I'll Go to Bed at Noon

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9780701171186: I'll Go to Bed at Noon

Colette Jones has had drink problems in the past, but now it seems as though her whole family is in danger of turning to alcohol. Her oldest son has thrown away a promising musical career for a job behind the counter in a builders' merchants, and his drinking sprees with his brother-in-law Bill, a pseudo-Marxist supermarket butcher who seems to see alcohol as central to the proletarian revolution, have started to land him in trouble with the police. Meanwhile Colette's recently widowered older brother is following an equally self-destructive path, having knocked back an entire cellar of homemade wine, he's now on the gin, a bottle a day and counting. Who will be next? Her youngest son had decided to run away to sea, but when her own husband hits the bottle Colette realises she has to act. As the pressure builds on Colette to cope with these damaged people, her own weaknesses begin to emerge, and become crucial to the outcome of all their lives.

By way of an odyssey through the pubs, parks and drying-out clinics of suburban North London, Gerard Woodward's richly woven second novel I'll Go To Bed At Noon charts in microscopic detail the continuing history of a troubled but unforgettable family (first encountered in August) as it lurches from farce to tragedy and back again, and from one end of the 1970's to the other, and at the same time presents an unflinching portrait of British society in the unstable years leading up to the Thatcher revolution.
From the Trade Paperback edition.

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About the Author:

Gerard Woodward lives in Manchester. His first novel, August, was published in 2001 to great acclaim, and he has also written three award-winning collections of poetry. When he is not writing, Gerard refills the chocolate machines at Manchester University.
From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I

28 Polperro Gardens
Wood Green
London
N.22

March 30th 1974
Wednesday

Dear Janus

I am very sorry that I have not been able to see you, or even write to you before this. I have been rather ill – since Sunday afternoon, in fact. I’ve had a very bad cold combined with asthma and have hardly been able to breathe. After a visit to the doctor’s on Tuesday morning I was given a great variety of pills etc and am now a little better. (Lobo is crawling over me.) (I’ll have to stop for a moment as she now wants to go out.) Of course, not being at work, I am imprisoned here in this box impersonating a room (I hope I’m going to get paid from work as I’m skint). Still, I am hoping that I shall be able to come and see you on Friday. If I don’t, I hope that you will write to me as soon after you receive this letter as possible. I shall look forward to it!

Of course, what with so many demons flying around forcing gentlemen such as us to take too many drinks and whoop too loud and too often and even more strange and ludicrous actions! And even the changing of names as the mad women of Tierrapaulita do (to change themselves) does not one bit of good – and the changing of Billbaorosta or Januscjeckarama to: violas one day or violets the next or even after a while cirfrusias, cifrernas, tirrenas, mabrofordotas, frabicias, fabiolas, quitanias, pasquinas, shoposas, zozimas, zangoras and that’s the end of the alphabet! (apart from the missing tenaquilas and pogaliras). So think not of changing, my friend, (name or anything) and be damned to devils! For happy are those who whoopeth too loud and delirious are those who ludicrous are!

Now I have heard it said that the natives in the Northern part of Windhover Hill (so far unexplored) speak of a most monstrous Red Lion, that lives in those parts, and its roars can be heard echoing about the eucalyptus and Banyan trees in the valley of the source of the Limpopo. To my mind it is in the national interest that an expedition to discover the Red Lion must be mounted but that it should be properly funded. Many pleas to the Royal Geographical society have been fruitless so far and others snatch away the mountains of the Shangri-las but to the valley of the Red Lion a path must soon be made, and it is we that shall make it.

I hope very much so that dear Scipplecat is well and happy and I hope that you will convey my best regards to the aforesaid furry creature. Lobo also sends her best wishes.

Now look after yourself JJ and take care till I see you again. I’m afraid coughing and spluttering I must bring this letter to its terrible and inevitable end.

Try not to drink too much till I see you.

You must save some money so that we can go a-boozing. (Lobo is sitting on my head, my nose is full of whiskers)

[I think the drink is getting the better of this letter]

PAX Vobiscum

Lobo says goodbye for now

also adios from myself

Bill

Janus didn’t usually leave his letters from Bill lying around, but this one had been left on the kitchen table, out of its envelope, half-unfolded, beside the glass cider tankard that held a posy of wilting daffodils, in a way that suggested, to Colette at least, that she was being invited, along with anyone else in the house, to read it.

And so she had read it, alone in the kitchen, waiting for Aldous to return after a morning at school to get ready for the funeral that afternoon. It was written in a painstakingly rendered Gothic script using a broad, italic nib and illustrated with exquisite marginal drawings. It was like a drunkard’s version of the Book of Kells. The ‘D’ of ‘Dear Janus’ had been drawn as a D-shaped pub, with a little chimney, creeping ivy and an inn-sign hanging (she even recognised the decapitated Elizabethan on the sign as The Quiet Woman). The remainder of the word had been supplemented by a punning human ear, painted in such pure, Renaissance detail it could have been lifted from a Botticelli portrait. All around the margins of the letter were pen and ink drawings of almost-empty bottles and glasses, some tipped over and spilling the last of their contents, but again drawn beautifully. By the end of the letter the calligraphy, so crisp and rigid at the beginning, had broken down into a scruffy, barely legible scrawl, though Bill’s signature was accompanied by what looked like a woodcut, in blood-red ink, of a clenched fist.

Colette tried to imagine the time it must have taken to produce a letter like this, picturing her son-in-law sitting at the little writing desk she’d seen in his and Juliette’s bedroom, that was a small forest of pens and brushes, bottles of ink, little wrinkled tubes of watercolour, boxes of nibs. It must have taken him several evenings. An act of devotion. Colette found the sheer effort Bill had put into this letter to her son rather touching. At least someone in the world loved him.

By the time Aldous had come home, fresh and fluffy from cycling, Colette had long finished reading the letter, but she pretended to be reading it for the first time as he came in, to make it easier for her to show it to him.

But Aldous only gave the letter a cursory glance, reading the first few lines, and admiring Bill’s graphic skills, giving a half-hearted, rather hopeless laugh at the D-shaped pub, before handing the letter back to his wife.

‘What a load of rubbish,’ he sighed, strolling towards the sink to fill a small saucepan with water. Colette felt briefly annoyed by her husband’s indifference. He might not like the way his son had been behaving recently, the drunken tantrums, the wanton neglect of his talents as a pianist, but he could at least be interested in him. For the sake of the funeral they were to attend that day, however, she decided to be on his side.

‘At least he won’t be around to spoil things today,’ she said, folding the letter, wondering if she should replace it on the table as though it had never been touched, then realising her son could hardly expect her to have ignored it for a whole day, ‘thank Christ he went to work.’

‘I wouldn’t put it past him to turn up out of the blue,’ said Aldous, lighting a ring beneath the pan he’d just filled, ‘you know how he gets if he thinks there’s a chance of free drink.’

They both recalled Christine’s wedding, a couple of years before – the trampled-on wedding cake, the shattered bouquets, the drenched, sobbing bridesmaids.

‘He won’t,’ said Colette, ‘he doesn’t even know the funeral’s today.’

Aldous gave his wife a withering look, meaning to say you could never be sure what Janus knew and what he didn’t.

‘So it will be just you and me representing the Jones family,’ Colette said,‘I hope there aren’t lots of our nephews and nieces there, it’ll make our children look so mean . . .’

The funeral of Mary, the wife of Colette’s favourite brother, Janus Brian, was not thought worthy of James breaking his second term as an anthropology student at the University of Lincoln, nor of Juliette losing a day’s pay at Eve St John’s Toy Emporium, nor even of Julian, their youngest, missing out on double geography and P.E. at St Francis Xavier’s. Of all their children Janus would have been the one most likely to have taken a day off work, had he known about it.

Aldous took a small package of newspaper from his jacket pocket, untwisted it, and tipped the contents into a mug. He hadn’t had a chance to use it at school, the instant coffee powder he always packed at the last minute before leaving the house for work, tearing off a corner of the Telegraph and spooning on some Maxwell House, folding the paper over in a neat, airtight package, the clever origami of which always delighted his wife when she saw it. He emptied the bubbling saucepan into the mug. They hadn’t had a kettle for years. The little, lidless, gaudily enamelled pots that came to a boil with a gradually strengthening wail of despair, always seemed to boil dry, thus melting the cheap alloys of their bases. So they only used pans now.

‘Do you think I should wear a black tie?’ said Aldous, sipping cautiously the black, sugarless coffee.

Colette sat down in her chair by the old cast iron boiler and opened a bottle of Gold Label barley wine with the bottleopening end of a tin opener.

‘Have you got a black tie?’

‘No.’

‘Then the question was academic, was it?’

‘I suppose I could buy one on the way. You know what Janus Brian’s like. How fussy he is about formalities like that . . .’

That their eldest son, and Colette’s closest brother shared the same name, had never once been a source of confusion in their lives. At least, not once they’d started using her brother’s middle name in addition to his first, to help distinguish him. Now he was always referred to by these two names – Janus Brian – even when there was no doubt about to whom the name Janus referred, even, sometimes, to his face – Hello Janus Brian, how are you? And Janus Brian didn’t seem to mind. It was, after all, a permanent reminder of the compliment his sister had paid him in naming her first-born after him.

‘I don’t think he’d mind about a thing like that,’ said Colette, ‘I’m not wearing any black.’

‘Women can get away with it,’ said Aldous,‘men are different. They read things into ties, especially men like Janus B...

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