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Writers’ Diary for Believe No One USA research trip 2012


Believe No One takes Fennimore & Simms to the United States Mid West.
These blogs document the places we visited and people we met during the research trip in May 2012, including meetings and discussions with law enforcement and criminal justice experts in Oklahoma and Missouri .

DVLA farago blur mediumI’d planned a research trip to USA with Dave Barclay, forensic scientist and collaborator on the A.D. Garrett books. Planning started in the autumn of 2011 for a two-state trip in May the following year. Dave had liaised with contacts in Tulsa, Oklahoma and St Louis, Missouri, and they had set up two or three meetings per day for the entire three weeks we were there. Hear that annoying buzz? That’s the fly in the ointment. I had a medical restriction on my drivers’ licence which meant that every 3 years I had to undergo a health review and be declared medically fit to drive. My current licence was due to expire in March 2012. Being a well organised individual, I applied for review in January, filled out all the forms, sent the medical information requested, including contact details of my GP and consultant. I chased up again and again (and again), and was told that the renewal request was ‘progressing’.

14th March 2012: A nicely timed headlong trip over an uneven paving stone (thanks Wirral Borough Council) added another layer of anxiety to the whole waiting period. I’d broken a bone in my hand in the fall on, my left hand was currently splinted and painful, and I was typing the edits of Everyone Lies and the outline of Believe No One one-handed.  Four-to-six weeks healing time, the orthopaedic specialist said. So I might be fit to drive just as we flew out to the United States.

20th March 2012: It was a shock to learn that the Medical Department at the DVLA had only just asked my GP for a statement on my current state of health. They predicted that the new licence would likely be issued in 6-8 weeks – about half-way through the research trip. No, I was told. There’s no ‘fast-track’ system – all you can do is wait. As designated driver for the entire trip (husband – non-driver, Dave – not happy driving in the US), I felt I couldn’t do that, so I contacted my GP, who agreed to fax the statement to the DVLA the same day.  I applied for, and got, a cover note from the DVLA, but they said it might not cover me to drive abroad. I checked with the USA .gov website, and sure ’nuff, they were right – I could not drive legally, or hire a car on a cover note.

13th April 2012: I applied for an International Driving Permit. I couldn’t provide a copy of a current driving licence, because by now my licence was a month out of date. But the DVLA kindly agreed to be contacted direct by the issuing authority and (joy or joys!) they had marked my application as ‘priority’. Clutching my new IDP, I rang round a few car hire firms in the United States. None would accept the IDP alone for the purposes of car hire.

18th April 2012: Received a letter from the DVLA. All medical information had been received and had been passed to the Medical Examiner – his decision could take 6 weeks. Our flights were scheduled for 1st May! Despairing, I rang the help line. ‘Mark’ was helpful and understanding. He checked the progress of my application for what must be the 20th time over the passing months. A decision, he said, had at last been taken: my licence would be renewed for the FULL term. No more triennial reviews; no more 3 month backlogs. Hurrah! But I still didn’t have official notification.

The official letter arrived two days later – with a note to say that the licence should be with me in 14 days…

Click through to the next blog to find out what happened.

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