Digby Walton was once the heir to an English pottery company. Now in old age he contemplates the history of that company as he reflects upon the modern world. He stares with Ruskin's tragic eye at the society that surrounds him. His own heir is Theo, who wishes to ignore history and simply play trumpet in his jazz band Zeno. Theo wants to live entirely inside the perfection of songs, but the question is, will reality let him? Meanwhile Digby's next-door neighbour, Daisy Gresham, famed as one of the great film beauties of her day, seeks her own elusive son, perilously engaged in the international anarchist movement as he brings Ruskin's critique dangerously up to date. Alan Wall's novel weaves back and forth between the present and the twentieth century that formed it, its wars and industries, industries that once propelled an empire but now appear in permanent decline, asking constantly what art contributes to life and whether life can ever survive for long without it. Beneath the humour the range of themes is vast, from the Somme to contemporary rock music, from the first world to the third, from the Battle of Britain to September 11th.