At Christmas 2015, family arguments about Pete Bridford’s huge success in business, together with premonitions of the Brexit vote, lead him to realise that the lessons he learnt in his youth are going to be needed today. He decides to write them down.
First he goes back 50 years, to October 1967, when he is beginning research at Cambridge University. Glittering academic prizes have already come his way. More beckon, and for a while they arrive in both academic and personal life. He finds that he can get on through pulling the right strings in College politics, though this means he cannot give his friend Harry Tamfield as much support as he might. He befriends Jenny Wingham, the daughter of an established academic family, whilst staying on good terms with an old flame, Liz Partington. He makes a breakthrough in his research.
But does he want to stay in the Cambridge of the 1960s, which was deliberately isolated from the real world outside? That question is put to him by Pat O’Donnell, a captain of industry. For a while, Pete thinks he can avoid it. Then, he and Jenny save a life, and that forces them both to decisions about their own lives and aims.
The action is set in times of political turmoil and student protest. By chance, Pete learns that in those times, an established academic family uses every means to stay established. He is able to turn the tables on them, and completes his education in the process.