A couple of weeks ago, on the eve of the vote in the House of Commons on military action against Syria, I happened to be passing through Chișinău, the capital of Moldova, on my way from Odessa to Bucharest. I was on holiday. I went for a walk and, out of carelessness, lost my passport. Although the roads and pavements of Chișinău, decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, have potholes big enough to lose a child in, the internet’s a glideway; even the roadside sausage shacks have wifi. My phone told me that if I took €114, two photos and a police report to the British embassy, they’d give me a temporary passport.
The latest design of UK passports, released last year, has a number of new security features: the chip is now hidden within the cover boards, which makes it more difficult to extract and replace fraudulently; the passport number is dot-matrix‐punched through every page; page numbers are both watermarked in the paper and integrated into the collaged pictorial backgrounds which, intaglio printed in fine detail and subtle colour blends, span each two‐page spread. Every background is different, and includes a good deal of microscopic text.