When does boyhood end?
For some it’s leaving school
To get a job or leaving school
To get no job at all, or buying
A drink for the first time on your own
Or the first time, properly that is,
With a girl or having to shave
The bristles off and not just fluff
Or for some the day you learned to drive
Or the day you had to dress
In a suit and tie for a grandad’s
Funeral or else some other
Personal, private, unforgotten thing,
Too personal in fact to mention.
For me, the night my father
Left me to the boat will count for that.
Eighteen and able to marry,
Able to vote, able to fight
In her Majesty’s Army, I was still
Inside a child, away to university
In England in a Liverpool ferryboat,
Packed tight with home-bound
Squaddies, watching at two or three
In the morning, the lights of
The Isle of Man sail by
As I stood on the deck and felt the cold
Wind rise on the Irish Sea and
Heard the gulls and knew that when manhood
Starts, in a sense, you’re on your own.
Philip Orr is a Writer, Historian and Political Commentator