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Whoever found humanity a disappointment – as many did who reckoned pubic hair a sign of moral weakness and the worker’s accent proof of ignorance – was comforted by sleep. A dream of future possibilities, recurring, lifted the spirits. Flying trams, metallic clothing, dogs made out of silicon and carbon fibre, smiles and spectacles on every face, intelligent debates about – whatever. Nothing nasty, nothing unplanned. No scaffolding, no crime, no accidents. In science lay salvation, but salvation rooted in common decency, in church and family, in privilege for elegance, and punishment for stubbornness. What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?


Dawn. Chorus of blackbirds, fighting for status. Pale beginnings. The first bus negotiated the interminable hairpins, honking at each one. Cold, liverish, still drowsy, dopey, people did what people do. A whiff of wood smoke. Pressure on the national grid. Penelope was waiting all this time, preparing breakfast for that no-good, selfish moron of a man of hers; then clearing it and laying lunch. She changed her clothes three times a day – for nothing. Nothing but the structure of a routine. The boot-room corridor. The bathroom. Elasticated underwear. A pile of books, as yet unread. The prospect of another day was daunting, even to the passionate in love.


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