“Passport, ticket, money,” I chanted to myself as I made the final preparations for a few days abroad this week. As a foreign resident I have to be very careful about my visa, so every time I travel, I check obsessively that my passport is still valid and that nothing can prevent me from re-entering Britain. I opened the passport to confirm that it had not expired behind my back, so to speak, and as I read that the issue date was in April 2010, I was hit by a wave of memories of that day. My second son Matt was then 15 and was visiting some close friends of mine in Germany during the Easter holidays, with the aim of improving his rather sketchy German. He had been quite apprehensive about how he would cope. The day before he was due to fly home to start school again, the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull led to the closure of most of northern Europe’s airspace. No-one knew when flights would begin again. Matt was stranded. I thought he should be back home, even though both my husband and Matt’s school were quite relaxed about the situation, even though Matt assured us he was fine, even though my trusted friends were taking good care of him. I didn’t hear all that. I decided I had to charge to the rescue: I would drive 500 miles to Osterode to collect him and drive all the way back. But then I found my passport had expired. I raced into the Australian High Commission on the Strand. When they realised I was a mother on a desperate mission to save her child, they managed to produce a new passport for me that same day, charging me an extremely princely sum for the privilege. Triumphantly I rang Matthew to tell him I was about to book my journey. There was a strained silence. “Mum,” he said, “please don’t. Please. I’m ok.” It took Matt’s awkward response to make me pay attention, at last. He was safe, just a bit late back from a holiday, but I had simply refused to listen. A few days later he returned, chatting confidently in German and laughing at my panic. We still joke about the time Matt was saved from being rescued, but at least these days I do try to listen and pay attention … which reminds me: here comes this week’s news from Christ Church!