Saturday 27 July 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 27/7/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Pedal to the metal

Some people love to drive. I am one of them. Trouble is nobody else seems that thrilled by my enthusiasm. Five people getting into a car? I usually find myself in the back, in the middle. To be fair, I am usually the shortest and as long as they don’t strap me into the booster seat I really don’t mind.

Two people getting into a car? Well, then I am told that it would be a terrible waste of my skills as a DJ if I were to get stuck driving. “No,” people insist, “you should be in charge of the music.” Momentarily bamboozled by their flattery, I leap into the passenger seat, only to discover some 30 minutes later that the driver has rejected my Shazamed list of Lebanese pop songs, been startled by me singing along with Joni Mitchell, and taken back control of the music (my singing voice is so bad that one friend had to pull off the road and park when he got possessed by crazy laughter following my take on “A Windmill in old Amsterdam”).

The thing is, I think I am a good driver but others claim that I look distracted, take too much interest in passing landmarks and attractive people and, yes, try to be both DJ and driver. On the rare occasions that my partner agrees to sit in the passenger seat, I am subjected to his foot jabbing a non-existent brake and chants of “CAR, CAR, CAR!” if I get even moderately close to a moving vehicle.

But come summer, and come Greece, and I am a free man. While the thought never crosses my mind in any other nation, Greece for me means scooter time. As soon as I arrive I head to the nearest hire shop and select a beast for the week. When I say beast, we’re talking 150CC. Powerful enough to get you back up the hill after eating a roof-tile of feta, not powerful enough to merit even a pootle-on part in Easy Rider.

The first time I hired a scooter, I managed to hit a wall leaving the rental office’s parking lot but wobbled off and away without even a backward glance. And since then there have been no calamities – perhaps a grazed toe – and just a two-wheeled love affair.

Although I understand it comes with risks. One year I had to go to the hospital dispensary in Mykonos (I’ll spare you the details until you’ve finished your eggs) and the waiting room looked like it was filled with extras for a zombie movie with youths from around the world sporting Egyptian-mummy style bandaging. There was blood. There was wailing.

Over the years friends have upgraded to Jeeps and all manner of flashy buggies but I have stayed loyal to my scooter habit. There is something about revving up in the morning and making a leisurely drive to your beach of choice that’s liberating (especially on Greek islands where the number of taxis has not increased since 1908). And coming back at the end of the day, hot skin is soothed by the wind. Bliss. So when people get giddy about the future of mobility and flying taxis and autonomous vehicles, I remain both sceptical (let’s see how many of either are welcomed in Mykonos) and anxious (please don’t take my scooter away).

This year there was also a moment of delicious revenge. On the way back from the beach my partner and I stopped for a sundowner with friends and in our haste to get there neglected to refill the tanks with fuel. As we left in the dark his scooter forlornly spluttered to an exhausted halt and so the only option was to abandon it until the morning and for me to let him ride pillion back to the hotel.

As I sped away along the twisting treacherous roads, I thought I heard a high-pitched squealing voice shouting something like “CAR, CAR, CAR!”. I decided it must be the wind playing tricks. And anyway, I was too busy singing Joni Mitchell to take any notice.

Image: Alamy

How we live / Hong Kong

On the front foot

After five years in Hong Kong I am in danger of forgetting how to tie my own laces (writes James Chambers). My shoe cupboard has been gradually taken over by all kinds of slip-ons – from trusty Toms and worn out Rivieras to my latest palm tree-topped Soludos espadrilles. A recent reporting trip to South Korea reminded me why this is. Footwear is routinely left outside when visiting houses, offices and restaurants – even some shop changing rooms are socks only. Good housekeeping like this should be exported to the West. I now enforce the “no shoes” rule in my own home. I also embark every year on a retail quest to find a new pair of loafers, which can be easily taken off without crouching.

However, there are some other sartorial habits around the region that take more getting used to. Vietnamese men, for instance, wear jeans year-round, regardless of the sweltering weather. And people in Japan and South Korea tend to remove their sunglasses when speaking to older people. Ultimately it boils down to a show of respect for others – a sadly unfashionable trend when the thermometer goes through the roof.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

The Monocle oracle

You can tell Monocle Weekend Edition readers are settling into their high-summer holiday groove because the mailbag at Midori House – editor Andrew Tuck’s inbox – has been filling up with queries ranging from the curious to practical, odd and otherwise. As we’ve been putting the finishing touches to our September issue and warming up the presses for our series of Summer Weekly newspapers (you can subscribe to the print edition of this bulletin by clicking here), we’ve also had a moment to dump out the post and tackle some frequently asked questions.

Q: I’m a keen viewer of many rolling news channels and I’m wondering what you think of all of the “experts” who appear on air via Skype and give little consideration to the settings that they’re sitting in? Do you think it’s the role of CNN or the BBC to tell the security analyst they’ve booked to remove his/her collection of piglets from their office shelf?

A: First, if it was our news channel we wouldn’t be having people appear via Skype. We’d have them come into the studio or resort to a good old phone line and have a still photo up on screen. Second, I think all of the people who use Skype to appear on TVs around the world should also concern themselves with the camera angle and nostril-hair maintenance, multiple chins and under eye baggage.

Q: In two weeks I’ll be heading off to a wedding in the Stockholm archipelago and have been told that Swedish weddings are quite special and involve a lot of speeches. Should I be preparing one? What is the protocol?

A: Between us, you’ve got a very tight window to re-route the ticket to Stockholm, cook up an excuse and skip the wedding. While we all have wonderful Swedish friends who we love and adore, their weddings can be a challenge if you don’t know all the songs, have an aversion to people delivering Powerpoint presentations between courses or don’t boast the stamina of a viking. At a recent wedding the speeches ran to four hours plus, the temperatures were stinky hot and the refrigerators gave up the ghost part way through. There’s a better chance of preserving your friendship/family ties by elegantly bowing out rather than throwing yourself at the cake.

Q: I’ve noticed that it seems to be a thing to wear fancy briefs under board shorts? Is there a preferred waistband I should be sporting?

A: Absolutely not! For starters, you’re too sensible for boardshorts and should be buying trunks with a proper liner that keeps everything perfectly in place and also dries while lunching at Bruno in Forte dei Marmi.

Q: I’m heading off on a roadtrip with the family next week and wondered if you had any thoughts on collapsible loungers and beach furniture? Is this even allowed?

A: As long as your seaside setup is compact and not throw-away quality, I’m all over setting up a little base camp. For solid, “Made in France” quality you might want to check out the collapsible loungers made by the folks at Lafuma Mobilier. Add some towels by Swiss brand Christian Fischbacher and you’re all set for your day on shore.

Q: I’ve heard Monocle is hosting a high-summer gathering in Merano. Is this true?

A: Who told you? And yes, it is true. If you happen to be in and around Südtirol on 16 August, swing by our shop on Dantestrasse and join us for a frosty Forst, a chilly Weissburgunder and plenty of speck. All your favourite editors will be on hand.

The interrogator / Edition 22

Suzy Annetta

Aussie-born Suzy Annetta moved to Hong Kong 13 years ago and it is here that she leads one of Asia’s most respected interiors magazines, Design Anthology. In the latest instalment of our series dedicated to publishing types’ media habits, she reveals her passion for Scandi noir and takes us on an Asian bookshop tour.

What news source do you wake up to? I’m not sure if it counts as a news source but Instagram is usually the first thing I look at in the morning.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Usually a smoothie first, then coffee around two hours later. We’ve been getting beans from a local roaster and the office is currently enjoying a seasonal blend from the Cupping Room.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? Spotify. I like the radio stations it suggests and find out about a lot of songs that way.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? I’ve recently re-discovered a few artists from the Nineties that I loved but totally forgot about – including Luscious Jackson.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?The Gentlewoman, Openhouse, Ark Journal, Design Anthology UK and Monocle.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? I love Kubrick in Hong Kong’s Yau Ma Tei neighbourhood and get there whenever I have the chance. When I’m travelling, there are a few favourites in frequently visited cities like Eslite in Taipei and Tsutaya in Tokyo.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Unfortunately I watch far too many films on flights these days so, when I’m not travelling, I’m on the sofa. I do love Broadway Cinematheque in Hong Kong, though, for the vintage and independent films they show.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why? I’m a big fan of Danish television such as Borgen and The Bridge. But more recently I’ve surprised myself by enjoying animated Netflix show BoJack Horseman. Favourite recent movies would be The Square and Juliet, Naked.

Sunday brunch routine? If I’m not travelling I prefer to stay in and negotiate with my cat for the papers. But if I’m up for going out then an omelette and coffee after yoga.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? Not for a long time.

A favourite newsreader, perhaps? I always thought that recently retired Lee Lin Chin on SBS Australia was pretty great – on and off screen.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? About a year ago a friend in Australia put me on to Melbourne band City Calm Down and it’s been on repeat almost ever since. Or it’ll be me watching whatever new Scandi-noir show I can get my hands on.

Culture / Listen / Read / Watch

Let’s dance

‘Still Sad Still Sexy’, Lykke Li. It’s been a year since Lykke Li’s latest album So Sad So Sexy and the mood hasn’t changed much. This EP is a little treat featuring some danceable remixes of her successful singles: there’s a new version of “Two nights” and an R’n’B turn on “Sex money feelings die”. Given Lykke Li has announced her forthcoming full album will be a lot more soulful, better make the most of these party tracks on the dance floor this summer.

‘The Jewish Cookbook’, Phaidon. Leah Koenig stepped up to the proverbial plate to provide a definitive delve into the art of Jewish cookery in this blue-hued bumper-sized beauty by Phaidon. The result is a 400 recipe-strong romp that plucks prandial delights from Bubba’s back-catalogue and from Manhattan to the Middle East. Ideal fodder for those looking to learn their kibbeh from their knish.

‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love’. When famously melancholy Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen met Marianne Ihlen on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1960s he wasn’t yet a singer – and his encounter with her made him anything but blue. But it wasn’t to be forever: this documentary by Nick Broomfield charts how even the most luminous love story can fade when life gets in the way. As a celebration of the notion of a muse, Bromfield’s film falls short of giving Ihlen much of a backstory. But as a chronicle of how certain moments can stay with us through the decades, it does the nostalgic Cohen-esque trick.

Outpost news / Portland, Oregon

Digging deep

In the 1960s and 1970s, weekly newspapers began cropping up across the US as self-styled alternatives to the mainstream dailies. Among them was the Willamette Week. The Portland title now has a weekly circulation of 50,000, and publishes stories largely untold by larger news outlets. It has smart arts and culture coverage but its strength is investigations. In 2005 it became the only weekly newspaper to net a Pulitzer prize for investigative reporting. From restaurant reviews to uncovering corruption, editor and publisher Mark Zusman heads it all. He tells us what’s making Portland’s lesser-told headlines.

What’s the big story making the news? Oregon just passed a state law making it the first state to ban single-family-only residential zoning in cities. Many see this as a way to reduce the price of housing, while others view it as an assault on neighbourhoods.

Best headline? “The sweets have eyes.” It’s a restaurant review of a new café that puts googly eyes on its cakes.

Down-page treat? One year ago, the city of Portland changed its city code to require fast-food drive-ins to allow bikes in the lanes. We tested how they're complying.

Next big event? We will be covering a ruling that’s expected from a state judge. A local bar, Cider Riot, filed a lawsuit against a far-right political activist who founded a group called Patriot Prayer. After a May Day event, he and his supporters brawled with patrons of the bar. He’s seeking to have the case dismissed.

Image: Alex Atack

Weekend plans / Beirut

Smile for the Hamra

The neighbourhood of Hamra, in the centre of Beirut, is known for embassies, US-style cafés and strict-looking offices. Its hotels often mimic this stern, commercial vibe: they’ve carpeted elevators and a trouser press in every room. But Beiruti hotelier Kamal Mouzawak is helping Hamra let its hair down. His new four-room guesthouse and restaurant, Tawlet el Hamra, exudes a colourful mid-century nostalgia – “50 shades of anything but grey”, as one patron put it. The best part is the courtyard restaurant. In the afternoon it’s a serene spot to escape the heat over lunch; come evening it’s home to many a high-spirited dinner party. If residents have been flocking to Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh on nights out, they might want to consider doing a 180 – because Hamra is on the up.

Wardrobe update / Informale

Dressing up down under

It’s a surprise to discover that Informale, a new menswear brand, is designed and made in Melbourne. Co-founders Steve Calder and Jordana Jaya offer an easy take on tailoring: their linen drawstring trousers, pleated shorts and military-style jackets are more suggestive of Italian sprezzatura than the hyper-casual ensembles often associated with Aussies. The duo have built customer bases in Sweden, the US and the UK, and they’ll be hosting a pop-up shop on London’s Savile Row later this year. Meanwhile, pick up their handsome goods on The Rake’s online shop.

Modern etiquette / Edition 16

Can I smoke on the beach?

No. Mr Etiquette has been known to have a cigarette after one too many negronis and so was willing to let you be free to do what you like in the open air (yes, even that). But after a summer sojourn, we have decided to get dictatorial on this one. The reason: the number of people treating the beach as an ashtray. Along comes a sunbather who then finds themselves staring at butts, if you get my drift.

Monocle Films / Global

Resort rules

Holidays should be the time of year when everything is allowed but we do have some gentle recommendations for both hoteliers and holidaymakers.


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