Express & Star

Peter Rhodes on passports, population and a patchy sort of crisis

Terms for our time. “Nature-depleted,” as heard in this week's report on the parlous state of wildlife in Britain, is a term used by people who can't admit the alternative, namely that Britain is grossly overpopulated with one particular species. Our own.

Passport-renewal time

Since the last war the UK population has shot up from 48 million to nearly 70 million. And you can't cram an extra 20 million people on to one small island and then complain that you're a bit short of hedgehogs.

Officially, the UK has the fourth highest population density of Western Europe. However, strip away our lightly populated Celtic fringes of Wales, Scotland and Ulster, and England emerges as by far the most crowded major country in our continent.

The standard density measurement is individuals per square kilometre. Spain has 94, France 106 and Germany 235, and all three have a dazzling array of birds and beasts from vultures to bears, wolves and wild boar. England has a seething mass of 434 humans per square kilometre which may explain why we get so excited about seeing a weasel.

A week for dealing with authority. First, the car insurance company that did me such a good deal as a new customer this time last year has hiked the premium by 17 per cent. Ratbags. Isn't there a law against this?

Next, it's passport-renewal time, which takes about 10 minutes online and is a great improvement on the old procedure which involved signing your signature in blood at midnight in the presence of two magistrates and a nun. Even so, it's a cheek for the Passport Office to ask for glowing feedback as soon as you press the send button. Let's wait a while and see if a passport actually arrives, eh?

Some things never change. The only comfort is that although yours may be hideous, it's no worse then anyone else's. For as long as passports and photography have existed, has anyone ever taken a passport photo that doesn't look like a death mask?

Personal admin over, it's down to a restaurant for a meal. This is lunchtime on Tuesday and the place is packed with diners, mostly of pension age, merrily ordering Italian food to the clink of bottles and the popping of Prosecco. This cost of living crisis is a very patchy sort of crisis.