Simon Armitage’s new collection is by turns a voice and a chorus: a hyper-vivid array of dramatic monologues, allegories, parables and tall tales. Here comes everybody: Snoobie and Carla, Lippincott, Wittmann, Yoshioka, Bambuck, Dr Amsterdam, Preminger. The man whose wife drapes a border-curtain across the middle of the marital home; the English astronaut with a terrestrial outlook on life; an orgiastic cast of unreconstructed pie-worshipers at a Northern sculpture farm; the soap-opera supremacists at their zoo-wedding; the driver who picks up hitchhikers as he hurtles towards a head-on collision with Thatcherism; a Christian cheese-shop proprietor in the wrong part of town; the black bear with a dark secret, the woman who curates giant snowballs in the chest freezer. Celebrities and nobodies, all come to the ball.
Seven neighbours inhabit the same London street, but are all unknown to each other. The clock freezes in the small hours, and, one by one, we see directly into their lives: lives that are damaged, disenfranchised, lonely, broken, addicted, and all, apparently, without hope. Then a great storm breaks over London, and brings them out into the night to face each other – and their last chance to connect.