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Dear important person at the South African High Commission (Trafalgar Square, London),

I understand that one of the reasons for rejecting my submitted application for a new passport is that my inked fingerprints are illegible. May I point-out that you received my application via The Post.

Further, may I say that in typing and retyping this email to you, including completing my application letter for application forms to be sent to me (also by post) and then the application itself, my fingertips have deteriorated further. Although I no longer live in South Africa, I remain obedient and will comply with the request to set-out in writing why my fingerprints are illegible.

Firstly, this was not my fault at all. I know we live in a blame world but this is not a case of passing the buck. I was simply born this way, together with freckles, blonde hair and long toes. Fingerprints are formed in the womb. I am not blaming my mom for the missing protein that is needed to create finger pad skin folds – rather this deficiency is from my paternal side of the family.

No, my fingerprints have not been “erased” due to being a labourer or someone who works with chemicals, and also not because I have a skin disorder. The only affect the daily grind has on my fingerprints is to exhaust them from constant page turning of legislation most of which took place while I lived in South Africa, having to decipher and comment on poorly drafted laws. I could be exposed to chemicals on a daily basis by handling salad or herbivore ingredients before they are washed free of pesticides but I do make every effort to order organic produce online from this island (which is not hard to do because Brexit means we must follow that South African mantra of “local is lekker”). I would like to add that the constant use of hand sanitisers has not helped reduce exposure to chemicals but has reduced exposure to COVID. This is all a very delicate balancing act.

On the point of balancing, the only disorder or syndrome I am suffering from at the very moment is PMS otherwise known as passport melancholy syndrome. I believe you could help ease this by asking yourselves why it is that you need my fingerprints at all? (And while you are at it, why do you now need to understand how I became a British citizen? The British do not care about this – they just accept that I am a British citizen.)

Perhaps you could allow me to take advantage of what the Nigerian embassy did a few years ago upon discovering in person that my fingers had no useable prints or no prints at all, which was to take a photo of me holding-up both hands (as though I were surrendering) to show that I am not a double amputee. Otherwise, would you mind speaking to the former Scotland Yard fingerprint expert who (at great cost) took my inked prints for my South African passport application (which is under contention) and who on looking at my finger pads for familiar swirls or dermatoglyphs burst-out in a most un-British fashion: “Good God! What do you do for a living?”. I meekly replied that I am a lawyer. That was enough to end the conversation there. He nodded. Nice chap. Otherwise, speak to the Cape Town traffic department. They will tell you that they gave-up with fingerprinting me and simply stated on my driving licence that there are “NO PRINTS”.

Could it be that you suspect I am an undercover British agent, working for MI6, making good use of my ability to go fingerprint-undetected? This is also known as the Secret Intelligence Service that collects foreign intelligence for this island providing a global covert capability. I am not sure what skills I could or do bring to MI6 apart from not being traceable. I may not blend in well in crowds though: in winter I am the one dressed with so many layers, I cannot move with stealth, and in summer, I am so afraid of being sunburnt that I am equally layered-up darting from tree shade to tree shade. Perhaps I am part of the MI6 secret project called “What is Really in His Hair”. I cannot say out loud what it is about but rest assured we will get to the bottom of the Boris bob.

Finally, my last argument in advance of my case is that I am one of the 4 families in the world where due to genetics, I suffer from adermatoglyphia. This condition was discovered in 2007 by a Swiss dermatologist with the help of a few other people (all of whom I need to add, had or have fingerprints). Due to a gene mutation of SMARCAD1, these people are born with no fingerprints. According to the Smithsonian magazine, the finger pads of people with adermatoglyphia are entirely flat—they have none of the arching or looping ridges that characterise the fingerprints of virtually all humans. People with the condition are entirely healthy, minus a slightly reduced number of sweat glands. There are 2 other genetic disorders that lead to missing fingerprints, but they also cause more severe health impacts, such as thin, brittle hair and teeth. I am not going to comment on my COVID-free health, sweat glands, hair and teeth. For that information and considering I could be an undercover agent, you will have to serve legal papers on me in London which needs to take place by edictal citation and if nobody is bribed, this will cost the South African government a pretty penny.

Your Comrade,


PS: Koala bears have near identical human fingerprints. Thought you may want to know.