In Vietnam the US Air Force spray South Vietnamese forests with Agent Orange.
Margaret, aged ninety-two, is dressed all in black. Her widow’s weeds are not of the regal flouncy variety once favoured by Victoria and her progeny but the simple black of a working-class Welsh woman and therefore almost identical with her counterparts right across the mainland of Europe.
Billy Spider is admitted, via A&E at Guy’s Hospital, London, to a vacant bed in a mixed surgical ward. He’s been in a fight. He refuses to sleep in the bed he’s offered; he’s a regular at Guy’s, has a temper and is thus allowed to sleep under his bed in a blanket. He’s eighty years old and can’t remember where he was born; he only knows his date of birth, 1896, because it’s tattooed on his penis. His body is entirely covered in tattoos; his head is decorated with a tattoo of a huge spider.
Mary has spent the last thirty years in Hull perfecting the art of invisibility. Though seldom seen or noticed, she’s fastidious about her appearance; always clean and smartly dressed, confounding stereotypes. During the day, she hides in whichever condemned property she uses as her temporary home. In the early hours of each morning, she forages for food.
Tam Daiche is twenty-two and, miraculously at his age, in his first job as a tutor in the School of Art. Despite being excited by recent events in Paris in 1968, Tam is politically naïve and ignorant about local politics in the city.
Fotheringale Hall, the ancient pile of the Rogerson-Stukeleys, is falling into ruin. It has one occupant, Reginald, aka Reggie, Rogerson-Stukeleys, the scion of a once rich and famous family. Reggie is lazy and filled with an inherited sense of entitlement.