and a stick to beat the devil with

I am 21!

(…an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone…)

On the 25th Zoe (Oliver’s girlfriend) was moving into Birmingham, and her parents offered me a lift back to Bristol, which I gladly accepted. We spent the afternoon at Zoe’s house nomming delicious steak, failing at racing games and playing Risk with her brother Mark til Dad finished his orchestra and came to pick us up, and I went to my top-floor bed and slept there for the first time in what felt like (but hasn’t actually been) a long time.

“Bro, what do you want for your cake this year? A hedgehog?”
“We’ve made quite a few hedgehogs, haven’t we?”
“A tortoise?”
“Hmm, maybe. Ooh! I know!”
“A star fort!”

On the 26th, Olly taught me WordPress things that will come in useful if I end up being the IT monkey for Redbrick, and we rebuilt most of my computer in my new case. (Which is awesome. 120mm fan at the front, great airflow, HDDs come in a removable thing; I am happy.) I visited Maeve’s house down the hill, and she gave me birthday biscuits. Bill and James came round and, and we did bro things. Bill gave me a copy of the new PCG, full of Valve goodness.

We did lots of Geometry and Measuring and came up with a five-pointed fort with good overlapping fields of fire and cannon-resistant icing. It was a very scientific cake, and Mum now knows her bastions and ravelins better than any other mum. She also makes better birthday cakes than any other mum. I challenge you – who else has had a trace italienne cake for their 21st? Nobody. Took Bill, James and brothers for a massive burger-dinner at YoYo (aka Burger Tank), and came back via Tesco when Mum called and requisitioned extra Madeira cake for more ravelins.

And on the 27th I woke up legally older, and enjoyed the first of what are bound to be many long, lazy lie-ins as a 21-year-old.

Nick had school and Mum had work in the morning, so the actual festivities were to be held off til lunchtime. I was moving computer things around in the sitting room, setting up in preparation of an anticipated graphics-card-esque present, when Dad came in and said “Hey, could you… look at something downstairs?”


Jez and Sue had come up from London to wish me a happy birthday. They’re my Un-godparents, best of our many family friends and companions on numberless shared holidays. Love and compliments were exchanged; then a couple of minutes later they innocuously asked me if I’d like to help unload their car.


A new bike. No, really, a new bike (well, a six-month old bike with one extremely careful owner.) And a really warm upmarket-looking reflective cycling jacket (but thankfully no skin-tight lycra shorts). And a Jez and Sue for my birthday. All this came so completely out of left field that I confess I just sat there grinning and mumbling thanks for a few minutes.

Bill arrived, as did Mum, and we all tucked in to a huge birthday roast duck. Then it was PRESENTS O’CLOCK. Mum had bought me new panniers. And my shiny new 5770, all huge and gleaming red and silver and copper and HNGGGG. Nick showed up from school with his suit and his too-much-hair, ate and presented me with the tortoise drawing that had won him VICTORY in GCSE art. Mum had made me another kite, to replace my dearly beloved lost one; white with red stars. And a Beano with a little wind-up thing that launched whizzy helicopters, because if you turn 21 around you get 12.

Installed the new GPU with Bill and played some test rounds of L4D with all the graphics turned up to fifteen and 8xMSAA just because.

We besieged the star fort (four candles to a bastion plus one on the parade ground) with knife and spoon, and it was glorious and delicous. We took lots of pictures, but there is a good reason I’m not posting them at the moment. We plotted a possible holiday to Sri Lanka next-but-one Christmas, and Dad and Jez both got hilariously out of their skulls on wine and champagne, while the younger generation exchanged embarrassed looks. Jez and Sue left in a taxi, mildly sozzled, and Owen and Joey arrived and gave their regards. Full of cake, we went out into the garden and lit a massive bonfire to burn the accumulated dead plants of recent gardening tidy-ups and dance around naked shouting heathen nonsense. Human faces look wonderful by firelight.

Mum had dropped the camera somewhere while dragging a huge pile of brambles down to the fireside, and we hunted fruitlessly for it in the dark for a while. The only full-size firework we had left was a Catherine wheel, and we accidentally nailed it to the tree the wrong way round, but short of making the blue touch paper rather more fiddly to get than expected, it wasn’t a problem; it was just as pretty, with a marvellous blue corona at the end.

Owen and Joey excused themselves to go and get dinner, and we Geeked and drank masses of tea, and then all decided we were very hungry and mounted an expedition up to the chip shop. On the way up Hensman’s Hill, we bumped into Owen and Joey, who had changed their minds and wanted to dine with us after all. Masses of haddock and chips were subsequently consumed.

Best 21st birthday I’ve ever had, even if everyone is telling me it’s only downhill from here. This morning, parents found the gutted remains of the camera in the ashes of the fire. But other than that, it was good.


3 thoughts on “and a stick to beat the devil with

  1. I’m glad your Birthday was a happy one, even if the camera did get sacrificed to the flames.

    And don’t you know that 21 is the new 11? You’ve got lots of years to go before you reach the top of the hill!

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