Saturday 16 March 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 16/3/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Culture without borders

It’s great that you can’t categorise people so easily anymore. Sure, there are some people who ascribe to strict tribal rules – but not many. It’s hard to guess what people did at the weekend, for example, from their age, gender, haircut or accent.

Last summer I asked our managing editor what his Saturday plans were. He said that he was going to Wembley to watch Tottenham play football and then London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre to see the Pina Bausch dance company in the evening. We got talking in the office about the healthy number of his friends who would happily visit both places and before long we’d renamed the theatre “Ladler’s Wells”, in honour of its appeal among his football mates.

Last week I went to Sadler’s Wells to see the BalletBoyz dance company’s performance of Them/Us. It’s an extraordinary two-part show that’s moving and powerful, and it’s on tour in the UK until the end of April. But my gaze also ran across the audience. There were lots of dance fans, and teenagers whose postures hinted at days spent as would-be dancers, but there were also people who had just rocked up with their parents, kids or girlfriends – or their mates – in search of a night’s entertainment. This easing of tribes and muddling of passions is liberating. So here’s to more Ladler’s Wells.

Urbanism / Scooters

Full throttle

Last summer US news outlets were gripped by a spate of revenge-fuelled crimes in which electric scooters were dismantled, set on fire and dumped in the ocean. The vandalism was a form of vigilante justice: scooters rented from an app were left dangerously across pavements and even wheelchair ramps by inconsiderate users.

Thankfully a more civilised era of scooter use is in the offing. Last week at SXSW in Austin, ride-sharing company Lyft unveiled a simple but useful idea: scooter docks.

The pilot project in the Texan city comprises just six docks, each holding three scooters – but it could be an important starting point for successfully integrating micromobility solutions, such as e-scooters, into the urban fabric. Lyft hopes that the docks will ensure e-scooters are evenly spread across neighbourhoods that are poorly served by public transit. For this to happen, docks must be restocked at the end of each day – so operators will need to keep track of their rides.

E-scooters can only have a future in our cities with regulation and organisation. In October more than 60 scooters were fished from Oakland’s Lake Merritt but they deserved a better resting place. Let's start with the docks.

How we live / Wine trends

Wither on the vine

The wine list at West Hollywood’s Petit Ermitage hotel has been updated (writes executive editor Josh Fehnert). At least that’s how our punctilious waiter explains his fumbling answers to our group’s many questions. “I’ll have whatever rosé is closest to a Whispering Angel,” says one companion. “And I’ll have whatever tastes most like a sancerre,” says another.

Certain grapes, styles and brands of wine are toasted one day and decried the next. Remember when you could guess your friends would pick the Gavi even before they finished reading the wine list? Finding a bottle that everyone’s happy with can be a minefield, which is why some wines become the default choice. And right now the easy pick is fruity picpoul and the lighter grüner veltliner. They are fast becoming what chardonnay was to the 2000s.

“I feel that better awareness from clients, and curiosity, affects what we drink but also the price,’’ says Vincent Gasnier, a master sommelier at Soho House & Co. “Newer grapes often offer better value for money and new gems are coming out all the time. Picpoul has had a huge impact in the UK but I feel that wines from Sicily, such as grillo, or verdejo from Spain, will be the ones to follow it.”

Back on the rooftop overlooking Santa Monica Boulevard, it’s my turn to order. “I’ll take whatever’s closest to a picpoul,” I say with a sigh.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Midsummer nights’ dream

Now here’s a novel idea: instead of proposing more measures to restrict nightlife in cities (something of a global health-and-safety trend), imagine suggesting that, as the days grow longer, so too should alfresco licensing hours for cafés, restaurants and bars. If all goes to plan, Zürich’s Mediterranean Nights initiative will enable establishments to stay open for two hours longer than existing permits allow from the start of June until late August.

Monocle reported on this initiative last week; since then the warming weather has most people in the city positively giddy about the idea of being able to dine and drink past midnight. “This is such a positive move by the city as it creates a more level playing field for businesses and consumers,” says one of Switzerland’s biggest restaurant operators. “Under current rules, one of our restaurants on Zürich’s most important square must close at midnight on the dot – but two metres away you can spread yourself out with music and drinks and stay as long as you like.”

While not everyone in city hall is thrilled with the idea, so far it hasn’t met with as much resistance as you’d expect. The pitch is a pragmatic one, in part because it’s been trialled in other Swiss cities. The narrative being presented by two younger members of the city council is that keeping people in a place that is already licensed is better than having them roam around looking for more drinks.

For the moment Mediterranean Nights will be a two-year test but, given that rival cities Basel and Bern already have longer hours in the summer, there’s a strong chance Zürich will want to come out looking like the most cosmopolitan of the lot. Cities elsewhere (London, Sydney, Vancouver – are you paying attention?) might wish to follow the Swiss example if they want to stimulate tourism spend in warmer months.

With too many people addicted to Netflix and Uber Eats, cities should be doing everything they can to get people out on the street, spending money and keeping communities alive. In Zürich’s case, the bathing culture and abundance of outdoor venues keep locals in town over the summer, rather than heading for France or Italy. This Med-style urban culture at the foot of the Alps is a unique draw for tourists seeking an orderly city with late-night buzz.

There’s also something to be said for having a clutch of youthful, clued-up politicians occupying seats on the city council. Andri Silberschmidt, who brought the concept forward to fellow Zürich council members, is a fresh-scrubbed, well-coiffed 25-year-old. Hear, hear!

The interrogator / Edition 03

Francesco Franchi

Managing editor Francesco Franchi’s flair for infographics and fresh layouts has helped to refresh Italian newspaper La Repubblica and its supplements. In this latest instalment of our series dedicated to dissecting media habits, we quizzed him about his rich and varied news intake.

What news source do you wake up to?
Generally speaking: always radio, newspapers on my iPad almost every day and, if I am running late, I am lucky enough to be able to read the newspapers at work. Breakfast with the papers, on the other hand, is a luxury for the weekend – especially Saturdays.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
Coffee immediately after waking up. Because I am lazy and constantly late, it’s a Nespresso to speed things up. Then a fresh orange juice and croissant before getting into the office.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
Radio Deejay. On my Sonos first and then in the car. If I’m cycling to work, I’ll swap to Spotify in my AirPods.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I never sing in the shower. Often it’s when I think about solutions for projects.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk?
I receive so many papers every day because they are delivered to my desk – but I’m prepared for the day when this joy comes to an end because paper is expensive. Newspapers will move to iPad, while my favourite weeklies and monthlies will arrive directly into my letterbox.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
New York Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Edition, The Guardian Weekly, Internazionale and Monocle.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser?
I subscribe to my favourite papers. Sometimes my neighbours read them before me but they’re so honest that they’ll send me a WhatsApp picture to let me know.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon?
Two beautiful ones in Milan: Verso and Reading Room.

Sofa or cinema for the evening?
Sofa on weekdays and cinema on the weekend; better if it’s a small screening room.

What's the best thing you've watched of late and why?
Roma. The scene when the father drives his car into the parking space is wonderful.

Sunday brunch routine?
Only a Sunday routine: my sacred bike ride.

What papers and periodicals are spread out on your breakfast table?
On Sunday mornings, when I leave early to get out on my bike, the first newspaper I see is often the one I put under my jumper to protect myself from the wind – just like they used to in the old days.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news?
Only when I’m at my friend’s house: he has problems with his TV reception and only gets RaiNews24.

A favourite newsreader perhaps?
Alessandra Sardoni.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
All too often it’s a screen display. Not good.

Culture / Read / Watch / Listen

Feel-good flick and blasts from the past

‘Make Me a City’ by Jonathan Carr. Certain cities evolve over the course of centuries, accumulating their own histories and architectural styles. In Chicago that process was fast-tracked: in the 19th century it went from settlement to metropolis in decades. Novelist Jonathan Carr turns this urban parable into an exploration of people, and how they interact and assert themselves. By telling the story of entrepreneurs, immigrants, reporters and engineers, he reveals the many forgotten lives that make up in the city’s past – and helped to build its future.

‘Fisherman’s Friends’. When a film claims that it’s “based on a true story”, it can be one of two things: thrillingly shocking or wonderfully heartwarming. This is the latter. It’s the story of 10 fishermen who were spotted belting out their sea shanties on the Cornish shore by a music agent from London. Determined to sign the sea dogs, the exec embarks on a series of trials to gain their trust – and finally steers them to success when they land a Top 10 hit.

‘Lux Prima’ by Karen O and Danger Mouse. We’re used to hearing powerful stuff from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ eclectic frontwoman so it’s great to see her trying out different territory in this mesmerising collaboration with Danger Mouse. The duo started discussing a collaboration 10 years ago and the impeccably produced result is worth the wait. A touch of 1990s R&B and disco offers danceable beats but there are plenty of mellow atmospheric tunes too.

Outpost news / Azores

Treasure islands

Paulo Simões is the director of Açoriano Oriental, an Azorean newspaper based in São Miguel island in the middle of the Atlantic. Founded in 1835, his paper is the oldest in Portugal and the second oldest in Europe; it has a circulation of 4,000. We asked him what’s been making the news.

What’s the big story this week? The Azores Tourism Association, which is being investigated for fraud, embezzlement and counterfeiting. Events are ramping up: there are five suspects but they have yet to be charged. Given that EU funds were allegedly involved in the affair, the legal inquiry spans the Azores, Lisbon and Brussels. If the suspicions are confirmed this will be one of the biggest (if not the biggest) financial scandals in the region.

Best headline of the week? “Open War in Santa Casa de Ponta Delgada”. It is part of a running story we are covering on non-profit charity Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Ponta Delgada (São Miguel Island). A feud has erupted between its president and two doctors who work in the organisation. A leaked document showed a number of suspicious hires and salary decisions [involving the president’s family members] and the president has tried to deflect the accusations by accusing the two physicians of wrongdoing.

Best picture? A lady working clay in a pottery in Vila Franca do Campo on the island of São Miguel. The photo illustrates an interesting story: the area is reviving three of its potteries and creating a tourist map so that visitors can learn about the area’s heritage of working with clay.

What’s your down-page treat? The most curious story of the week is of Azorean firefighters taking English classes to better assist foreign tourists. Firefighters are often the first responders in accidents and emergencies. As such, the regional government decided to create a course that will help them communicate with English-speakers.

Next big event? The Rallye Açores: an international rally race that takes place every year on São Miguel. We will have a team of reporters covering the race from Ponta Delgada; between 21 and 23 March, all our attention will be on the rally.

House news / Midori House

Global citizens

Sometimes you look up from your desk and the office is crammed; other days you wonder what happened to all your colleagues. This week our Business editor was at the Mipim property fair in Cannes, our Design editor was in Frankfurt at Ish – the leading event for anyone interested in water management, bathrooms and loos (he has a glamorous life) – and our executive editor was taking care of the LA bureau. And next week there will be a well-behaved pack of Monoclers in Hamburg to mark the publication of our city guide, as well as our new printed-in-Germany issue – with our Hamburg subscribers joining us for the evening. Many journalists rarely stray further than the photocopier but at Monocle we’ve made getting out into the world the basis of our reporting. But if one or two of our staff members could come back next week, that would be nice.

Meanwhile, we wrote this week in The Monocle Minute about The Last Column, a book that features final dispatches from 24 journalists and photographers before they were slain in the line of duty. The project has been produced with the Committee to Protect Journalists and the help of numerous media organisations. The initial run of 2,000 books is not for sale but is being shown in key places to raise awareness; we are honoured to say that this includes all Monocle shops. They will be in store this week for you to see.

Image: Salva López

Weekend plans? / Mallorca

New beginnings

Why don’t you slip into Palma de Mallorca next weekend to see the city in its spring glory? Blossom on trees, restaurants busy but certainly not packed and hotel staff still unstressed by the season. Palma’s hotel line-up has improved rapidly and dramatically over the past few years, not least in the case of Can Bordoy. If the weather holds you can eat on the terrace in the large garden and take a dip in the secluded pool. You can also look forward to hunkering down for an afternoon snooze in one of the huge rooms, with their rich mix of new and old furniture and art. Palma works whatever the weather.

Report / Hospitality

Balanced approach

At Monocle we’re deeply agnostic about the use of technology in hotel rooms. Too often the techy flourishes embraced by hotels, such as iPads to operate the lights, leave us feeling cold. That said, a recent stay at The Annex in Toronto showed how the analogue and digital experiences can marry comfortably when technology gives you more time with actual people.

At The Annex, check-in is done online but smiley staff are happy to hold your hand if you arrive (as we did) oblivious of such expectations. A code unlocks your hotel room but inside there’s a celebration of tactility in the form of wooden finishes, deft design and soft linen. Some less-useful bits of technology (telephone and bulky television) have been stripped out entirely to give the room a pared-back feel.

There is a tablet that’s loaded with newspapers, streaming services and useful tidbits about nearby shops and services. We tried using it to turn off the lights but ended up seeking out the smiley staff again. They were more than happy to explain that, nowadays, they have switches on the wall for that sort of thing.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Harbour city style

We head to Sydney to meet fashion designer Akira Isogawa in his atelier and hear about his childhood in Kyoto, his take on slow fashion and the first major exhibition exploring his career. Plus: what London should have learned from the Thamesmead housing estate.

Monocle Films / France

The secret to baking bread

Paris baker Christophe Vasseur runs the successful corner shop Du Pain et des Idées and knows the secret of the perfect loaf.


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