It wasn't the first and it won't be the last school I visit. At 13:45 this afternoon Mrs Lee, the headteacher was just showing me around the classroom in which my daughter would be integrated. My eyes drifted across the inevitable mess left by a horde of 4 year olds and I was only half listening to her earnest spiel when my phone rang again. It was the second time in as many minutes and I excused myself. I expected to cut off my wife telling her I would call back later.
I didn't have time. She answered with a smile in her voice that had been missing for the last couple of months.
Before I could speak she blurted out the words I had lost hope of hearing before Christmas; "I've got my visa".
"Thats great I'll call you back shortly, I'm at the school". As I spoke the words they seemed utterly weightless and insignificant. I ended the call, turned towards Mrs Lee, apologised again for the interruption, and burst into tears.
The last weeks, for a variety of reasons have been stressful. Our daughter has struggled with her moods being without her mother and as we have travelled between the UK and Vienna to see mummy each visit has become more painful. The whole marriage visa application process, apart from being mildly intrusive, also seems almost wilfully complex and unfair - designed to turn people away.
So Mrs Lee, an acquaintance of less than half an hour, was left to pick up the pieces of my emotions as they spilled out. Perhaps more used to blubbing 4 year olds, the sight of a 40 year old man wiping tears of relief and repeatedly apologising after receiving a 20 second phone call probably did nothing to enhance my reputation as a stable parent of a prospective pupil at her school.
So my thoughts turn to all those families of lesser means split up by thousands of miles and a system that questions, ad nauseum, the motives of those looking for a better life. In the grand scheme of things my family is fortunate and, whilst I understand certain reasoning behind the visa process, I can't help but feel pity for the husbands, wives and children left miserable and lonely, waiting, hoping to one day be re-united.