I HAVE just had my passport picture done. The result was not a pretty sight and got me thinking.

So here, as a momentary departure from anything loftier or controversial, are some thoughts on the faces we live with.

There is an enjoyable feature in one of the magazines that arrives with the weekend newspapers. It is called What I See In The Mirror, and asks assorted well-known people to assess their visages. It's tucked away on a women's make-up page or something, but I always read it, while carefully ignoring the female grooming tips to the left.

How interesting to discover what other people think about their faces, and the self-stories they tell. None of us sees ourselves as others do. What we discover in the mirror each morning is different from what others see in us. This morning, what I saw in the mirror was rather too much blood (how we men have to suffer in the name of facial smoothness).

There was a survey out this week which purported to record how often we all look in the mirror. The results were fairly surprising, but not surprising enough for me to recall them. Incidentally, do you think anyone would sponsor a survey about why surveys are invariably stupid and pointless. Maybe not.

Anyway, on to these passport photographs. Please do not dismiss this exercise as a form of vanity. Looking at the latest photograph, you will see that this cannot surely be the case. What sort of lover of self-regard would want to draw attention to that?

Like everything else, having your passport photograph taken has changed. There are new rules in force. No glasses, no smiling, and face up close to the lens. Apparently, the picture will not be nodded through by the Passport Office unless you look like a mass murderer, or so it seems.

So that explains the smile-free, glasses-off pose in the latest, 51-year-old picture. The in-between photograph was taken a little over ten years ago in the photo-booth at Lendal Post Office, in York.

As you can see, it was permissible to keep your glasses on at that time. As the spectacles in question appear to have lenses the size of television screens, they might have been better removed. There is, too, a hint of a smile. And you can't leave or enter the country with one of those any more.

The first photograph dates from 1983, when I was 26 or 27. It features, as the cruelly perceptive will already have noticed, rather a lot of curly hair. An earlier passport, lost somewhere in our house, reveals an even more impressive teenage thicket, a veritable late-hippie explosion of hirsuteness. So profuse was the hairiness that my daughter and a friend were once reduced to hysterics on accidentally being exposed to the said passport picture.

There is something interesting about the facial progress we make in our lives. Most of us are interested in how we look, even those who pretend otherwise. Part of this is vanity, wanting to please ourselves by what we see, or at least hoping to be pleased.

There is more than this, though, in watching the transitions in what is hopefully a longish journey from A to B. What comes after B? Who knows - and especially not an agnostic type who thinks there is nothing after B, just more A to B for those generations still making the journey.

So there you go, all that from a displeasing passport photograph.

My wife, incidentally, brushed away the afternoon-long depression that accompanied the getting of the terrible photograph. Dipping into the no-nonsense end of the dictionary, she said that was what I looked like, and meant it kindly. A younger female colleague said something similar.

Well, what do they know? I'm sure I don't look like that at all.

AS A footnote to the more important matters discussed here last week, I was heartened by a column in a national daily newspaper. This argued that Britain was far from being an overcrowded country, and never mind all the over-heated concern about migration and population growth.

What good sense the writer spoke when he pointed out that no more than eight per cent of the land mass of the United Kingdom consists of human dwellings or offices.

When people complain of limited space and over-crowding, they usually have something else on their suspicious minds.