As you may have heard, my compatriots in Britain have decided to leave the European Union. As a result, I was recently required to attend the Foreigners’ Police to update my status.
In-person visits to this office are a deeply performative ritual that almost all foreigners are required to participate in from time to time, irrespective of the actual reason for their presence here. In the manner of church attendance, one is required to search out and memorise ancient and sometimes indecipherable texts, transmit requests and queries in the manner of prayers that may be answered only occasionally and even then in the most allegorical terms, and finally submit to a pilgrimage (possibly several) in the course of which one is reminded that life is short and full of pain, before being cast out into the darkness, grateful or anguished at the mercy or suffering bestowed by a capricious almighty.
Instead of communion wine dispensed by a priest, bodily sustenance is delivered by a stuttering drinks machine – although, like some ancient church secret, even the price of your instant coffee remains a secret, as the label has long since been scratched off the machine: just insert coin after coin, and pray.