Tim Purdom is born in 1937 in a small village on the Kentish coast as the illegitimate son of a young woman who dies in her early forties. After her death in 1959, Purdom decides to move to London as he does not have any sense of belonging to his home town any more. He finds cheap accommodation in Bayswater and work in a snack bar in Soho. Purdom is not only a jazz fanatic (his favourite musician is Thelonious Monk) but also an intellectual who reads books and who is interested in what is going on in the world, both politically and culturally. His intellectual pursuits do not go together with his lifestyle or his job. However, without any formal education or money, he is reduced to the kind of life he is leading; but, unambitious by nature, he is quite content with it for the time being.