- Don't ring. You'll only get upset, and life's too short (in my case, 4 days shorter). Let me tell you here and now: they don't answer the phone. There are official hours, during which you may phone them, but the result will indistinguishable from ringing at any other hour of the day or night that you might care to choose. The phone remains unanswered to the backdrop of a variety of different tones and recordings, but the song remains the same. Don't do it. Instead, use email and their website. Everything you need, including the entry form, fees and office hours are downloadable from there. And when you email them, they will reply quickly. Sometimes within the minute.
- Persist. You might have particular inquiries, and feel you need to make contact with the embassy staff. You will form the opinion, after a number of email exchanges that you are either dealing with many different people (who don't look at, much less talk to, each other) or else the one person who is answering your emails is bent double, wetting himself at the hoops he is making you jump though. Keep jumping. He'll get bored after a few days.
- Include the photos. If you forget the photos, you will have to deal not only with the aforementioned email-go-round, but you will have to deal with the (possibly public) opprobrium and scorn that only your spouse [italian content] can bestow. In fact it's entirely possible that my wife will also pour scorn on you too, if she finds out you've forgotten to include the photos. You have been warned.
- Go there in person. You can avoid all the pain of 2 and 3 above if you just go there yourself. They won't accept postal applications, but they will accept couriers. In fact, they love couriers. They love them so much that they can't bear to see them leave. And when they do leave, it's empty-handed, all the more to make them come back sooner. It's probably some kind of hospitality thing they have going there. Perhaps couriers hold a revered place in Chinese culture (Nicole from Fasttrack certain holds a revered place in my house right now!) In my own case, they positively insisted that the courier visit 5 times before they'd even entertain the notion of anything so course and inhospitable as handing over my family's passports. If you go yourself, you are unlikely to receive this same special treatment. If you really want to see what it's like, just bring along a motorbike helmet and a 2-way radio with you. And bring a camera.
I have the passports back in my possession now. They took the train from Dublin to Cork, where the poor befuddled things no doubt got treated to an Irish breakfast in the dining car by the pitying Fasttrack staff. They looked right as rain by the time they leaped down onto the platform and scuttled into my open arms. They're sleeping in their favourite drawer now, no doubt stirring now and then, only half awake, to examine the strange calligraphy recently pasted to page 5.