Now that we live in Devizes for half the year, we feel like tourists when we come to London, and try and catch up on as many of the unlimited cultural activities on offer as we can. Our recent visit began with Daunt’s, the wonderful bookshop that was the venue for the launch of Moni Mohsin’s new novel, Tender Hooks.

Readers of the Friday Times will know her hilarious column, Diary of a Social Butterfly. This satirical take on Lahore’s nouveaux riches has remained fresh and funny despite running for years. Here, we meet a cast of characters who have begun to sound eerily like family members. What makes the dialogue so lively and believable is that Moni has faithfully reproduced the rhythm and cadence of the melange of English and Urdu we desis slip into without even realising it.

The same characters and language are present in Tender Hooks, but extended into a novel. The title comes from our beloved butterfly’s quirky rendition of ‘tenterhooks’, and is an example of her free and easy way with the English language. In a brief reading, Moni demonstrated her talents as a mimic, and conjured up her fluffy central character.

Tender Hooks is a very different book from Moni’s first novel, A Loss of Innocence, a gently lyrical evocation of childhood. Based on her own early years at a farm in Punjab and Lahore, the book resonated deeply with me as she wrote of a city I have grown to know and love.

The next day, we made a long-overdue pilgrimage to the Tate Modern. This splendid gallery has become the focal point of modern art in Britain, and pulls in 4.7 million visitors into its vast portals every year. Housed in a converted power station, it has huge galleries on its five floors, and has exhibited the works of many famous artists since it was opened in 2000. I had read about the major exhibition of Joan Miro’s works several months ago, but had to wait because of my travels. I had feared I might miss it altogether, but finally made it.

Over the years, I have seen a fair number of the Spanish artist’s works hanging in different galleries, and have come to love his surreal view of the world. But walking through a dozen rooms and seeing hundreds of his paintings, drawings and sculptures, I could appreciate the development of his philosophy, his vision and his technique.

Born in 1893 in Barcelona, Miro grew up in a city in artistic and political ferment. Asserting its Catalan character, the region wrested a large degree of autonomy from Madrid. This was a period of lively experimentation in the arts, and a break from traditionalism. In 1911, Miro’s parents bought a farm at Mont-roig, and this became the haven where the artist found peace in later life. But his most creative phase was in Paris where he became a key member of the Surrealist school in the 1920’s.

Miro’s lively imagination produced a series of stunning paintings that displayed his unique perspective. In turn playful and bleak, he painted a large number of mysterious, distorted figures that became his signature. When the Spanish civil war began, his works showed the inner turmoil the conflict produced in the artist. Later, General Franco’s long and brutal dictatorship was depicted in sombre, abstract works of great power.

One of the most impressive things about Miro’s long career was his boundless energy. Virtually until his death in 1983, he continued to paint without any apparent diminishing of talent or imagination. While accepting an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Barcelona, he said of the social responsibility of artists:

“I understand that an artist is someone who, in the midst of others’ silence, uses his own voice to say something and who makes sure that what he says is not useless, but something that is useful to mankind.”

Another large gallery at the Tate housed an exhibition titled Material Gestures and included the works of some of the most influential artists of the last century. Just inside the entrance was Anish Kapoor’s elegant sculpture that consisted of a large, curved cylinder with a distorting mirror within.

Further along, there was a large room with huge, abstract canvases by Mark Rothko. He’s one of my favourite modern artists, and I sat on the bench in the gallery to admire the quiet but powerful works in black and red that surrounded me. I could have spent a lot of time at this wonderful exhibition, but the thought of the parking meter running out of credit cut short my contemplation.

That evening we were at the Menier Chocolate Factory, a converted theatre that has showcased some outstanding plays in recent years. A small, intimate space, the stage makes serious demands on a director’s stagecraft. Road Show is a musical by Stephen Sondheim, and is a brilliant, closely-observed story about greed and cynicism in early 20th century America.

Two brothers, Willie and Addie, set out to make their fortune after the death of their father. In the gold rush of Alaska, they discover how different they and their dreams are: Willie is a manipulative opportunist who lives on the edge, ever striving to hit the jackpot; Addie is steady but gullible.

Finally, in the early days of Florida’s development, hucksters like Willie flourish and fall, taking down his more successful brother Addie with him.

The play is an electric fusion of energy, music and movement that go on for 100 minutes without a break. This is high-octane entertainment that gives the audience no respite from the words and ideas that ricochet around the small space. If you are visiting London soon, this play should be on your must-do list.In the background, the Murdoch saga grinds relentlessly on. More revelations emerge, more people resign or are sacked, and more dire warnings are sounded. But, as Simon Jenkins sensibly asks in a recent column in the Guardian:

“Has anybody been murdered? Has anyone been ruined? Is the nation gripped by financial crash or pandemic, earthquake or famine? Are thousands homeless?”

Maybe it’s time to give the whole wretched business a rest.Now that we live in Devizes for half the year, we feel like tourists when we come to London, and try and catch up on as many of the unlimited cultural activities on offer as we can. Our recent visit began with Daunt’s, the wonderful bookshop that was the venue for the launch of Moni Mohsin’s new novel, Tender Hooks.

Readers of the Friday Times will know her hilarious column, Diary of a Social Butterfly. This satirical take on Lahore’s nouveaux riches has remained fresh and funny despite running for years. Here, we meet a cast of characters who have begun to sound eerily like family members. What makes the dialogue so lively and believable is that Moni has faithfully reproduced the rhythm and cadence of the melange of English and Urdu we desis slip into without even realising it.

The same characters and language are present in Tender Hooks, but extended into a novel. The title comes from our beloved butterfly’s quirky rendition of ‘tenterhooks’, and is an example of her free and easy way with the English language. In a brief reading, Moni demonstrated her talents as a mimic, and conjured up her fluffy central character.

Tender Hooks is a very different book from Moni’s first novel, A Loss of Innocence, a gently lyrical evocation of childhood. Based on her own early years at a farm in Punjab and Lahore, the book resonated deeply with me as she wrote of a city I have grown to know and love.

The next day, we made a long-overdue pilgrimage to the Tate Modern. This splendid gallery has become the focal point of modern art in Britain, and pulls in 4.7 million visitors into its vast portals every year. Housed in a converted power station, it has huge galleries on its five floors, and has exhibited the works of many famous artists since it was opened in 2000. I had read about the major exhibition of Joan Miro’s works several months ago, but had to wait because of my travels. I had feared I might miss it altogether, but finally made it.

Over the years, I have seen a fair number of the Spanish artist’s works hanging in different galleries, and have come to love his surreal view of the world. But walking through a dozen rooms and seeing hundreds of his paintings, drawings and sculptures, I could appreciate the development of his philosophy, his vision and his technique.

Born in 1893 in Barcelona, Miro grew up in a city in artistic and political ferment. Asserting its Catalan character, the region wrested a large degree of autonomy from Madrid. This was a period of lively experimentation in the arts, and a break from traditionalism. In 1911, Miro’s parents bought a farm at Mont-roig, and this became the haven where the artist found peace in later life. But his most creative phase was in Paris where he became a key member of the Surrealist school in the 1920’s.

Miro’s lively imagination produced a series of stunning paintings that displayed his unique perspective. In turn playful and bleak, he painted a large number of mysterious, distorted figures that became his signature. When the Spanish civil war began, his works showed the inner turmoil the conflict produced in the artist. Later, General Franco’s long and brutal dictatorship was depicted in sombre, abstract works of great power.

One of the most impressive things about Miro’s long career was his boundless energy. Virtually until his death in 1983, he continued to paint without any apparent diminishing of talent or imagination. While accepting an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Barcelona, he said of the social responsibility of artists:

“I understand that an artist is someone who, in the midst of others’ silence, uses his own voice to say something and who makes sure that what he says is not useless, but something that is useful to mankind.”

Another large gallery at the Tate housed an exhibition titled Material Gestures and included the works of some of the most influential artists of the last century. Just inside the entrance was Anish Kapoor’s elegant sculpture that consisted of a large, curved cylinder with a distorting mirror within.

Further along, there was a large room with huge, abstract canvases by Mark Rothko. He’s one of my favourite modern artists, and I sat on the bench in the gallery to admire the quiet but powerful works in black and red that surrounded me. I could have spent a lot of time at this wonderful exhibition, but the thought of the parking meter running out of credit cut short my contemplation.

That evening we were at the Menier Chocolate Factory, a converted theatre that has showcased some outstanding plays in recent years. A small, intimate space, the stage makes serious demands on a director’s stagecraft. Road Show is a musical by Stephen Sondheim, and is a brilliant, closely-observed story about greed and cynicism in early 20th century America.

Two brothers, Willie and Addie, set out to make their fortune after the death of their father. In the gold rush of Alaska, they discover how different they and their dreams are: Willie is a manipulative opportunist who lives on the edge, ever striving to hit the jackpot; Addie is steady but gullible. Finally, in the early days of Florida’s development, hucksters like Willie flourish and fall, taking down his more successful brother Addie with him.

The play is an electric fusion of energy, music and movement that go on for 100 minutes without a break. This is high-octane entertainment that gives the audience no respite from the words and ideas that ricochet around the small space. If you are visiting London soon, this play should be on your must-do list.In the background, the Murdoch saga grinds relentlessly on. More revelations emerge, more people resign or are sacked, and more dire warnings are sounded. But, as Simon Jenkins sensibly asks in a recent column in the Guardian:

“Has anybody been murdered? Has anyone been ruined? Is the nation gripped by financial crash or pandemic, earthquake or famine? Are thousands homeless?”

Maybe it’s time to give the whole wretched business a rest.

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