Saturday. 29/6/2019

Monocle
Weekend Edition

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Nos vemos, Madrid

Strange things happen to me in the backs of taxis (no, not that – well, not for years). It’s called taxi amnesia. It usually unfolds like this: taxi pulls up at destination; I fumble for my wallet and jump out; I realise my jacket/phone/glasses have just headed off on a journey to who knows where without me. I would definitely leave a child behind if I had one. Maybe I did have one once? Can’t remember.

Now, surprisingly for someone with form on this, I have yet to perfect a process for keeping hold of my property. Luckily it turns out that, like well-trained hounds, my possessions have a habit of returning home – after a bit of taxi-driver stalking on my part.

But this time it didn’t go so well. I was in Madrid (I still am, in fact) and it was time for a technical run-through of the Quality of Life Conference. I was in a taxi with our Tokyo bureau chief Fiona and Mr Brûlé. We pulled up at the venue in Conde Duque. We say farewell to the taxi driver – and then it hits. Where are my glasses? Oh, right – they are off to see the sights.

Yes, I know we should have been able to track the driver down via the receipt but for the first time ever we didn’t take the bloody receipt. In the auditorium it’s dark and I realise that not only can I not see the call sheets but I am not going to be able to get on stage without falling up the steps.

Losing your glasses is not a good look – especially if you can’t see anything. I think I gave enough stressed hints that help was needed. Now, here’s where the tale turns. Our Madrileño colleague Nicolas said he knew someone who has an opticians in Salamanca and, if I got in a taxi (and don’t lose my wallet) they would test my eyes and make me a new pair in 45 minutes.

I was off. I met Nino Camacho, un técnico superior en óptica (and he really is) at the intriguingly named Blanche & Mutton opticians. As I am – very slowly – learning Spanish at the moment I was delighted that a free lesson was thrown in: you get to practise a lot of numbers and letters during an eye test.

I made it to our opening party at Liria Palace, sight restored and rather loving my new tortoise-shell numbers. So once you total up the ego boost, implied higher IQ, Spanish lesson and unexpected Madrid moment, this was actually all rather a clever move on my part.

Now, Robert Bound, our senior editor, has a running joke about my spectacles-misplacement issue. It seems that the father in the Peppa Pig cartoon is also rather forgetful and for some reason Robert has memorised a line from the show that amuses him (what is he watching at work?). Namely: “Daddy’s lost his glasses!” So when he saw me at the welcome party for all our delegates and speakers he gently asked, “Too soon for Peppa Pig?” I told him it was OK, Peppa Pig could be trotted out.

With glasses on I am also happy to say that the Monocle Conference of Life Conference has been amazing. We covered everything from cleaning the oceans to how to be private. The former editor of New York magazine talked about discovering life with less ambition and managing creativity – and did I mention the first appearance of a dog on the Monocle stage? Say hola to Pepa (that’s Pepa, not Peppa).

But what’s also been standout is Madrid itself – even with the temperature hitting 40C and then some. The creativity is impressive; the people we’ve met are cool and clever. And an optician in Salamanca has added a fuss-free clarity to my visit that’s made me love the place and the vibe even more.

Report / Urbanism

’Hood help

Pantin, a neglected suburb of Paris, is transforming as businesses looking for affordable rents arrive. Advertising firm BETC helped start the charge when it came here in 2016, turning a derelict block into a community-oriented HQ. So last year, when Sinny & Ooko – an agency well versed in transforming struggling areas – was offered use of Pantin’s former rail-freight station until 2021, it took the chance to contribute to the nascent scene.

Sinny & Ooko’s project, Cité Fertile, has so far introduced hundreds of new plant species, five pétanque pitches, an eco-conscious school, start-up incubators, a microbrewery and a restaurant headed by a TV chef who uses the vegetables grown on-site. “I’m going to be honest: I never liked beer before I tried this brew,” says project leader Stéphane Vatinel. “Now I’m sold.” He’s not the only one: Cité Fertile gets more than 3,000 visitors on busy days. Try it for yourself this weekend – and certainly before it closes to make way for a new eco-district.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Dream in green

By now you might have gleaned that we’re in Madrid, it’s toasty, toasty hot and we’re busy hosting a small battalion of speakers and conference delegates (160) from more than 25 countries. Unlike other conference years, where I’ve flown in on the day and hit the ground running (Lisbon, Vienna and Berlin) or known a city intimately (Zürich last year), Madrid’s been a bit different. I touched down on Wednesday afternoon with my mom, Mats and Tokyo bureau chief Fiona Wilson and budgeted enough time to reacquaint myself with a city that somehow fell off my travel itinerary over the past few years.

First off, Madrid has transformed. Worry not: all the good stuff is still here and the city has been spared upsetting architectural and urbanist inventions. What’s different is that there’s a spring in its step on the business front and the streets are bursting with new restaurants, tiny shops and smart people from all over the peninsula putting their ideas and funds to work. More importantly, the world is moving more in Madrid’s direction rather than the other way around. Where other mayors are looking to jumpstart their night-time economies, Madrid can lay claim to having virtually invented late nights. Much more of this from other cities, please.

The other lesson offered up by Madrid’s mayors and planners is the importance of trees – and lots of them. There is a proper urban canopy: even when the mercury pushes 40C, tree-lined boulevards shade pedestrians and help the city breathe. Because much of our Quality of Life Conference has been focused on the forces that make cities succeed and fail, we’re still amazed that so many spend so much time and effort on ridiculous initiatives when all they need to do is plant mature trees and preserve ancient ones. My home base of Zürich, despite being on its city-planning game in many areas, still allows too much development that falls short when it comes to oaks, maples, birches and poplars to cool down parents and kids, lunching office staff and those in search of a perfect place to enjoy a beer (it’s all the more refreshing with a bit of shade).

As much of Europe has been struggling through a heatwave for the past week and newspaper editors have exhausted their front pages with stories about a spike in uncomfortable tropical nights, there’s been a lot of talk about what’s to come. However, there has been precious little about what cities, developers, architects and citizens can do in the meantime. To fill this editorial void, a few ideas from our conference in Madrid.

  1. Offer incentives for green balconies. If everyone planted more trees and bushes on their terraces high and low, the impact would be huge. Now there’s a Saturday project for you…
  2. Get your company to sponsor a garden on a roundabout. Or better yet, check with city hall and see if they need some funding for a new parkette.
  3. We’re all for animal-rescue shelters but what about the same for trees? One of our favourite residents of Osaka does just that: he gets out there to save trees in danger of getting the chop.
  4. Veering off subject slightly, have you ever thought of a hand fan? The Spaniards look good whipping them out; so too do Japanese men. They’re elegant and work wonders for a glistening brow.
  5. Push it. By this I mean see what happens if you put a few more potted trees and shrubs out on the pavement. What if you take over a little patch that belongs to the city but you make it a bit more shady and welcoming? Start a discussion by making some improvements and see what happens. It’s tough to argue when you’re making things look pretty and not impacting the public purse. Get dirty.

The Interrogator / Edition 18

Anni Sinnemäki

Anni Sinnemäki, Helsinki’s deputy mayor, was an MP in the Finnish parliament for 16 years before taking up her post in 2015; she’s also a representative of the Green League. At our Quality of Life Conference, which concludes today in Madrid, she discussed how to build a housing model that’s sustainable and affordable for all.

What news source do you wake up to? Finnish Broadcasting company YLE’s morning news – and my Twitter feed.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Definitely coffee!

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? The weekend newspaper Helsingin Sanomat I get delivered. On weekdays I rely on the online version.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?The Economist, British Vogue, Eeva [a Finnish women’s magazine], Tringa [the magazine for Helsinki’s Bird Life Club] and Suomen Kuvalehti – a sort of Finnish version of The Economist.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? The best bookshop in Helsinki is run by a friend of mine and is called Arkadia. It is a variety of secondhand books, coffee, dogs, visitors from all around the world, events, music, readings, art exhibitions and a host who can help with stories, ideas and general warmth.

What’s the best thing you've watched of late? Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War. It’s beautiful and there’s a stunning performance by Joanna Kulig.

Sunday brunch routine? Usually at home, drinking plenty of coffee, reading the newspaper and listening to my son playing with Lego figures. When going out for brunch in Helsinki I would recommend a café called Story and a restaurant called Tanner. Watching the beautiful and very hip clientele is included in the price.

Culture / Watch / Listen / Read

Political animal

‘The Loudest Voice’, US Showtime. This seven-part series on the rise of Fox News founder Roger Ailes premieres tomorrow and is (rightly) one of the most awaited debuts of the season. Adapted from the bestselling book by Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman, it sees an almost unrecognisable Russell Crowe portray the man whose network became one of the most powerful political weapons in the US.

‘Step Back in Time’, Kylie Minogue. Compilations may seem passé but not where Kylie’s concerned: this is the fifth such album released by the Aussie popstar. A whopping 42 tracks include all the classics (of course) as well as new hits such as “New York City”. If you’re really keen you can buy the picture disc vinyl version; hopeless slaves to nostalgia can snap up the double-cassette edition.

The Weather Machine, Andrew Blum. Blum’s study of what goes into predicting the weather is all the more interesting because it goes beyond the science to remind us that forecasts are the impressive result of painstaking international co-operation. And as our climate changes, this is also a stark reminder of how heavily we’ll come to rely on scientists’ predictions when heatwaves or hurricanes hit.

Outpost Q&A / Manitoulin Island

Keeping it fresh

Found on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, Manitoulin Island claims to be the largest freshwater island in the world. While that fact is disputed by an island in Brazil, it remains on the masthead of The Manitoulin Expositor, an independent newspaper that’s served the island since 1879. At its helm now is editor and publisher Alicia McCutcheon, who grew up in and around the Expositor’s offices after her father Rick bought the paper in the early 1970s. It’s published every Wednesday and its peak circulation of 6,000 readers spans both the island’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Alicia tells us more.

What’s the big story making the news? On our front page is a story about an 81-year-old woman who went missing in South Baymouth last week. She was found in good health and it was a story that highlighted how the community pulled together to search for her. People were feeding volunteers pizza and sandwiches.

Best headline? “The true secrets of Lake Mindemoya’s mysteries revealed, almost.” In the summer weeks we have pages geared towards tourists and this year we’re focusing on the myths and legends of Manitoulin.

Best picture? We have a picture of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the M’Chigeeng First Nation’s new grocery store. In the entire Anishinaabe First Nation, which encompasses more than 40 communities, there are only three that have grocery stores. It’s a big deal.

What’s your down-page treat? We still carry a couple of country correspondents, who have mostly gone the way of the dodo. One writes a column called “Tehkummah Talk and Times”, which is a riot to read. She writes about everything from cribbage and euchre scores to strange musings on daily life.

What’s the next big event you’ll be covering? The Central Manitoulin Lions Club Homecoming Weekend. It coincides with a plethora of Canada Day [1 July] weekend events. We’re going to be very busy.

Report / Culture

Singapore’s art smarts

Newspapers have started publishing their lists of top summer reads, which means only one thing: it’s time to build a pile of poolside page-turners. Plenty of paperbacks will end up with crinkled covers and melted spines come September but other books are destined to have a much longer shelf life.

Singapore’s book collectors and creatives, for example, will be looking to pick up some slightly more thought-provoking efforts this weekend at the city-state’s annual art-book fair. Now in its sixth edition, the event – held at Gillman Barracks – brings together independent publishers, art bookshops and zines from across Asia, Europe and the US.

Festival director and founder Renée Ting is determined to bring art books to a broader audience courtesy of a fresh rebrand and new exhibitors, such as Facebook’s Analog Research Laboratory. “The art-book form is something we need to learn to explore and treat as an exhibition space,” says Ting. Crazy Rich Asians may have put Singapore on the literary map but there are richer stories to be found in the Lion City.

Get out / Athens

Greek triumph

As July approaches and temperatures rise, the siren call of the Greek islands grows. But first consider a stopover on the mainland, where the summer festival season is well underway. The flagship event is the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, one of Europe’s oldest performing-arts celebrations and a chance to see classical culture come alive in spectacular settings.

Tonight, for example, the National Theatre of Greece will stage the fabled Oresteian trilogy by Aeschylus under the stars in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus, one of the best preserved examples of its kind. Or you can catch treasured composer Thanos Mikroutsikos at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and enjoy poetry set to music in the shadow of the Parthenon.

There’s also French pop, Euripides-inspired operettas and choir music at the Renzo Piano-designed Stavros Niarchos Centre, plus an open-air screening of Dangerous Liaisons (the 1988 version) in a Penteli palace, part of an annual film festival that turns iconic spaces into outdoor cinemas. Mykonos can wait – just don’t forget your fan.

Wardrobe update / Howlin’

Making some noise

Antwerp brothers Patrick and Jan Olyslager, founders of Howlin’, have built a reputation as the go-to guys for woolly winter jumpers. In summer they transfer their signature pastel palette to T-shirts, shorts and totes, all made in Belgium using towelling, fine merino wool, cotton and linen. Their towel jersey fabric is a speciality: instead of buying it off the peg they work with a nearby factory to create their own. “We found pictures of us wearing towel shorts when we were young and decided to reproduce this fabric,” says Patrick.

Modern etiquette / Edition 12

Can I have the last pea?

We know your pain. This week we went for lunch with a large group of friends in a place where it’s all sharing plates or starve. As the meal drew to a close, Mr Etiquette looked across the sea of bowls and spotted that in each and every one was a tiny morsel of food that would barely have sated a mouse on a pre-holiday diet. A lone pea here, a perfect cube of feta there and a final mouthful of chicken just waiting, hoping. Nobody wanted to be seen to be finishing off a plate for some misplaced fear of being judged rude – or greedy. Even when encouraged, everyone insisted they had just that second hit full. This is wasteful and silly. Mr Etiquette says eat up or you won’t be given pudding.

M24 / Global

The Entrepreneurs

Adam Lewenhaupt is the founder of CQP, a Stockholm footwear brand. While he grew up with a passion for design, he ended up working in finance for a decade. But knowing banking was not for him, he designed his first trainers, which launched in 2014. He hasn’t looked back since.

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