I can picture the bureaucrats I've dealt with recently. I see them not just ticking boxes, but being so anally retentive that they can hold the pen with their rectums when doing so.

Sorry, but why does that country need to know my religion or where I stayed when I was last there? In 1988. Apparently, it's preferable to tick any religion rather than say "atheist".

Is it any wonder why it gets seven million and not 70 million foreign tourist arrivals a year!

I'm used to hostile immigration bureaucrats. I used to be scowled at when I crossed into the mainland. I once took a sneaky peek over the immigration officer's desk and saw that my full name was one letter too long for the new arrivals form they had to fill in. Do blame me and not your government or my parents for that, thanks, Chinese border guards.

My experience, dealing with two very differently Kafkaesque bureaucracies, has been especially infuriating. I'm trying to use Indonesian documents to get a British passport for my child. Indonesia is a poor country with a large bureaucracy that operates on strange logic: it will translate my wife's birth certificate into English, but only if that translation is to be used in Hong Kong.

There are more quirks: Indonesian documents are often printed on poor-quality paper and information is still entered by hand. The same name might be spelled three ways on a single document.

Britain, you might think, with its myriad ethnicities, must be equipped to handle such scenarios. Unfortunately not. It is also a poor country with a large bureaucracy.

Foreign documents, it says, must be translated by an approved translator. OK, want to tell us who an approved translator is?

"It is not Identity and Passport Service policy to recommend any particular service."

Well, you know where you can stuff that advice.

Mischa Moselle