Four London coworkers in their sixties live quiet lives. Edwin Braithwaite, the only one of the quartet who had ever married, lives alone in Clapham Common in a semidetached house. His wife, Phyllis, had died, and his married daughter lives in another part of England, near Eastbourne.
Edwin devotes his free time to visiting churches. He is not particularly religious or even spiritual; rather, he enjoys the routine that the church calendar imposes. He serves on his local parochial church council and as master of ceremonies (an undefined position) of his parish church. Though he enjoys the company of his parish priest, Father Gellibrand, their conversation is limited to ecclesiastical subjects.
Norman, Edwin’s coworker, rents a room in a house in Kilburn Park. His sister had married a man named Ken, a driving instructor. Edwin’s sister dies, leaving Ken as Norman’s only relative. The two have nothing in common. Norman hates cars so much that the sight of a damaged automobile delights him. He also dislikes the young, complains about inflation, and takes a dim view of life generally.
Sharing an office with Edwin and Norman are the fashion-conscious Letty Crowe and the fastidious Marcia Ivory. Letty was born in Malvern in 1914. In the late 1920’s, she had moved to London to take a secretarial course and had met a woman named Marjorie, with whom she has remained in touch for more than forty years. Marjorie had married Brian, now deceased; she had tried to pair Letty with Brian’s friend Stephen, but nothing came of this effort.
Letty now rents a room in the house of Miss Embrey, who has two other boarders: Marya from Hungary and Miss Alice Spurgeon. Letty is the only one of the office quartet who has traveled abroad extensively, taking her vacations with Marjorie. Letty expects to move into Marjorie’s country cottage when she retires, but that plan goes awry when Marjorie becomes engaged to her local vicar, David Lydell.
Marcia lives alone in a semidetached house. She has had a mastectomy and had developed an infatuation with her surgeon, D. G. Strong. She even had traveled twice, just to look at his house. Fastidious about certain matters, Marcia maintains a collection of empty plastic bags arranged by size, and in her garden shed she keeps about one hundred empty United Dairy milk bottles, which...
(The entire section is 965 words.)