Jamie, Ste and Leah, three teenagers kicking their heels one long, hot summer, neighbours in a low rise block of flats on Thamesmead Estate.
Jamie is finding it increasingly difficult to fit in at school; he is bullied and especially hates games. His continued truancy worries his mother Sandra, but Jamie will not tell her what is wrong or why he is being victimised. Sandra struggles to make ends meet by working as a pub manager, and finds comfort in the arms of her younger boyfriend Tony, a dippy-hippy painter.
Unlike Jamie, Ste is good at sports and is very much one of the gang that excludes Jamie. Ste's problems are not at school but at home where he is taunted and beaten by his drunken father Ronnie and his drug-dealing brother Trevor.
Leah has been thrown out of school, but rises above the rubbishing she receives from those around her and channels her energies by listening to Mamas and Papas albums and becoming increasingly obsessed with Mama Cass.
Sandra tries for promotion, hoping to secure her own pub and get out of the Estate. One night, after a beating from his brother, Ste escape next door to Sandra's and shares a bed with Jamie.
Here Ste finds a tenderness denied him in his own home. In this intimate situation Jamie finds himself drawn more and more towards Ste, and in turn Ste is increasingly attracted to Jamie.
Sandra is thrilled when she is offered the tenancy of a riverside pub; but her happiness is dented when she finds that Jamie and Ste have sneaked off for an evening in a gay bar.