An 18th Birthday Party

Sixteen years ago, in the middle of our wedding vows in a nearly silent church in north London – assisted unwittingly by my Italian-German aunt, who had kept giving her sweets – the 2 year old had loudly demanded of her mother, “Mummy, I need to poo!”

It didn’t make the wedding video, which was her Danish mother’s greatest fear.

That mum has now been a close friend of my wife’s for nearly 20 years; and she has become my friend, too.

And that toddler – whose father is English – who yelled at our wedding about needing to “poo” has just turned 18. Last night her bash was held in a hotel function room in Bristol.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a present with happy birthday text.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a present with happy birthday text.

She’s now also about 5 ft 10 and (we noticed as we studied her among her friends) resembles Taylor Swift. We hadn’t spotted that previously. And we would never say it to her because we don’t know how that might be received. 😉

One thing, though: she’s prettier than Taylor Swift.

She has grown up in Britain, and is essentially English.

Her similar age boyfriend’s haircut is sort of One Direction-ish. (Hey, I’ve heard of them. Well, vaguely.)

They and their friends – there had to be about 14 or 15 of them – sat crowded around a table. We’ve seen a few of them over and over – a couple of the girls especially. Despite a myriad of house moves and school changes over the years, they’ve stayed in close touch. An only child, she’s grown up with them – her best girlfriend in particular.

The birthday girl’s Danish mother (our girlfriend) is one of five sisters. Three of them flew in from Denmark just for the party. Another is also married to an Englishman – a retired London police officer who loves living in Denmark now.

When we arrived, the former Met officer greeted me. We’ve become sort of distant friends. Quickly he noted, “We started reading your [first] book. We couldn’t find it online until we realised we were searching under your real name.”

However, he and his wife ended up placed at another table. There were four tables of about 16 people each. The birthday girl’s mother and her (new) English husband (she is long divorced from the birthday girl’s English father) were sitting at our table.

Next to me sat “Miss 18’s” boyfriend’s mother. On her other side sat his father. We’d never met them before, but they were pleasant, and we had a few good laughs with them during the evening.

“I’m going to use this as my business card,” the boyfriend’s mother chuckled.

Our food choices for the meal were under our names on the business card-size seating place markers. Like all of us, hers had her name at the top. Immediately below it, her first course was listed.

She had pre-ordered a starter none of us around her had: “Tartlet.”

The other side of my wife sat another sister of our Danish girlfriend, her Danish husband, and their twin 6 year old girls.

Their presence sorted our evening.

Screen capture of Wikipedia.
Screen capture of Wikipedia.

Lots of chatter about life in Britain. And life in Denmark (we’ve somehow never been – yet). And life in America. And, of course, about life with their three kids.

Their kids – their 7 year old son was sitting at another table with his Danish grandmother – have to be about the most gorgeous children I have ever encountered. No surprise. Their father is tall, handsome, and stereotypically Nordic. Our girlfriend’s sister, although not blonde (we’re not sure how that happened), is definitely not unattractive either.

We hadn’t known them very well. They are slightly younger than us, but probably not much; the children were later in life arrivals. We’d only seen them passingly over the years.

Well, we know them now much better.

Turns out, he had spent his senior year in high school in the U.S. I asked him where, expecting to hear New York or L.A. or Boston, or maybe Atlanta….

“Reno, Nevada,” he laughed.

Years back, they had lived in Bath, not far from the Royal Crescent. He has an MBA from Bath University. Out of nowhere she appeared with a coffee table book about Bath; clearly it must have been out in the lounge somewhere. She laid it in front of us, turned pages, and located approximately where they had lived…. before the kids had arrived.

On his phone, he was also discretely following a Denmark European qualifier match. Soccer/football came into the conversation when he mentioned the match. He also noted his son has a Fifa football video game: “You know what he told me the other day? He doesn’t want to play it anymore because they are cheaters. It only says ‘Fifa” on the cover. Kids can be so honest, can’t they?”

Later, between courses, the twins being entertained briefly in the lounge by their father, their mother covered her mouth and yawned a pretty substantial yawn. She saw me notice and smiled.

“Sorry,” she said, looking sheepish. “It’s not you.”

“You’re allowed,” I made clear.

“I had all three of them for the flight over,” she explained wearily. “He flew in this morning. He gets two of them tonight in his room next door. I plan to sleep better!” she declared.

The kids don’t speak English very well, we were told. They will be taught it in school as their second language. Eventually they have to choose a third language, which could be just about anything else. “Most of us take German,” he shared. “I speak German. It’s logical. 49% of our trade is with Germany.”

That was something I’d have expected an MBA to have pointed out.

After the Danes sang “Happy Birthday” in Danish, I remarked on wine glasses on the birthday girl’s table. You could easily identify the ones who’d hit 18 already. “You certainly don’t see that in the U.S.,” I said to him.

“Nope. 21,” he laughed, knowing the U.S. as he does very well. “Ah, but they do drink there lots before that.”

“Oh, yes, they do indeed,” I admitted.

The birthday girl wasn’t only legally drinking now with her friends (who could). She had gotten a tattoo during the day, pre-party, on the back of her upper right arm. It’s a little larger, her mother told us, than she – the birthday girl – had thought it would be.

Our table-mates had understandably said goodnight relatively early and headed off with the children. Around midnight, others also started leaving. As things began to wind down, we offered our girlfriend our car to help: we could transport presents and 3 people back to her house? (It was not far away in Bristol.) It would save one cab, we suggested, and we’d just drive home from hers instead.

We were assigned the birthday girl’s Danish grandmother, the birthday girl herself (we were honored!), and her boyfriend. However, before the last two got into our car, my [not drinking for the evening] wife hurriedly told me (sitting in the front passenger seat) that the radio station needed changing. “Quick, change Classic FM,” she said, urgency in her voice. “Put on something else. Anything. Our street cred….”

The Saxon Church, Bradford-on-Avon, not far from our house. [Photo by me, 14 June 2015.]
The Saxon Church, Bradford-on-Avon, not far from our house. [Photo by me, 14 June 2015.]
We’re in recovery today. Well, mostly, I suppose I am. Hope you’re having a good weekend. 🙂


  1. Congratulations to the birthday girl! My second daughter will also be turning 18 this week. And definitely, more beautiful than Taylor Swift 🙂


    • Congrats to her!

      I missed my nephew’s. My niece’s is later in the year. I hadn’t been to an 18th birthday since I was, uh, around 18.


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