It is 1938 and the prospect of war hangs over every London inhabitant. But the city doesn't stop. Everywhere people continue to work, drink, fall in love, fight and struggle to get on in life. At the lodging-house at No.10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington, the buttoned-up clerk Mr. Josser returns home with the clock he has received as a retirement gift. The other residents include faded actress Connie; tinned food-loving Mr. Puddy; widowed landlady Mrs. Vizzard (whose head is turned by her new lodger, a self-styled 'Professor of Spiritualism'); and flashy young mechanic Percy Boon, whose foray into stolen cars descends into something much, much worse.