Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Rotters' Club by Jonathan Coe

A child of the '70s, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the decade, even though I only made my appearance half way through. The Rotters' Club sits itself comfortably in the middle as well, dissecting this turbulent era through the teenage antics of four friends at a Birmingham grammar school.

Booze makes several appearances, including a passing reference to Blue Nun (!) but I’ve selected for the blog that teenage rite-of-passage, namely drinking too much from the drinks cabinet at a party where the parents are away.

Benjamin Trotter can remember consuming three quarters of a bottle of vintage port, and little else after that:

Benjamin awoke, opened his eyes, and noticed some peculiar things. Firstly, opening his eyes had made no difference. He still couldn’t see anything. Secondly, he was in excruciating pain. His back ached and he had cramp in both legs but this was small fry compared to the pulsing, shuddering pain in his temples, which periodically spread out in waves of unmitigated agony, making him feel that his entire skull was enclosed in a slowly contracting vice.

Having woken up in a wardrobe with a girl whose name he can’t recall and a blistering hangover, Benjamin remembers that it’s the first day of the new school year the next day, and as a school prefect, he has to go to drinks that very evening, despite the fact that all he felt capable of doing was having a long and much-needed vomit then crawling into bed to die.

He gets away with his hangover at first, hiding his drinks and doing his best to keep down the food. Trouble starts with the toast at the end:

Now, Mr Nuttall is going to pass around a bottle of the Founder’s Port. In keeping with a tradition going back to the eighteenth century, we shall all declare our loyalty to King William’s, and drink our glasses down in one draught.

The bathroom quickly beckons young Benjamin...

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