entenarian Bert Middleton recalls his life as a little boy in the years before the Great War. He lives on a small farm with his bullying father John,patient mother Grace and protective older brother Joe who works as a gardener for the wealthy Allingham family,whose head,Lord Allingham,is a disfigured recluse. John is frequently at odds with kindly schoolmaster Mr Eyre for taking Bert out of class to help on the ailing farm. The village sees its first bus when Martha Lane, a Methodist school-teacher,arrives. Martha is a suffragette and,at a lunch at the Allinghams with boot-maker Arnold Hankin, the progressive-thinking Martha clashes with Clem,Lady Allingham and her elder son Edmund,who hold staunchly traditional views. She does however get on with younger son George. As war is declared Joe volunteers for the army - having sex with Clem's daughter Caro before he leaves. Grace is glad that he has escaped the confines of the village but this only exposes Bert to more disapproving behaviour from his father.

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