January 1986. Industry Year. Rummidge, that lovely, sprawling Midlands city raked by motorways, reluctantly confronts another working week. On our right, Mr Vic Wilcox - dynamic, self-made managing director appointed to 'turn round' a struggling engineering firm. On our left, Dr Robyn Penrose - university lecturer in English Literature and expert on the Victorian industrial novel. They have no notion of each other's existence; the piece of paper that will bring them together lies in a recycled envelope at the bottom of someone's in-tray.