Saturday. 6/7/2019

Monocle
Weekend Edition

Opener / Andrew Tuck

That awkward age

OK, it’s been an open secret among my closest friends and colleagues but I have been cautious about discussing a simple personal fact in public. It’s not shame that’s prevented me saying these simple words, it’s just that I have not wanted to be defined by something that society still struggles with. But a recent interview outed me and then, at the Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Madrid last weekend, I realised that I was surrounded by some amazing, trailblazing role models. So I won’t keep it a secret anymore.

My name is Andrew Tuck and I am 55.

Oh my god, that feels better.

Let me tell you about the “outing” – that’s if you haven’t already scrolled down the Weekend Edition in age-related horror.

David Stewart runs Ageist, which sets out to challenge stereotypes around age. He wants brands, businesses – everyone – to park their preconceptions. He runs a great website that includes interviews with people north of 50. David had a ticket for the conference (he was also a panellist last year) and asked if I would do an interview for his site. So we set up a call and talked about the history of Monocle and the challenges of running a media brand. Oh, and he asked me how old I was. I was rash. I told him.

I had somehow imagined the “55” bit would be discreetly tucked away in the copy, no more visible than a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch. This, it turns out, is not the Ageist’s style and when he sent me the link to the published story, a big whacking “55” was in the headline. Less baby kangaroo, more like a fricking alien leaping out of someone’s chest to grab you by the throat (note to self: use more contemporary cultural references). I may have gasped. Tom Reynolds, our managing editor who sits opposite me, asked if I was OK. But then he has a copy of my passport so has always known the truth; at least that blackmail threat will now be gone.

It’s not that I have lied about my age in the past. Well, not too many times. It’s just that I have been sucked in by the language that everyone uses once they cross over the border of 40 and find themselves in a land they hadn’t quite packed for. So instead of having a 50th birthday, it’s a “significant” birthday. Instead of saying they are 49, people are in their forties. David Blaine couldn’t do misdirection like a closeted 40-year-old.

And I get it. We are in a world where people judge your views, fitness, attractiveness and ambition by that number (if you’re not careful). Well if that’s your game, matey, scroll on. Because like most 55-ers I know, I am still hoping to one day feel like an adult – and until then it’s just all possibility and a bathroom cabinet filled with ever more expensive moisturisers.

In Madrid I got to interview, on stage, the celebrated urbanist Jan Gehl, who spoke with passion and clarity about everything from mobility to density (and who, by the way, could have a career in stand-up). During the Q&A he was asked how come he’s so fresh and active at 82. He replied: “I think I am doing meaningful work and it’s given me enormous energy.” He’s inspiring.

Anyhow, back to me. As we all know, these revelations can have an impact on those around you so I thought I had better phone my partner and let him know about my public declaration. He had a simple response: “You’re 56.” Cue second gasp.

Report / Branding

Trick and treat

Restaurants live or die by the food they serve and the atmosphere they feed but canny designers can still deploy some subtle sleight of hand to seduce diners (writes Josh Fehnert). Monocle clocked one London example on a recent visit to Corbin and King’s newest opening in St John’s Wood: Soutine. This grand French-style bistro is all wood-panelled finery and has that genteel, golden age, meant-to-be-here feeling that the group (behind The Wolseley and Fischer’s, among others) does so well.

The food is simple and sumptuous but the clever trickery can be seen in the different logos that variously adorn the menu, books of matches and plates. In a world where branding tends to be so singular, why on earth would a new restaurant create even more work for itself? “Well,” said someone in the know when I quizzed them over coffee, “to create a sense that the restaurant has been around for longer, as if it’s been taken over several times”. Now that’s a trick of the trade – and an attention to detail – that makes the London-based group stand out.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Midsummer night’s dream

Summertime and the living, in theory, is easy. But where – and what – is the perfect set-up? Are you best served in a chunky stone country house that’s almost off the grid, has a bountiful garden, a shady swimming pool, room for plenty of friends and not a neighbouring residence in sight? Or what about the city? Everyone is away and yet you have all of the services of urban life. Most restaurants will stay open to cater to tourists, the parks will be empty, there’s little traffic and silent courtyards as everyone else is up in the mountains, at the beach or on safari.

Of course there’s the enduring draw of village life with all its convenience and familiarity. If you happen to have a holiday home or rental in a village, then you’re sure to have your pitch down to a 90-second monologue that points out the joys of walking to the town square with your baskets, the early rosé (sometime just after 11.30) you enjoy at the little bar on the leafy side of the roundabout, the wonderful stallholders at the Wednesday and Saturday markets (yes, of course you know them all by name but, more importantly, they know yours! Ciao/Guten Morgen/Salut Emily!) and the great sense of community that comes with being woven into a village.

So take your pick: is it rural, city or quaint village for the easy life? Of course I’ve given this subject considerable thought and have gone as far as to try out all living scenarios across a variety of regions, houses and social set-ups. Here’s my assessment.

Rural summer looks great in magazine pages, reads well in correspondence and offers the tranquillity most of us seek at this time of year but, let’s face it, you can quickly end up in horror-thriller territory. The basics that we take for granted in daily life can suddenly up-end and before long a blocked septic tank becomes an event worthy of a WHO pandemic alert; the hornets that decided to move in under the jetty have stung your niece so many times that you have to cut a clearing in the orchard for the medevac chopper to land; and then there’s always a prison break during the summer months and why wouldn’t they want to come to your villa in the silent countryside (cue patchy mobile reception) and cut the cables to the outside world?

Electing to stay in the city when it’s partly cloudy and 24C is a good idea. Revisit that when it’s cloudless, 40C and half of China is clattering through your neighbourhood with fake violet Rimowas and selfie sticks. No, they’re not booking into your favourite restaurants necessarily but all those tourists have more than replaced everyone who’s left town. Sure you can hide in the garden or spend quiet afternoons on the balcony but, deep down, you’re missing a cooling breeze, the smell of alpine meadows and a few familiar faces. Summer in the city has a nice ring to it but it needs to be the right city. More on this in a moment.

As for village life, what’s not to like? Compact, easy to get around, independent shops and a simple pace. The problem with villages is that you can’t pop back down to the shops for a bottle of milk because there’s a 97 per cent chance you’ll bump into three people you know and you’ll have to make time for all of them. You’ll hear about the new hotel that everyone is up in arms about; there’ll be an invite to dinner tomorrow but that won’t work so you need to politely duck out and find a suitable date; and then the wife of the fruit-stand man would like your thoughts on the chairs she’s about to choose for the gelateria she’s about to open. What should have taken five minutes has turned into an hour and you still managed to forget the milk.

I’m writing this from a house within a village within a town and it’s been working reasonably well for the past five years. The mountains are nearby, the lake could be closer and I’m not just on the grid, I’m permanently linked to outer space with a beam that transmits to a receiver on a mountainside allowing me to file columns like this at my leisure. Finally, if I plot my milk and veggie run well enough, I can be back behind our hedge within 15 minutes. In short, you can have it all in the summer months – it just might take 20 years to figure out the formula.

The interrogator / Edition 19

Pelle Sjoenell

Pelle Sjoenell has been responsible for the global creative output at advertising company Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) since 2016. Based in Los Angeles, the Swede founded the firm’s West Hollywood office back in 2010; the city’s notorious traffic jams mean he has plenty of time to consume podcasts while stuck in gridlock.

What news source do you wake up to? I wake up to Twitter. There are also a lot of podcasts that I love to listen to, such as The New York TimesThe Daily, Pod Save America and a Swedish one called Värvet from Kristoffer Triumf.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? I have a holy ritual of homebrewed coffee; I drink it in the car every morning as I listen to podcasts.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? Spotify. My son Enzo, who is nine, is our in-house DJ. He’s spinning everything from new stuff to classics like Green Day and The Beatles.

What’s the song that you're humming in the shower? It’s always “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? Neither: I’m an online subscriber to The New York Times. I would love to still be living in the time when I walked down to the kiosk.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? I’ll sneak in my wife’s fashion mags, such as W, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. The one magazine I buy apart from Monocle is Vanity Fair.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? What is a bookshop and what is rain? I live in LA!

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Sofa, 100 per cent.

What’s the best thing you've watched of late and why? I absolutely love Fauda on Netflix. It’s a tough Israeli drama: violent but believable and incredibly well written. Also an episode called “The Witness” from animated series Love, Death & Robots: it’s shot and then painted over; totally gorgeous.

Sunday brunch routine? I prioritise mountain-bike riding in the Santa Monica Mountains – and maybe I’ll slip in a Blue Bottle coffee afterwards.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? Every night, CNN comes on in our house.

A favourite newsreader perhaps? I like Chris Cuomo and Anderson Cooper.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? My wife and I have a deal: I’m not allowed to fall asleep before her. It’s a wonderful gift because it takes me through a lot of obscure documentaries from the likes of Ken Burns. I love falling asleep watching something.

Culture / Watch / Listen / Reserve

The heat is on

‘Midsommar’, Ari Aster. A gaggle of angelic-looking Swedes in folksy dress congregate in the countryside to celebrate a pagan midsummer festival that takes place once every 90 years. What could go wrong? After last year’s extremely creepy Hereditary, director Ari Aster ups the ante and brings us an even more disquieting tale of primal instincts as this rural idyll quickly turns sinister. Midsommar has all the ingredients to be crowned the season’s best thriller.

‘That’s OK’, DO. Doh Kyung-soo (better known by the stage name DO) is taking a break from hugely popular South Korean boyband Exo. But there is no embarrassing scandal: he’s released “That’s OK” on the eve of his enlistment to military service. It’s not clear whether the words of encouragement are aimed at his dedicated fans or himself; either way, this sweet pop lullaby is eminently endearing.

The Idler Festival. Summer has wafted its mellow breeze through London’s busy streets, bringing the city’s stride to a comfortable dawdle. It’s a pace with which The Idler, a UK bi-monthly magazine devoted to a relaxed lifestyle, is well acquainted. The second edition of the Idler Festival will run from 12 to 14 July in leafy Hampstead. Fenton House, a country manor-style property, will open its doors and grounds to speakers, comedians, musicians and craftspeople of all stripes. Documentarian Louis Theroux will speak to longtime friend and Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson, while a ukulele workshop will take place in the orchards; a knitting class in the attic is scored by DJ Baby Soul’s record collection.

Outpost news / Malheur County, Oregon

Bucking the trend

The Malheur Enterprise was founded by two Oregon businessmen in 1909 after one had failed to find his fortune in the gold rush. The newspaper has served Malheur County, Oregon’s largest and poorest region, since then but found itself on the cusp of bankruptcy in 2015. Thankfully Les Zaitz, a 45-year journalism veteran and two-time Pulitzer prize finalist, shelved his plan to retire from The Oregonian to his ranch and, with his wife and brother, bought the Enterprise instead. As one of two newspapers serving the county it was, he says, too important to go under.

Zaitz describes the Enterprise as a “journalism laboratory”, where his team experiment with stories and financial models to learn how a newspaper can serve a small, rural community. It has since amassed numerous awards and seen an uptick in circulation and revenue – proof that, in the right hands, small newspapers can still strike gold.

What’s the big story making the news? The Vale Fourth of July Rodeo. This is the major event of the year for this county so we give it the coverage it deserves. The town will largely shut down to stage the rodeo and have a big parade, barbecues and all the traditional elements of a small-town festival.

Best headline? “Blind Nyssa track star takes on the world”. It’s a story of a legally blind high-school athlete who has done well in track meets. She is going to compete in national competitions and the goal is to reach the Paralympics.

Best picture? It’s a story by a reporter who focuses on the largely neglected Latino community. It’s about two Mexican teachers who are in Malheur County on an exchange programme to teach children dance and English. There’s a lovely picture of the kids sitting on the floor in a circle, chatting with one of the teachers.

What’s the next big event you’ll be covering? After the rodeo we’ll worry about a major economic-development project that’s pending approval by the state: Malheur County is one of the largest onion-growing regions in the US and the county is hoping to build a new rail hub.

Eat / Bruder

Capital gains

If you thought Vienna was all stuffy cafés, Ludwig Van and frothy coffees then a trip to the sixth district should cure you of your misconceptions (writes Josh Fehnert): there’s something rather special brewing. Located in a low-lit space on Windmühlgasse, Bruder is a bijou bar and kitchen that friends Hubert Peter and Lucas Steindorfer (both pictured, Peter on left) opened in January. The first thing you’ll clock is the wall of colourful mason-jars brimming with briny vegetables and ferments, dusky lighting and groovy playlist (sorry Schubert, this is the new Vienna).

Now for an aperitif. Peter is quick to furnish arrivals with a refreshing berry-red spritz that’s mixed with his own wermut then offer a salutary slug of a pine-flavoured spirit he’s been perfecting (this review was incognito so let’s assume that everyone gets this treatment). If you’re staying for food you have two choices: wade through a wordy à la carte menu or order the lot. The set menu is distinctly less fiddly and means you’ll get the five best dishes with the option of five complementary drinks.

The dishes change regularly but veer from familiar goulash to the truly experimental, such as a pulled-pork riff on a kebab. The wine list errs on the organic side – try before you buy, some are funkier than the playlist – but there’s also a vast drinks list that rewards exploration. “Another fir-tree ferment, sir?” says the waiter as I settle the bill. “Go on then,” I say. “Here’s to the new Vienna.”

Wardrobe update / Merlette

Smooth journey

Merlette’s crisp cotton dresses with billowing silhouettes are designed to be worn from brunch to beach to bar. “Holidays are about escapism and many women prefer to pack less and make use of the items they bring,” says Marina Cortbawi, who founded Merlette in Brooklyn in 2015. “Our focus is on practicality. Most pieces can be worn in multiple ways: they shrink surprisingly well in a suitcase and do not crease.”

Modern Etiquette / Edition 13

Can I leave without saying goodbye?

The short answer is no: at least someone needs to know you’re off (if only for fire safety). But the discreet act of slipping away without lingering goodbyes is an art, not a science. The so-called French exit, in which the person you were just speaking to disappears in a puff of smoke, is risky. Speaking of which, smokers have an advantage in removing themselves: finding a lighter, a place to puff or a shop for sundries are all excellent excuses to drag yourself away. For non-smokers there’s the phone-call lie but we’d recommended a casual, non-committal excuse involving the word “family”. Or better yet, an entirely surreptitious escape without needing to deploy trickery at all. Deserting dinner or drinks without saying goodbye can be fraught – but only really if you get caught at it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just popping outside for a cigarette...

Monocle Films / Madrid

Monocle’s Quality of Life Conference

Monocle gathered together a peerless group of thinkers, entrepreneurs, reporters and makers for our fifth annual conference, a unique mix of debate, dinner and hospitality. We look back at some of the moments that made our sunny 2019 edition such a success.

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