An American Idiot in London: My son’s 18th birthday treat

By Grainne McCool

As the baby, child number three will turn 18 in early January 2016 and I wanted to give him something a little special for this ‘coming of age’ birthday.

His two predecessors each had a party prepared for their night. Boy number three doesn’t want the said ‘party’.

He is a teetotal adolescent he has no desire to follow in his brothers footsteps, so we talked about a possible alternative treat.

An avid fan of Green Day he has often spoke of his love to see the musical ‘American Idiot’.

On hearing that it was still running at London’s West End, he suggested this as his gift and so it was down to mother to set the ball in motion.

That is exactly what I did back in September.

Having gone online, booked tickets for Friday November 13th, flights for November 12th, and a two night hotel stay, it was all systems go. Mother and son were going to London.

This might not be your typical getaway for the average 17-year-old but the two of us have often taken some time in Dublin together over the years and in Birmingham also.

So venturing off to London was just another getaway for myself and the boy.

On arrival in London just over a week ago I took the boy around all my old haunts (l lived and worked in London during the summer months of my college years a few short years ago).

On our first night there we were fortunate to have an invite to Damien O’Kanes new album launch (Damien is an Irish trad musician whom I had interviewed recently).

On the same night just around the corner in Camden, The Turning (London based Indi/Garage/Pop band) were also playing, so we ventured into Camden and a memorable night of music was had.

A very sensible duo we were and both heads were tucked up in bed by midnight.

Sharing a twin room with my 17-year-old son might be challenging I had thought but alas, it was all fun.

We even managed to share a fleece throw at one stage. The boy did say on a number of occasions: “Mum do you need to use the bathroom now?”

This meant he wanted to get changed, away from mothers eyes so I moved to the bathroom.

On the day of our show we met up with the kiddo’s cousin, originally from Derry and now living in Dartford.

The two cousins sauntered the streets of London taking in all the sites. The old auntie and mum (that would be me) toddled along behind them.

Becca and Ultan
Ultan McCool with his cousin Rebecca during Ultan and Grainne’s trip to London

At 7pm that night, myself and the boy ventured into Leicester Square and enjoyed the entertainment and the lights by night.

London was alive and we were soaking up the atmosphere prior to ‘American Idiot’ at The Arts Theatre.

8pm and it was curtains up. For the next two hours we watched an outstanding display of teenage angst unfold on stage to the music of Green Day.

It was sheer enjoyment throughout. Mind you it was during this that the boy nudged me and told me off for the only time during our trip: “Mum, stop singing. Everyone can hear you.”

My singing voice is non-existent and so I was embarrassing my baby in front of this London audience.

Needless to say I squirmed like the moody teenager he should be and yet this forty-something Mum of three was offended at being told off.

I was enjoying singing out with the cast but the boy had a point.

I don’t have so much as a note in my head and so my moody huff passed.

The walk home was one of praise about the day and night we had just experienced.

On return to our hotel room we were presented with the devastating news from Paris.

Others were denied the enjoyment we had just experienced. A cloud was cast upon us alongside the rest of the world.

It was good that we had each other to talk to and try remaining positive amongst this war of terror.

The following morning we arose with the larks and decided to do a little shopping before being whisked to the airport at lunchtime.

It was time to introduce the boy to Oxford Street. He was in his element as he ventured around the multiple sports stores. I was the ever obedient mother and trooped behind him.

I chose not to do my usual shopping endeavours and set this time aside for the boy alone.

By noon I was sports shopped to the hilt. He had bought for himself, the girlfriend and his Dad.

And so it was to the airport we did head. Dad was waiting when we arrived in Belfast ready to take us home.

To say we had a ball would be an understatement. I enjoyed every minute with the kiddo.

From my explaining the wooziness on Friday morning owing to the dreaded monthly visitor to alternate visits to the bathroom to dress, we laughed our way through so much.

Enjoying a night of Irish traditional music immediately followed by indie pop, alongside my boy was cool.

Accompanying him to ‘American Idiot’ the musical was an honour.

Perhaps this will be the last weekend I spend with my boy in such circumstances.

No one knows what the future will hold. No one knows what lies ahead. But for now I have an amazing London adventure to look back upon.

I have made yet another memory with the kiddo. For that I am grateful.

Here’s looking at you kid and here’s wishing you every happiness on your forthcoming 18th birthday!

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