Do you like the age that you are right now? If you could suddenly become older or younger, which age would you choose?


Pink Bow Tie

by Paul Jennings

Well, here I am again, sitting outside the Principal's office. And I've only been at the school for two days. Two lots of trouble in two days! Yesterday I got punished for nothing. Nothing at all. I see this bloke walking along the street wearing a pink bow tie. It looks like a great pink butterfly attacking his neck. It is the silliest bow tie I have ever seen. '’What are you staring at, lad?' says the bloke. He is in a bad mood. 'Your bow tie,' I tell him. 'It is ridiculous. It looks like a pink vampire.' It is so funny that I start to laugh my head off. Nobody tells me that this bloke is Old Splodge, the Principal of the school. He doesn't see the joke and he decides to punish me. Life is very unfair. Now I am in trouble again. I am sitting here outside Old Splodge's office waiting for him to call me in.  Well, at least I've got something good to look at. Old Splodge's secretary is sitting there typing some letters. She is called Miss Newham and she is a real knockout. Every boy in the school is in love with her. I wish she was my girlfriend, but as she is seventeen and I am only fourteen there is not much hope. Still, she doesn't have a boyfriend so there is always a chance. She is looking at me and smiling. I can feel my face going red. 'Why have you dyed your hair blond?' she asks sweetly. 'Didn't you know it is against the school rules for boys to dye their hair?' I try to think of a very impressive answer but before I can say anything Old Splodge sticks his head around the office door. 'Come in, boy,' he says. I go in and sit down. 'Well, lad,' says Old Splodge. 'Why have you dyed your hair? Trying to be a surfie, eh?' He is a grumpy old boy. He is due to retire next year and he does not want to go.

I notice that he is still wearing the pink bow tie. He always wears this bow tie. He cannot seem to live without it. I try not to look at it as I answer him. 'I did not dye my hair, sir,' I say. 'Yesterday,' says Splodge, 'when I saw you, I noticed that you had black hair. Am I correct?' 'Yes, sir,' I answer.  'Then tell me, lad,' he says, 'how is it that your hair is white today?' I notice that little purple veins are standing out on his bald head. This is a bad sign. 'It's a long story,' I tell him. 'Tell me the long story,' he says. 'And it had better be good.' I look him straight in the eye and this is what I tell him.

I am a very nervous person. Very sensitive. I get scared easily. I am scared of the dark. I am scared of ghost stories. I am even scared of the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street. Yesterday I am going home on the train after being in trouble at school and I am in a carriage with some very strange people. There is an old lady with a walking stick, grey hair and gold wire-rim glasses. She is bent right over and can hardly walk. There is also a mean, skinny-looking guy sitting next to me. He looks like he would cut your throat for two bob. Next to him is a kid of about my age and he is smoking. You are not allowed to smoke when you are fourteen. This is why I am not smoking at the time. After about five minutes a ticket collector puts his head around the door. He looks straight at the kid who is smoking. 'Put that cigarette out,' he says. 'You are too young to smoke.' The kid does not stop smoking. He picks up this thing that looks like a radio and twiddles a knob. Then he starts to grow older in front of our eyes. He just slowly changes until he looks about twenty-five. 'How's that?' he says to the ticket collector. 'Am I old enough now?' The ticket collector gives an almighty scream and runs down the corridor as fast as his legs can take him. The rest of us just sit there looking at the kid (who is now a man) with our mouths hanging open.

'How did you do that?' trembles the old lady. She is very interested indeed. 'Easy,' says the kid-man as he stands up. The train is stopping at a station. 'Here,' he says throwing the radio thing on to her lap. 'You can have it if you want.' He goes out of the compartment, down the corridor and gets off the train. We all stare at the box-looking thing. It has a sliding knob on it. Along the right-hand side it says OLDER and at the left end it says YOUNGER. On the top is a label saying AGE RAGER. The mean-looking bloke sitting next to me makes a sudden lunge forward and tries to grab the Age Rager but the old lady is too quick for him, 'No you don't,' she says and shoves him off. Quick as a flash she pushes the knob a couple of centimetres down towards the YOUNGER end.

Straight away she starts to grow younger. In about one minute she looks as if she is sixteen. She is sixteen. She looks kind of pretty in the old lady's glasses and old-fashioned clothes. It makes her look like a hippy. 'Cool,' she shouts, throwing off her shawl. She throws the Age Rager over to me, runs down the corridor and jumps off the train just as it is pulling out of the station. 'Give that to me,' says the mean-looking guy. Like I told you before, I am no hero. I am scared of my own shadow. I do not like violence or scary things so I hand over the Age Rager to Mean Face. He grabs the Age Rager from me and pushes the knob nearly up to the end where it says YOUNGER. Straight away he starts to grow younger but he does not stop at sixteen. In no time at all there is a baby sitting next to me in a puddle of adult clothes. He is only about one year old. He looks at me with a wicked smile. He sure is a mean-looking baby. 'Bad, Dad Dad,' he says.

'I am not your Dad Dad,' I say. 'Give me that before you hurt yourself.' The baby shakes his head and puts the Age Rager behind his back. I can see that he is not going to hand it over. He thinks it is a toy. Then, before I can move, he pushes the knob right up to the OLDER end. A terrible sight meets my eyes. He starts to get older and older. First he is about sixteen, then thirty, then sixty, then eighty, then one hundred and then he is dead. But it does not stop there. His body starts to rot away until all that is left is a skeleton. I give a terrible scream and run to the door but I cannot get out because it is jammed. I kick and shout but I cannot get out. I open the window but the train is going too fast for me to escape. And that is how my hair gets white. I have to sit in that carriage with a dead skeleton for fifteen minutes. I am terrified. I am shaking with fear. It is the most horrible thing that has ever happened to me. My hair goes white in just fifteen minutes. I am frightened into being a blond. When the train stops I get out of the window and walk all the rest of the way home. 'And that,' I say to Splodge, 'is the truth.'

Splodge is fiddling with his pink bow tie. His face is turning the same colour. I can see that he is about to freak out. 'What utter rubbish,' he yells. 'Do you take me for a fool? Do you expect me to believe that yarn?' 'I can prove it,' I say. I get the Age Rager out of my bag and put it on his desk. Splodge picks it up and looks at it carefully; 'You can go now, lad,' he says in a funny voice. 'I will send a letter home to your parents telling them that you are suspended from school for telling lies.' I walk sadly back to class. My parents will kill me if I am suspended from school. For the next two weeks I worry about the letter showing up in the letter box. But nothing happens. I am saved. Well, it is not quite true that nothing happens. Two things happen: one good and one bad. The good thing is that Splodge disappears and is never seen again. The bad thing is that Miss Newham gets a boyfriend.

He is about eighteen and is good-looking. It is funny though. Why would she go out with a kid who wears a pink bow tie?

‘Pink Bow Tie’ is from ‘Thirteen Unpredictable Tales’ by Paul Jennings
Reprinted with kind permission of Puffin Books, Australia

This story was selected as part of the BritLit project. To find out more about BritLit visit our TeachingEnglish site.

Total votes: 853
Language level: 


What do you think is the best age to be? Do you like the age you are now?


catastrophe's picture
catastrophe 25 February, 2017 - 13:31

I had always wanted to grow up when i was younger. But now I'm thirteen, and I think I would rather prefer to be Peter Pan than grow up to be some idiotic Ms. Grumpy or so.

19 users have voted.
baroonmlk's picture
baroonmlk 23 November, 2016 - 15:23

to his story was really nice , I truly enjoyed while reading it !!!!
I wonder if I could read more stories from this book .

31 users have voted.
gianggiang's picture
gianggiang 4 October, 2015 - 14:14

I think that fifteen is the best age. ( And now, I am fifteen years old)
" When you are fifteen, somebody tell you they love you,
You gonna believe them
When you are fifteen,don't forget to look before you fall
I've found that time can heal anything
I don't know who I am supposed to be at fifteen
La la la....lalala"
( Fifteen - Taylor Swift)
I wish I were fifteen forever

64 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 17 September, 2015 - 17:05

Hmm….I think 18 years-old sounds something fascinating!
Cuz… "All I can do is say that these arms were made for holding you.
I wanna love like you made me feel when we were 18" ♬

70 users have voted.
Papar9998's picture
Papar9998 24 October, 2015 - 09:50

I am agree with u ofcourse i am 17 right now and i wish i were 19 because its time to go university then and i have taken entrance exams i dont have to study that much after that

62 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 8 August, 2015 - 09:31

I like the age I am now, but if I can go back, I want to be three! …an innocent age! ツ

81 users have voted.
iva10's picture
iva10 6 August, 2015 - 16:33

Hello everyone !Today is my birthday and am officaly thirteen now!It rained a bit but it didn't mader.

88 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 6 December, 2015 - 10:27

Happy Birthday iva!
Sorry for the delay but it's the 6th December which is just at 4 month's date!

How have you been during the past four months? Have you found joy in anything? Have you talked anything under the sun with your best friend? Have you behaved yourself? Have you matched your words with deeds? Have you seen the way forward? Have you……etc etc.
Anyway, make the most of every minute and wish you a great thirteen!!☆


65 users have voted.
iva10's picture
iva10 12 August, 2015 - 13:33

Thank you!I'm sorry i didn't reply earlier but i wasn't home and there they don't have internet.And thank you again for my birthday:)

87 users have voted.
Nerminka's picture
Nerminka 9 March, 2014 - 16:50

I am 13 years old..... I like pink bow. the best age is 17. But I like the age I am in. This is a good story.. I like it...

158 users have voted.
iva10's picture
iva10 29 April, 2015 - 16:57

Hi ...I wanted to ask you where are you from,because i m also 12 years old .I m from Montenegro and i would be glad if we could be friends,because i don t have any friend from another country except mine.Of course if you want...

99 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 30 April, 2015 - 05:51

Hi iva10. Thanks for your comments, but this website is for teenagers and posting comments is only allowed for 13-17 year olds. You can check our House Rules here. In the meantime, you can join LearnEnglish Kids and post messages there, and please rejoin us when you are 13. Thanks :)
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

90 users have voted.
iva10's picture
iva10 30 April, 2015 - 20:37

I wanted to say that i m all ready a member of LearnEnglishKids and BritishCouncil .My birthday is on sixt avgus so i m going to rejoin you then,but it was nice this three months that i was a member.I learned a lot and i m going on a competition in my school because i m the best in english in my class and i hope i will get good resultats.

87 users have voted.
Tina - Coordinator's picture
Tina - Coordinator 1 May, 2015 - 06:35

Hi iva10,
Good luck with your school competition and we look forward to seeing your comments again after your birthday in August :)
Best wishes, Tina (LearnEnglish Teen Team)

94 users have voted.
Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
Jonathan - Coor... 1 May, 2015 - 07:26

Yes iva10, good luck from me too and we look forward to seeing you again in August. Very best of luck in your competition! I'm sure you'll do really well.
Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

103 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 14 February, 2014 - 15:49

Hi Fatime143,
LearnEnglish Teens is for 13-17-year-olds. If you are 12 you are welcome to register and comment on our LearnEnglish Kids website. When you're 13 you can come back here and comment. Please check our House Rules
Best wishes, Joanna. (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

142 users have voted.
cklj's picture
cklj 9 February, 2014 - 19:28

I'm not sure that I want to grow up, but I know I have to. Right now I'm a teen and I think it's one of the best periods of life, cause I am young, full of energy and I can walk along the streets laughing like a fool or singing with my friends, without being ashamed. I am enjoying in the teen years of my life and I would like to be a teen forever, but there's school and lots of mean friends and I really don't know...

145 users have voted.
justcricketforme's picture
justcricketforme 6 February, 2014 - 12:18

The best age is 15! I don't like the age I am in.I hate the idea of growing up. I just want to stay a teenager always!

143 users have voted.
serap's picture
serap 4 December, 2013 - 18:32

Noone wants to grow up but that is the real of life and i think all ages have different beauties :-) we shouldnt trouble ages and we should live the life efficiently :-)

141 users have voted.
cranberry's picture
cranberry 2 December, 2013 - 19:38

I dont want to grow up. I want to be a child, I want to play outside, run, laugh,cry. But that`s ok becuse no matter how old you get you newer stop learning. Sure, as we get older we become more serious, but we always stay children in our hearts. I enjoy every second of my childhood becouse when i grow up i don`t want to look back at my life and say if only...

155 users have voted.