Excerpt from Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Paint Your Wife

by Lloyd Jones

Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones X
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
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    Mar 2016, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Claire McAlpine
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1

I've been visiting our son Adrian in London. He is a year or two older than I was the first time I flew there, dropping out of the clouds, glancing down at the storybook burst of Westminster and the serpentine crawl of the Thames. This time around it's been ten days of lounging about, filling in time reading the newspapers, musing on the crazy things that happen out there in the world. Hungry car thieves in Sao Paulo mistake AIDS-infected blood for raspberry jelly. That sort of thing. I was enjoying myself and London was big and scrambling. I showed up in the shop windows as a smiling amiable fellow, someone I hardly ever am at home. There were the same row houses in their grainy white that captured my interest more than twenty years ago as a newly graduated paint technician. London seemed to be painted in the colours of mist. The contrast with home was striking. Our houses were like bright coloured marbles let loose over the plain, shining down from hillsides, beaming up at the broad sky. More importantly, our paint was guaranteed not to blister or peel, to withstand extreme conditions. Our white was a cat's-eye white. Opaque, unpleasant to touch. London's white was creamy; its grime charmed.

This time London had never looked so green. The weather was brilliant. Blue skies, the pavements hard and cheerful. I spent much of my time walking and looking for a park bench on which to sit and open my paper. St James's Park. Holland Park. Hyde Park. Squirrels running up trunks. Foreign nannies with prams. Boys and girls tongue-kissing over the rolling park grass.

Around six I'd totter off to some pub or bar rendezvous suggested by Adrian. He'd ask me what I got up to that day and I might begin to tell him about 'Thieves in Sao Paulo…' But he was only interested to know if I'd visited any of the second-hand shops.

'If you were over near Portobello Road you could have looked up Mr Musty at least. I was in there the other day and said you might drop by.'

I had to shake my head and look away guiltily. 'Afraid not. Ran out of time.'

Adrian seemed put out. I knew he'd gone to some trouble to look up these places. 'Anyway, the man to ask for in Musty's is Dave somebody. Ginger hair. Missing his little finger.'

I gave a vague nod of intent.

'You should, you know.'

'I know I should but I didn't. I ran out of time.'

Just what did I do? I read the newspaper and ordered another cup of tea or looked for my reflection in the passing shop windows. Names floated up from the past. Assorted paint arcana.

In paint tech we used to have a teacher we all liked because he played in a rock band at weekends. He was entirely bald, apart from a pair of rimless glasses. When he smiled it was from a position of unrealised advantage. Our paint, he liked to say, could stand up to the most testing of conditions—searing heat, freezing rain, salt winds. London's paint by comparison would turn to omelette. He said this a lot and whenever he did we would exchange triumphant smiles. It'd all turn to omelette. We loved saying that.

'John Ryder. That's it. I knew his name would come to me.'

Adrian looked unimpressed. He doesn't know about the paint tech side of me. When he was born I'd given up paint for trade in second-hand goods and furnishings. He looked at the dregs in his glass and drained them.

One night he said he wanted to take me clubbing. I scratched around for a reason why this wouldn't be possible. I asked where he had in mind and he said in his new way of speaking, his eyes and face angling off to new arrivals entering the bar, 'Doesn't matter where. Trust me. You'll love it.'

Excerpted from Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones. Copyright © 2016 by Lloyd Jones. Excerpted by permission of Text Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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