Coming Of Age

Shutterstock / Igor Irge ©

Colin had waited so long for this moment, he was going to make the most of it…

Although Colin was born in 1948 and all his friends were in their early seventies, he was looking forward to the eighteenth anniversary of his birthday on February the twenty-ninth, 2020.

“So, what are we going to do to celebrate?” he asked Oliver, his grandson who was due to be eighteen at the beginning of the month.


“Yes – our eighteenth birthdays. What do eighteen-year-olds do nowadays to mark the occasion?”

“Why don’t you take your grandfather to the Magpie and Parrot and buy him a pint?” suggested Oliver’s mum, Shannon.

Colin’s eyes lit up.

“You don’t know how much I’ve been looking forward to having a pint with my son and grandson in the bar at The Magpie.”

“All that male bonding.” Shannon laughed and smiled at her father-in-law. “I think you’d better walk.”

“Can I come?” asked seventeen-year-old George.

“You’d be very welcome,” Grandpa Colin said with a smile. “But PC Naylor will probably be there, and so it’ll have to be a cola for you.”

“Boring,” George said. It had always been hard on him, being only nine months younger than his brother.

Colin knew that feeling – he’d been barely a year younger than his own sibling.

“Don’t worry,” he said quickly. “I’ve put you on my car insurance so I can take you out in the car and we can practise reversing and parking.”

“Thanks, Grandpa.”

“Hey, don’t look so glum,” Colin said. “You know I’m going to spoil you rotten next year when it’s your eighteenth?”

Shannon knew how important this special birthday was to her father-in-law – he’d reminded her often enough – so she made sure she’d had a quiet word with the landlord of The Magpie and Parrot before the end of the month.

“Yes, he has mentioned it once or twice,” laughed the landlord. “So, believe me, I’m going to make sure he’s got some sort of ID on him – otherwise I won’t serve him.”

Colin had a huge smile on his face from the moment he woke on the twenty-ninth of February. He’d waited long enough for this day to arrive and was determined to make the most of it.

It was all the more special that he was surrounded by his family – especially with grandson Oliver having just turned eighteen.

Colin had been widowed a few years previously.

He’d sold their old home and bought the house next door to Joe and Shannon, his son and daughter-in-law. He reckoned he had the best of both worlds – family close by while maintaining his independence.

Shannon invited him over for a birthday breakfast and was in the process of making everyone bacon sandwiches for a treat. A huge helium balloon bounced around on the kitchen ceiling every time someone moved.

As usual, Shannon had the radio on in the background as she grilled the bacon and made copious pots of tea.

“Listen!” she shouted suddenly and the whole family fell silent.

“I’ve been told to repeat his name – so, Colin Carpenter, if you’re listening, I know it’s a very special day for you, especially as your particular birthday only comes around once every four years, so make sure you spend time today with your family and celebrate big time.

“After all, you’re only eighteen once and you’ve had to wait longer than most for your first legal pint!” the DJ announced for the whole country to hear.

“Cheers!” Colin raised his mug of tea before continuing to open cards and presents from his family. His eyes rested on Shannon. “Thanks, love. I’ve never heard my name on the radio before!”

The postman was laden with more cards and parcels for the birthday “boy”. Colin loved every minute and was thoroughly enjoying the attention.

After breakfast he headed straight for the one remaining travel agents in the town where Christine Naylor worked, wife of the local bobby.

Christine had been in his class at school many years ago.

Colin had always had a crush on her, but she’d chosen to marry Bob Naylor because he looked handsome in his uniform and was fifteen years her junior.

Colin reminded her of this every so often, and they all enjoyed a bit of friendly banter.

However, Colin spent the next hour in her shop trying to book a Club 18-30 holiday without success.

Having wasted an hour of her time, while drinking a fair amount of her coffee, he gallantly offered to buy her a drink if she cared to come along to The Magpie that evening. He even agreed to her bringing along his rival, her toy-boy Bob Naylor.

For years he’d planned this momentous day in his head.

Obviously he would do all the things you can only legally do once you’re eighteen – but now, at seventy-two, the reality of getting a tattoo without his parents’ consent had lost its appeal. The same went for drinking and smoking.

Nonetheless, it was his birthday and, although it was a cold day, spring and the better weather was surely on its way, so there was much in Colin’s life to be optimistic about.

Colin made his way back home to change. He called in at the corner shop for a bag of mint toffees.

“I thought you said you weren’t to have these now because of your teeth?” Nancy the shopkeeper reminded him.

“I’m not,” Colin said sheepishly, “but it’s my eighteenth birthday.

“I can’t see the harm in one or two toffees, especially if I promise to suck them.”

“So it was your name I heard on the radio this morning,” Nancy laughed. “I thought it was.”

She added in a few extra sweets before twisting the top of the little white paper bag and handing it over.

Colin paid for his sweets and a newspaper and turned to go.

“Hold on a minute!” Nancy called. A moment later, she appeared on his side of the counter and much to his surprise, gave him a birthday kiss.

“I’m having a pint at The Magpie tonight. I’ll buy you a drink if you’re there,” he told her.

“I might just do that.” Nancy laughed. “It’s a mighty long time since I had a drink with an eighteen-year-old!”

And it’s a long time since I had a twinkle in my eye, thought Colin as he almost skipped up the road clutching his toffees, his paper under his arm.

The whole family were celebrating with an early lunch at a local restaurant. Shannon had made sure they had a cake with eighteen candles but when the waiters came to sing Happy Birthday, they automatically headed over to Oliver and George at the other end of the table.

“This is the birthday boy,” Shannon told them and explained.

Colin loved being the centre of attention.

Later, three generations of the Carpenter family strolled along to the local pub. It was chilly and dark, being February, but they were all in good spirits.

“After all, you’re not eighteen every day,” Colin kept telling them. He was delighted to see the pub filled with his old friends and even his elder brother, who now lived some distance away.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” the landlord greeted them. “What can I get for you today?”

“A pint of the usual,” Colin said, beaming from ear to ear.

“I’m afraid the brewery’s introduced a new policy,” announced the landlord. “I now have to check everyone’s ID before I serve them. Do you have any identification on you, sir?”

Colin proudly produced his birth certificate, along with his passport, driving licence and a handful of birthday cards all displaying the number eighteen.

“You’re not taking any chances.” The landlord inspected the documents before slowly pouring a Guinness. “I’ll need to check yours too,” he told Joe, Oliver and George, much to everyone’s amusement. “Yes, that all seems to be in order.”

True to his word, Colin bought drinks for Christine Naylor and Nancy.

“I don’t suppose you’d care to call round for a coffee sometime and help me polish off my birthday cake?” he asked Nancy, feeling rather like a foolish teenager.

“Sounds wonderful.” Nancy smiled.

Ah,” Colin said. “A pint has never tasted so good.”

He drained the glass and replaced it on the counter.

“Do you want another one, Grandad?” Oliver asked.

“No thanks, Oli. For one thing I’ll be up in the night, but also I need to keep a clear head. I’ve promised to take your brother for a driving lesson tomorrow.”

“Excuse me sir,” PC Naylor said. He never seemed to be off-duty. “But are you aware you have to be at least twenty-one to supervise someone learning to drive?”

“But I’m…” began Colin.

“Eighteen,” the policeman reminded him. “I’m sure that’s what I heard you say to the landlord. Good evening.”

“But I won’t be twenty-one until 2032. George will be twenty-nine by then! Do you think he’ll wait?”