finally received a pathetic payout for my dollars – a shadow of their worth.


  Now, the crux is that one doesn’t need a passport to do a local cruise. Thus, those who don’t have one at all would be caught between the advice of travel ‘experts’ and blundering bank bureaucracy to a stage where they either stashed away foreign currency, or indulged in some lies that they had received them as a gift in the post or something. I haven’t tested the latter option, but quite possibly there would still be an interrogation including what the donor had for breakfast in 1998, and what his father does.*

  Isn’t it weird the way anyone drafting such rules or regulations doesn’t seem to have access either to a brain, or anything remotely resembling common sense?

  Contrast the situation in Britain where you can wander to the local post office and freely change SA rand, Martian gwlrps or Jupiter flrgzls without any hassle – and with far more reasonable charges.

  I am still tied up with matters latest-novel-related, because now that it is duly writtificated I am eager for it to get to the stage (like yesterday!) where it can be eagerly readified by as many masses as possible.

© April 2011 Colonialist (Letterdash/WordPress)


*In my era, if a girl got interested in any boy, her father’s first question would be, ‘What does his father do?’


About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies.
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  1. An all-too-familiar tale, Col. Do your get Little Britain over there? We have a saying which comes from it, and it’s always said by the character of a clueless operator who is not about to entertain anything except the idiotic company line, whatever that is. She stares at the customer and says “Computer says no…”.


  2. colonialist says:

    Maybe the phrase you want is ‘informal forex traders’? I should have!


  3. Cindy says:

    Ironically, had you been less law-abiding, you could have sold your filthy lucre at a higher-than-market-rate on the black market. (I don’t mean that last bit as racist, before anyone jumps on me!)


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