We’ve now got to the end of 2013 and what I said would have happened by this year has not, though we have indeed got a coalition government which might as well be made up of sociologists and psychoanalysts, synthetic meats are a reality, and the surveillance of the citizenry is now seen as normal – indeed we do it to ourselves via social media. Exhortations to the public continue apace in the form of ‘nudging’ and ‘compliance’. Chalcot Crescent was written in the height of 2008′s financial crisis and I did badly underestimate the ingenuity and survival skills of the bankers – the currency crisis would have been better timed for 2020 than 2013. So to save the expense of a re-print, just pencil in 2020 whenever you come to the date 2013, and read on.
It’s 2013 and eighty-year-old Frances (part-time copywriter, has-been writer, one-time national treasure) is sitting on the stairs of No.3, Chalcot Crescent, Primrose Hill, listening to the debt collectors pounding on her front door. From this house she’s witnessed five decades of world history – the fall of communism, the death of capitalism – and now, with the bailiffs, world history has finally reached her doorstep.
While she waits for the bailiffs to give up and leave, Frances writes (not that she has an agent any more, or that her books are still published, or even that there are any publishers left). She writes about the boyfriends she borrowed and the husband she stole from Fay, about her daughters and their children. She writes about the recession that didn’t end, about the rise of NUG the National Unity Government, about ration books, CCTV, National Meat Loaf (suitable for vegetarians) and the new Neighbourhood Watch. She writes about family secrets…
The problem is that fact and fiction are blurring in Frances’s mind. Is it her writer’s imagination, or is it just old age, or plain paranoia? Are her grandchildren really plotting a terrorist coup upstairs? Are faceless assassins trying to kill her younger daughter? Should she worry that her son in law is an incipient megalomaniac being groomed for NUG’s highest office? What on earth can NUG have against vegetarians?
And just what makes National Meat Loaf so tasty?