This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Man, passports are badass. Tiny little books that allow you to fly. Little passbooks into the sky and into the future. Fancy exploring another entire country? Another continent? Show a man in a hat your passport, get your bags searched, three to four sterilized fingers inside your butt, and boom: you're ready to fly. Passports: good things, imo. Good and excellent things.
Passports are changing, though, and everybody's all pissed off. Why? Basically, every five years the passport design changes, in part to keep things extremely fresh and in part to confuse forgers, and this week the new design was announced. Supposedly it's a celebration of British arts and culture, but what that means is "another goddamn picture of Shakespeare, fucking again" and only two women—Ada Lovelace and Elisabeth Scott—featured. There's the Angel of the North and the London Eye. A red telephone box. According to our passport, Britain is just a tote bag with the same three London landmarks printed on it, stamping on William Shakespeare's head, forever. Sad, old, dull images of Britain.
"What," you're asking me, "what, Joel, is more British than a red telephone box, then? Those things nobody uses for anything other than pissing in any more? Or calling up sex workers to anonymously arrange emotionless and ultimately unfulfilling intercourse? What's more British than that, then, smart-ass?"
Reader: I'm glad you asked. Plenty of things. So many things. All of these things:
A BRITISH BULLDOG DISRUPTING A JUMPERS-FOR-GOALPOSTS FOOTBALL GAME
The most British thing is—ultimately—the concept of failure, and more specifically football failure: Our enduring sporting image is less Bobby Moore lifting the World Cup and more Gazza in tears; less Geoff Hurst spanking a fourth in off the goalpost and more Wayne Rooney stomping Ricardo Carvalho on the bollocks. But a triumphant image from the glittering world of higher level sports is too sanitary—too anodyne—for a passport cover book. What we need is the traditional British image of a dog invading a kickabout.
For what is Britain without a boy going home early because he skidded on a dog turd and got shit all up his kecks? Think about it: every ten seconds, somewhere in the UK, a boy is skidding on a dog turd and getting shit all up his kecks. And that's what football really is in this country: a slippery, mud-driven surface; a slightly flat ball that someone keeps kicking up a few times and going "this ball's flat as fuck"; jumpers for goalposts and the fattest lad begrudgingly being in goal; and, as sure as the sun follows the moon, so someone's dog will sprint onto the pitch, shit and take the football away. And then a boy will fall in that turd and have to go home early.
A SAD ENGLISH DAD FAILING TO LIGHT A BARBECUE
Listen, I know Shakespeare has a very iconic face-and-ruff combination, but I would argue that a dad trying and failing to light a barbecue—he's topless, the dad, beneath his "KISS THE COOK" apron, and he hasn't shaved his shoulders for a while—lighting six matches before giving up and dumping a load of lighter fluid on it, getting at the fucker with a lighter: that's the Britain I know, not some PUA-looking ruff-haver who writes poems as well as plays. A wasp bumbles into shot. Panic knifes through the air.
This, if anything, is what drives us out of the country and abroad: the frenzied, claws-in-the-flesh-of-it clinging to the vague gasps of the British summertime, the futility, the pathetic smell of desperation wafting over the meat and tainting the assembled mayonnaises. One failed barbecue can be enough to make you leave the country entirely and panic book an all-expenses to Spain. One failed barbecue is enough to make you feel patriotic.
A DRUNK GIRL CRYING IN AN IMMACULATE AND AWARD-WINNING WETHERSPOONS TOILET
What's more British than a drunk girl crying in an immaculate and award-winning Wetherspoons toilet? Wrong: nothing is. Is the Queen more British than a girl with clotted mascara screaming "CHRIS IS A BASTARD" while a woman in a polo shirt picks up soiled and discarded tissue paper? She is not. Is a tray of tea and scones more British than a girl trying to fish a glowstick out of a toilet bowl and accidentally dropping her iPhone in while she leans over to retrieve it? It is not. Is Helen Mirren shaking hands with a bulldog more British than a girl who pulled her Spanx over her head to piss and now needs three people to help her down and back into them while vomiting into her own hands?
No, no, no. A drunk girl crying in an immaculate and award-winning Wetherspoons toilet is the image we should project to the world, because it is truth. It is Britain.
A TEENAGER BLOWING HIS FINGERS OFF WITH A FIRECRACKER
Teens are the bleeding edge of all the culture that inevitably filters to the top—these teens, with their swegways and their Snapchat and their twerking, these teens, saying "on fleek," and getting low-level STDs—but it doesn't stop them being as dumb as a post sometimes, which is why every secondary school in Britain has, at all times, a Year 10 who blew his fingers off with a firecracker. Every single one, every single school. There is no school in the country that doesn't have one kid who just has this one long, burnt finger that looks a bit like a claw, wheeled out for assemblies around October time to warn kids not to hold firecrackers. Look me in the eye and tell me that's not more passport-appropriate than a portrait of the artist John Constable. You can't.
SOMEONE WHO IS VISIBLY DRUNK PUNCHING THEIR FIST ON A TABLE AND DEMANDING SHOTS
Honestly, they should just replace the national anthem with the sound of some dude called Terry pounding the bar and saying "shots." Imagine that at the Olympics. Queen standing solemnly to attention. Single tear rolls out of gold medal-winning Mo Farah's eye. An orchestra tunes up. And then: thump, and the crowd inhales, and goes: "Shots."
A BAG WITH A TURD IN IT FLOATING IN THE SEA
A turd in a blue bag bobbing helplessly in the frigid sea off the coast of Cleethorpes is why we have passports, why we have planes, why we have airports and why we earn money to buy holidays with: it is everything we are trying to escape, writ large across the very tiny book we are using to escape with.
Who in Britain hasn't seen a turd in a bag bobbing helplessly in the sea before and thought: I wonder if that turd is human, or dog. It is what we are. It is hardwired into our bones the same way fry-ups and liking quizzes is. It was probably, almost definitely, human.
A BULLIED ten-YEAR-OLD SOBBING ALONE AT HIS DOCTOR WHO-THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY
People really like Doctor Who in this country, and I don't pretend to understand why—it's a man who fights monsters with a magic screwdriver, right? He goes across the galaxy telling an undulating series of sidekicks to "believe in yourself"? What's good about that?—but we've got to mark it in the passport somehow or all the nerds who like it will stage an extremely breathing difficulty-heavy sit-in at VICE HQ.
I honestly don't want to have to break a picket of dudes in suits-and-Converse and girls with Adventure Time wrist tattoos just to get to my desk and write the living fuck out of some content for eight hours before going home.
Peter Andre, despite his status as a human Australian, is the most British celebrity there is. Name another country on Earth where Peter Andre would be considered a famous man. Name another country on Earth where Peter Andre—who last released a song you can hum 19 years ago, and has basically spent his career, as best I can tell, "existing while having a tan" ever since—would be on TV as much as he is in Britain. You can't. There isn't one. There is no country on Earth that would embrace Andre. Peter Andre is Britain.
This is because Peter Andre is beloved by mums (everyone's mum wants to fuck Peter Andre) (your mum wants to fuck Peter Andre) (Like: really get on him) and he loves his family and is very vocal about loving his family, and a lot of Britain loves their family, because that's all the hope they've got. And so you can suddenly visualize all these swathes of Britain that are extremely pro-Andre: extremely horny mums, the kind of dads who only tell their son they love them in the final gasping seconds before they die, cabbies.
What is Britain to them? Britain to them is Peter Andre cheerily walking down an aisle in Iceland, picking up a frozen pizza and saying, "Cor, that's only a pound!" Britain to them in Peter Andre picking up a 16-pack of Cornettos and going, "These will be nice treats to have in the freezer, for my kids, who I love." Britain to them is Peter Andre ripping his shirt off and saying, "Wallaby." This is it. This is the new passport design. Peter Andre 4 Prez. Peter Andre 4 King. Peter Andre 4 Passport.
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