Saturday 31 August 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 31/8/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Don’t worry, B happy

When I have told a few people – and now a lot – the story that will follow shortly, there have been polarised responses. Group A have simply laughed at my moment of madness, Group B have lived my pain – you see the torture in their faces. They are my people.

It turns out that without even resorting to global politics or Brexit chat, there are everyday situations – and our responses to them – that just as effectively define who we are. In which camp are you?

Laugh or panic?

There’s a very nice man I know, not well, but we have met and spoken several times. I saw him the other day. Him and an older man; both impeccably dressed. They were heading towards me but were in such deep conversation that I let them stride past without interruption.

Then, a few days later, I spotted him again when I was coming back to the office with two colleagues. “Hello,” I said, “I saw you the other night.” He explained that they had been on their way to the theatre and probably failed to spot me because they had been running late. And then, unwisely as it turns out, I asked, “Did your dad enjoy the show?”

“That was my partner,” he very politely replied.

Now normally if you make such a mighty faux pas, your brain goes into hyper-recovery mode and some clever get-out clause pops up; some phrase that lets you row back and claim, for example, that they have misheard what you said – “No, I said ‘Dan’. Isn’t that his name?”

My brain simply clunked to a halt (why, oh why, had I assumed that a slight age difference rendered someone the parent?). Seconds passed and all I came up with was, “Where were you going?” He diligently reiterated his destination that night: “I said, we were going to the theatre.”

Cornered now, I looked around in panic and saw that we were standing next to a magazine shop. “I have got to buy a magazine,” I said with the air of urgency more normally attached to, say, getting a new kidney.

In the safety of the shop, I turned to my two colleagues who assured me that, yes, it was one of the worst things that they had ever heard – well, they did once their laughter had subsided from the level of tearful hysterics to just hysterics.

I have re-run that scene so many times, it still makes me wince. Group A friends have told me I should have made a joke. But that’s impossible for any paid-up Group B member (diehards like me cannot even watch a TV show where people make fools of themselves – the channel is changed).

Tray leaver or stacker?

We all know this airport scenario: belt off, pockets emptied, laptop out. By the time some people have decanted the contents of their various pockets and stripped off their excessive layers of clothing, they have filled a whole plastic caravan of trays that then slowly make their way through the airport X-ray machine. But it’s what happens on the other side of the scanner that divides the world into two distinct camps.

Group A gathers up their possessions and sock-foots it to a designated area where they can repack and re-belt. But, in a defining move, this group leaves their empty trays on the conveyor belt. Group B, meanwhile, not only gathers up their trays, but also collects the trays belonging to Group A. Give them a trolley and a uniform and they would be here all day. I have tried to sound neutral on this issue but the truth is I don’t understand the tray abandoners. I imagine that they have bedrooms festooned with dropped socks and knickers. Or that they have staff. I cannot be friends with them.

Fan or foe of the “Now Relax” picture?

Group A posts pictures on social media with the caption “Now Relax”. The images that go with this caption are limited. There’s the world seen through a glass of white wine/Aperol spritz for example. Or how about the classic – a shot down a pair of out-stretched legs, on a lounger, with the pool just beyond the tootsies.

Group B would never post such a simple, if clichéd, image of joy. They are more likely to share an earnest image of a Mies van der Rohe building or an “interesting” example of typography. Sadly, I am definitely in Group B.

Jumps traffic lights on a bicycle?

Group A are the jumpers. And luckily they are a small group. But the interesting thing is that they are a diverse bunch. Yes, they include the odd clip-y and Lycra-clad cyclist but they also number a lot of determined middle-aged women who don’t give a damn. Group B, meanwhile, waits patiently – we are a little sneery and do-goody maybe but definitely have a better life expectancy.

Look, I am not judging (well, a little) but sometimes being in the B team is definitely better. We even stick together – last week I found myself working with another tidy obsessive to put away piles of abandoned trays at the X-ray machine. As we completed our task, we gave each other a knowing smile, a nod of satisfaction for a job well done and then disappeared into the crowds to catch our flights.

Report / Design

Nordic focus

For collectors of art and design, a seemingly ever-growing calendar of international fairs can feel relentless. The organisers of Copenhagen’s Chart 2019, taking place this weekend, know this and provide an offering that will leave visitors feeling inspired rather than overwhelmed (writes Nolan Giles). Chart’s selective approach – combining collectable design and contemporary art, and concentrating largely on Nordic talent – provides the right level of focus for guests. It’s also a more personal affair with intimate side events connecting collectors directly with artists. Those with a keen eye for good aesthetics will appreciate the main venues: the magnificent Kunsthal Charlottenborg and the Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art.

The Faster Lane / Tyler Brûlé

Thrill of the chase

This journalism gig used to be a straightforward affair. You got onto a trainee programme at a broadcaster or local paper. You spent hours in the library researching topics for a star reporter who was out for a long, boozy lunch and you gossiped about him with the nice ladies who brought out the clippings from the archive. You worked late into the evenings and you’d go out for a cheap Thai dinner with your fellow news cadets (whatever happened to that wonderful term?).

Sometimes a big story would erupt and you might find yourself in the accounting office being loaded up with bricks of cash to bring to a camera crew connecting through a major European airport. When you were really, really lucky your flight was late and you had to follow them all the way to the lobby of a grand hotel built on a beach of a corrupt African capital. And somewhere along the way you got your first big break and, the little news briefing that was going to be way down page, at the very end of the foreign section, went top page of the opening section. The next thing you know you’re a proper grown-up journo.

In the newsroom you were taught to be competitive, to be thorough, to check and double check your facts, and to always always be first with a story. You got yelled at a lot, scripts were flung back at you, books were hurled in your direction and, when a senior editor was really angry, they’d remind you what you signed up for and ask if you were truly up for being a journalist. This hurt when you’d just managed to get your first press pass and you used to stare at it during those long cab rides back to a dingy apartment on the outer reaches of a big belching city.

This was me – exactly 30 years ago this week. The gigs in Africa and star stories in the foreign pages took a bit longer to take shape but I got my start in the news game just before families started selling their media assets, countries slashed budgets at their beloved state broadcasters and smoking was banned on the editorial floor. At the BBC, I was sent to Berlin to cover the fall of the wall and speak to young Germans from the east about their hopes for a unified Germany. At ABC News in London, I watched Pierre Salinger roam around the newsroom with a massive cigar and greet MPs and ambassadors in his corner office. I stood in awe as Peter Jennings passed through the bureau en route to a story somewhere on the Continent or the Middle East.

A few weeks later I was working for an Australian broadcaster and, on day three of the job, was sent to the Ivory Coast to secure interviews with the leaders of the factions fighting for control of Liberia. Three decades on, I can still smell the dry grass and jet fumes at Charles de Gaulle Airport (I had to retrieve my own bag from the hold of the British Midland aircraft because it wasn’t going to make the connection and I had a war to cover!) and the heavy scent of cheese on the upper deck of the UTA 747 bound for Douala. I didn’t sleep much on that flight as I was carrying £10,000 to pay for drivers, fixers, hotels and cocktails for the crew. I had a war to cover and I was running to the story.

We’re currently hiring for some new posts at Monocle and I’m wondering what’s become of the news cadet? We’re struggling to find the journo who wants to run to the story. At a recent interview for a correspondent position we’re looking to fill, I spent the better part of 30 minutes talking about how parenting commitments might work in the face of a breaking news story. “How long are assignments?” asked the candidate. “And how often might I have to cover a breaking story?” I was about to wrap the interview at that point when he fired off the best question of all: “How much warning would I have before a story breaks?”

Did I go cross-eyed or just jolt upright in my seat – I’m not sure. I did inform him that if I knew when world events were going to turn into news flashes before anyone else then we wouldn’t be sitting in an office on a leafy street in Zürich but rather an alpine bunker surrounded by blonde women in white boob tubes and hot pants and chiselled men in light-blue jumpsuits, and I might be stroking a small billy goat. No surprise he didn’t get the gig and the position remains open. If you know someone who wants to run to the story, you know where to find us.

House news / Hong Kong

Back in print

Monocle has always been closely associated with travel but we’ve now officially become a permanent fixture. Last week saw the opening of a new Monocle Shop near gate 61 at Hong Kong International Airport – it’s a hybrid newsstand, bookshop and boutique. It’s a retail first for us and easily the largest retail space in our universe. Us landing at HKIA is by no accident. The Asian hub – a masterclass in aviation efficiency – used to be the best-selling location for our magazine before a handful of bookshops closed and changed all that. Good news for us should also be welcome news for English readers in Hong Kong, as we put print back in the heart of HKIA.

The Interrogator / Edition 27

Maddison Connaughton

Founded in 2014, The Saturday Paper is a young Australian weekly that balances breaking stories with cultural coverage. Maddison Connaughton was appointed editor in July 2018. Here she reveals her own media habits and holds forth on the importance of subscribing to your favourite paper.

What news source do you wake up to? Every morning I open The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and ABC online. I have an intimidatingly long line of stories at the top of my browser, which I work my way through. Once I have no tabs left, I know that I’m across the news – it’s like a challenge to myself.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines? Definitely coffee. Black.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? Spotify. But I’m also listening to a lot of NTS Radio and online radio stations because they curate great playlists.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? I want to say The Monthly even if that does feel like I’m spruiking an in-house publication [like The Saturday Paper it’s also owned by Schwartz Media]. I like Apartamento and Liminal, which started as a photography project for a young photography editor in Melbourne. It’s probably one of the most exciting magazines being made in Australia right now. Then there’s The New York Times Magazine, Quarterly Essay, The New Yorker and Paris Review too.

Are you a subscriber or a newsstand browser? A subscriber. Working at a paper, I see how vital it is to have a bedrock of supporters. Knowing you have a strong base allows you to do investigative work and pour more resources into journalism.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? It depends how cold it is in Melbourne and if I’m brave enough to leave the house. I try and go to the cinema at least once a week but in the dead of winter it’s maybe a few weeks between visits.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why? I saw a movie called First Love at Melbourne International Film Festival. It's the most recent film by Japanese director Takashi Miike. It was so funny and dark – the most unique film that I’ve seen in a long time.

Sunday brunch routine? I think anyone who’s worked at a print publication will tell you that weekends are mostly about trying to correct your sleep deficit. So my routine is mostly pretending that eating my first meal of the day quite late is brunch.

What papers and periodicals will be spread around the dining table? I love The Saturday Paper but there’s also Die Zeit and the Financial Times. There’s a newsagent in Melbourne that stocks a lot of international papers. I like to pick all of them up and look at them as design objects to see what we could be doing with the design of the paper.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? I don’t. I do think it still has an important place though. I like listening to the radio. Having that rolling coverage throughout the day suits me more because I can dip in and out.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? I’ve been trying not to consume any media before I go to bed, so it’s been a lot of music lately.

Culture / Listen / Read / Watch

Summertime blues

‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’, Lana del Rey. There’s always been a languid, end-of-summer melancholy to Lana del Rey’s music so it seems only right that she should have waited until the dregs of the season to release her sixth album. As usual, there’s a wry look at nostalgic US clichés but some of her pop tendencies are shelved in favour of psychedelia and stripped-down ballads. Reliably heart-wrenching – and beautiful.

‘Sovietistan’, Erika Fatland. Norwegian author Erika Fatland touches down in the former Soviet republics whose fate after independence in 1991 still remains (to put it euphemistically) under-explored. From Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, her adventures lead her to decommissioned nuclear-testing sites, dried-up seas and brand-new viaducts – charting out a region where ancient traditions clash with aggressive modernity.

The Souvenir, Joanna Hogg. This is British director Joanna Hogg’s fourth film and her most personal. It is a quiet and reserved thing to sit in front of but sits powerfully in the memory; a coming-of-age film in which a wide-eyed film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) is charmed by a coolly arrogant, slightly older foreign-office man (Tom Burke) who is not all he seems. Simply classy.

Outpost news / The Marshall Islands

Drop in the ocean

The Marshall Islands Journal was founded in 1970 by two former Peace Corps volunteers who arrived in the central Pacific nation in the 1960s. Based in the capital, Majuro, the journal covers a gamut of news: from sport, to climate change and the legacy of nuclear-weapons testing in the area. While the newspaper prints 2,000 copies weekly, editor Giff Johnson – who has steered the paper since 1985 – estimates its readership is six times that thanks to families who share the paper. We speak to Johnson from his Majuro offices.

What’s the big story this week? The lead story is about US-government action to remove accreditation from a Texas-based adoption agency so that it can no longer approve international adoptions; it can still conduct domestic adoptions. The US government has been focusing greater attention on illegal adoptions that use the visa-free entry privileges that Marshall Islanders enjoy to fly birth mothers into the US.

Best headline?Audit: Embassies get C minus. The Marshall Islands’ embassies in Japan, Fiji, Taiwan and the US are audited annually; the latest audit shows that most lack accountability. More than $2m [€1.8m] in spending was either rejected by the finance ministry or can’t be properly accounted for.

Favourite photo? I like the photo of a community volleyball game that shows the crowded urban environment in which people are playing. It makes for an interesting perspective on a sporting event.

What’s your down-page treat? We have an Around Town column, which consists mostly of lighter items. In the latest, the writer describes gargantuan potholes covered with pools of water on a side road in Majuro. They’re said to have caused the disappearance of a tourist venturing off the main drag, possibly consumed by a cousin of the Loch Ness Monster who resides in the holes. The hope is that comedic items like this will encourage the public works team to patch up the road.

Weekend plans / Somerset, UK

Animal attraction

Something is afoot in the wilds of Somerset (writes Lewis Huxley). This sleepy southern corner of the UK is already a pleasant escape from London but The Newt, a sprawling country-house hotel that opened this week, promises to refine the experience. Founded by Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos, it takes its lead from Babylonstoren, their hotel and vineyard in South Africa’s Cape Winelands.

At The Newt’s centre is Hadspen House, a 17th-century stately home that now houses 13 luxurious rooms, with more in its accompanying stable yard. As well as ancient woodland and a deer park, the estate’s grounds contain cultivated gardens that provide fresh produce for the hotel’s on-site restaurants. Menus for The Botanical Rooms, which offers fine dining in an informal setting, and The Garden Café are compiled based on what has been picked that day. Meals can be washed down with a glass – or two – of cyder (that’s how the Georgians spelt it) that’s pressed and bottled here using apples from the orchard. There’s a spa too; perfect for winding down after exploring the gardens.

So why is it called The Newt? The small amphibians – many of which can be found here – have the ability to regenerate fully functional limbs after amputation. It’s an apt metaphor for a venture that is almost entirely self-sufficient. Forget the city, forget the bolthole; this is a world unto itself.

Modern Etiquette / Edition 21

Am I wrong to hate dress codes?

Dress codes have all been cracked in recent years but, even so, there are times when conformity elevates a day and makes you feel part of the team. So for a wedding boardshorts and flip-flops would not only look awful but would also suggest that you’re not doing your bit to make this a special moment. Mr Etiquette likes to don a tie and a navy blazer and has a suit for every season; sometimes you just have to do what’s asked of you. But when people strive for formality purely in a bid to appear grand, Mr Etiquette has been known to contract a sudden chill or concoct a tale about Mr Tiddly’s digestive system in order to stay at home alone. To be clear: modest birthdays are not elevated by being declared “black tie”. In these situations you are welcome to be impolite and stay well away.

Monocle Films / Culture

Fête des Vignerons

We clink glasses with winemakers at the once-in-a-generation festival in the otherwise tame town of Vevey. Fête des Vignerons is a parade of Swiss viticulture wisdom complete with cows, costumes and carousing.


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