Do you recall the last time that you met someone and thought, “Wow, they’ve got their life completely figured out and I do not”? I had one of those moments in the mad run-up to Christmas when I suddenly found myself mesmerised by one of my dinner companions as he talked about his morning regime. He started off by explaining how he had invested in an alarm clock and an hourglass, that his phone remains in a remote location far away from the bedside table and he maintains an email and news blackout throughout the night. “I wake up at 05.40 and start my day by getting dressed and going downstairs for a session on the rowing machine and doing four or five essential exercises,” he said, knocking back a glass of merlot from Ticino. “When I’m finished with that I strip off and jump in the lake for a brisk naked swim – every day of the year.” By this point everyone else around the table had tuned into this rundown of his routine and I was starting to feel rather jealous – partly because of his discipline, partly because it was clear that he had a rather fine set-up on the shores of Lake Zürich. “There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with walking into a morning meeting and knowing that you’re the only person in the room who went for a bracing dip,” he said. “Somehow it elevates you.”
“What happens after the swim?” asked the elegant woman next to him.
“I walk back to the house and do the things a gentleman needs to do in the morning: polish my shoes, shower, shave, get dressed and then get in the car and drive to work,” he said. “I start my day without the stress of emails or ‘breaking’ news events as I don’t bother tuning into anything until I’m sitting comfortably at my desk.”
While everyone absorbed the delightfully decadent nature of my companion’s Monday to Friday regime, he framed it for us in a more evocative, even attractive, manner. “Every day I’m a pensioner for two hours and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” And there it was, over our third bottle of Swiss red: a manifesto for this issue’s theme of gentler living. Here was a dapper gentleman who had found his groove in the modern world and was the master of his technology, communications and news flow rather than the other way around. Moreover, his regime wasn’t about reps, protein shakes and hocus-pocus supplements but such simple pleasures as giving his brogues a good buff or perhaps plunging into a frigid lake.
As we ease into a new decade, our editorial meetings have focused on the very urgent need to curb reactionary outbursts, contemplate points of view that stray beyond the boundaries of the mainstream and be kinder and more forgiving of the people and forces around us. If the past few years have been all about shaming and condemnation, then we would now like to see a shift to gentler, informed dialogue that happens in settings large and small, as well as a recognition that subtle coaxing is more important and sustainable than wholesale disruption.
In this 130th issue of monocle you’ll learn why it’s good to use your pockets for holding a folded newspaper or a pocketbook rather than your mobile; why it’s better to invest in proper footwear that can be resoled instead of buying another pair of trainers; and why you should pursue the delights of building or restoring an archive.
Looking to the year ahead – and while we’re on the subject of archives – we’ll be bringing you 10 classic magazine issues of the sort that you’re currently holding, two editions of The Entrepreneurs, one of The Forecast and a reformatted take on The Escapist. And in case you missed it, our online newsletters are now being published seven days a week thanks to the addition of the Monocle Weekend Edition on Sundays. Edited to both round out the week and also give you a jumpstart on the following seven days, it features good recipes, a culinary-themed q&a, advice on urban hikes and alpine treks and this editor’s column, The Faster Lane. If you’re not receiving our daily dose of insight and global tips then you can sign up at monocle.com/minute.
As ever, all comments and tips can be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I look forward to seeing you at one of our events over the coming months. Cheers and thank you for your support.