Saturday. 23/11/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

In Zürich, no one can hear you scream

Readers of this column will know that when Mr Tyler Brûlé suggests any form of physical activity you should do one simple thing: make a dash for it like a spooked gazelle. Go to a panic room and stay there for however long it takes for this real and present danger to pass. Otherwise you will find yourself pretending to enjoy swimming in lakes that are on the cusp of freezing over, going for morning runs when the fog of a big night out hasn’t even begun to clear or hurtling down an icy mountain on what purports to be a toboggan but looks about as useful for delivering you safely as an Ikea coffee table assembled by a three-year-old. Injuries happen. Pride is badly bruised. And you have to get that bit of flesh just above your trunk line wet.

But earlier this week, while I was working out of our Zürich HQ, he tricked me – again. But, hey, it was an enticing promise: he and his partner Mats had found a workout that would take us just six minutes to complete and would yield great results. “It will be fun,” he said, then raised his pinkie finger to his mouth and cackled like Dr Evil in the Austin Powers movies. But seeing as I have a couple of kilos I would rather like to donate to charity, I was easy prey.

So, on Wednesday morning we went to Aurum Fit. The company has the tagline “Train like an astronaut”, and when I saw that I momentarily imagined fun space suits and tumbling head over heels in a zero-gravity room. It turns out that it’s not that bit of the training they are on about.

Instead there are two hi-tech machines made by a company called ARX, on which you do six one-minute exercises; our instructor Julian explained that it would be a case of “you against the machine”. It’s a super ramped-up version of resistance training. And the astronaut bit? Well, some of this technology was created to prevent muscle wasting when said astronauts are sitting in a tin can, floating in a most peculiar way. Look, the people at Aurum can do the science chat – we need to work out.

Let’s just say that a minute can feel like a very long time. There were chest battles and grim leg presses. There was a lot of “Uuurgh, ooooh, aaah” from me; I hope the neighbours know that it’s a gym behind the frosted glass, otherwise they might wonder if they are living above an adult film studio. And that’s not very Zürich.

The good news – for me – is that I survived. And loved it, even with Julian shouting at me to “break the machine”, which sounded a bit unlikely on a Wednesday morning. And I am also pleased to say that, as I write this on Friday, I can now just about straighten my arms again. And Mr Brûlé? I am convinced that I heard a whimper. And he definitely had to put down his BlackBerry.

You go on a head: It’s cold in London so I bought a hat yesterday. Now I did have my two fashion advisers with me: Tom, our managing editor, and Josh, our executive editor. We had drifted into Trunk Clothiers on Chiltern Street on our way back from lunch and there was a nice grey baseball cap. I tried it on and bought it. Now the only bit I am not sure about is that Tom said, “It looks great. It really suits you. You look like Logan Roy.”

Do you watch the HBO series Succession? If not, Logan Roy (played by Brian Cox) is a mean-as-hell patriarch with three flawed and scheming offspring – and he runs Waystar Royco, a media conglomerate made in his brutish image. And the show’s use of fashion is extraordinary; it’s been the focus of numerous stories that have tried to decode its stealth-wealth looks.

Anyway, I said to Tom, “Do you mean Logan or Kendall?” hoping that he really had in mind the more dashing if utterly damaged son. “No, Logan,” he replied swiftly, sticking with the on-death’s-door dad. I am still hoping that he was just thinking about the hat when he made this remark but I am determined to keep my cap in place. And anyway, it’s not that stealth-wealth when you wear it while waiting for a bus.

Finally, a phrase of the week: I spoke to a design company owner this week who said that he loses a lot of staff to Apple. He refers to these particular departures as “Apple crumble”.

HOW WE LIVE / Paparazzi

Window to the soul

This week the UK’s Prince Andrew helped to burn a classic contemporary image onto the world’s collective retina: the deathwatch car shot. These days you know exactly when a public figure has been sacked or is under suspicion because they’ll have been photographed looking sad, shocked or crestfallen in the back of a car. The vehicle is usually large, black and chauffeur-driven, and easily read as either a metaphorical hearse or a prop in the scene preceding an execution; there are solid Anne Boleyn vibes here.

Football managers often fall victim to the deathwatch car shot: Mauricio Pochettino tried to avoid the glare of the flashbulbs this week by putting his jacket over his head as he was driven away from Tottenham Hotspur. José Mourinho, his replacement as the team’s manager, has such a rich history of being fired that he could release a set of stamps featuring the best of his own deathwatch car shots. So if you’re sharing a cab with colleagues next week, don’t do an Andy – make a beeline for that front seat.

THE LOOK 08 / THE LANYARD SWINGERS

We’ll pass on that

The lanyard, that unlovely string around the neck from which laminated ID cards dangle, has become ubiquitous as workplaces increasingly rely on automated entrances and security gates. The friendly receptionists or sturdy security guard is becoming decorative rather than an operative way to vet who walks into an office. The lanyard – for many, the ghost of underwhelming conferences past – is here to stay. But when should you put it on?

Many people seem to think they are as much a part of getting dressed in the morning as tying their laces or tie. Trains and trams are jammed with employees accidentally advertising themselves with sad-sack, low-resolution photographs, unsmiling in accordance with an edict from HR. Too early, square-o. Then there are the mavericks whose too-cool-for-school pretensions result in a human traffic-jam as they nonchalantly mess around with finding, then finally swiping, their card. Too slow, dude.

What to make of office workers out for drinks, all keenly sporting their lanyards like cult members unable to break their programming? Or the guys from asset-management firms ostentatiously twirling their lanyards as if they’re backstage passes for the gig of the century? Our advice would be: hide it in your inside pocket, your wallet or wherever you keep your cash. After all, the mystery of who you are is existential; the name of where you work doesn’t necessarily make you affluential. Lanyards? Put ’em away, gang.

THE FASTER LANE / Tyler Brûlé

The personal touch

Over the past few months we’ve introduced you to a number of people who’ve charmed, coddled and challenged us on our travels. It was about this time last November that I wrote about the lovely Marianne from Swiss, who helped me ease into my fifties (a big gin and tonic!) on a flight to Los Angeles. By now you’ve heard about the delightful Linda, who runs our shop in Merano. And if you haven’t had the chance to meet her yet, you must pop into our Tokyo shop to say hello to the wonderfully charming and chic Miki-san. There are others who’ve yet to make our pages but you should definitely get to know gelati man Danny in Zürich, Masaya-san at our little basement sing-song bar in Shinjuku, and Gabé at our favourite dining room in Los Angeles.

Other than offering peerless service and having superb attention to detail, do you know what unites all of these individuals? They’re all at the sharp end of the travel, F&B and retail industries. And, yes, they’re all well past 40. But that’s not it. What makes all of these people so outstanding is that they don’t just remember names or run a tight ship; they’re all proper characters sparkling in a world that’s been working very hard to get rid of people who exist outside the guidelines.

Many a hotel will tell you that they like to hire individuals and allow staff to have creative licence but somewhere between the HR manual and the recruitment fair, all of this gets muddled. All too often you get a frustrated sound engineer who wants to tell you about his weekend musical pursuits and what he’s been listening to, or the front-desk clerk who wants to cuddle up and have a drink with you and show you her top picks for hanging out in Honolulu. No!

Some years ago, while preparing to greet guests at a Christmas party at our former HQ, I heard one of the waiting staff having a go at her manager because, she said, she couldn’t “perform” in the jacket she’d been given to wear for the evening. As the manager attempted to reason with her, I heard him say, “Let me see what I can do.” Before long he pulled me aside to ask if the young woman might be able to wear something else to serve canapés as she felt that the white jacket restricted her creativity. I wish I could somehow spool back to see what I did with my brow at that very moment but I think I must have narrowed my eyes, much like the squinting shiba inu on page 230 of our current issue.

I think I then said to the manager: “Your firm has been hired to serve champagne and nibbles this evening in a traditional manner: two hands, standing up, circulating around the room. The jackets supplied allow your team to look sharp, elegant and perform all that’s asked of them. As we’re not pouring Veuve from a trapeze or having waiters walking around on their hands, I don’t think the jackets will be a problem. Clear?”

I’m not quite sure how we’ve managed to mix-up whacky outfits, multiple piercings and nail art so that they count for the same as life experience, empathy and “reading the room”. But somehow that’s where we’ve ended-up – and it’s not great. If you think back to your last great flight, superb dinner or productive shop visit, was it positively memorable because the plane was brand new and fitted with the newest seats? Or was the shop architecturally jaw-dropping? I doubt it. Truly memorable moments in the world of service usually involve someone of character at the end of the phone, across the bar or running the cabanas.

I tried this theory out on a new acquaintance who grew up as hotel royalty in Southeast Asia. She delicately slapped her palm on the table and smiled when I relayed my thoughts. “This is exactly what my father says all the time and he’s been in the hotel industry forever,” she said. “No room for characters any more. They’re all gone because people think they’re too difficult to manage – but that’s what makes you return to your favourite hotel, no?”

I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’ll be at my favourite table in Munich on Monday night with Charles working the floor.

THE INTERROGATOR / EDITION 39

Manuel Carvalho

Público may be one of Portugal’s youngest papers but, since its founding in 1990, it has established itself as one of the nation’s finest. Printed in Lisbon and Porto, it publishes two daily editions: one for the north of the country and one for the south. Manuel Carvalho has been at the paper since its formation; after starting as an economics journalist he rose through the ranks and became editor in chief last year.

What news source do you wake up to? The first thing I have to do is read Público online to find out what happened during the night. I also read the other main competitors and the international newspapers online: The Guardian and the Folha de São Paulo. I like Brazil very much and what’s happening in Brazil is so, so important nowadays. When I arrive at my office I read the print editions of El País (which is important for us in Portugal, as the Spanish are our neighbours), the Financial Times and Le Monde.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Coffee and juice. First some orange juice – we have wonderful orange juice in Portugal – with some bread. And then coffee. Lots of black coffee.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I’m a Spotify addict. If I listen to the radio it’s news stations and not music.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? Well, I’m silent because I know the limitations of my voice.

Papers delivered or a trip to the kiosk? In Portugal we don’t have the tradition of delivering print editions to our readers’ houses. It’s not such a good deal for us because we see that in countries where there’s home delivery, the papers are much more resilient.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? Another Portuguese peculiarity is that we have strong newspapers on weekends – for instance, Expresso has a very good edition. And I’ll also buy the print edition of El País because it’s very interesting.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched lately and why? I liked Joker very much – the way the movie compels you to think about the nature of power. It’s contemporary and very well made.

Sunday brunch routine? I’m a little bit more traditional because in Portugal, Sunday lunch is normally the longest meal and the one you have the most expectations about. You cook and have lunch with your family or friends. The food is traditional, with lots of meat and wine. I’ll have a normal breakfast so that I have an appetite for lunch. Dinner will be soup or salad because it would be physically impossible to digest two big meals.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? I’ll watch the debates that are normally organised after the news. For all three main news stations in Portugal, the first 10 to 15 minutes is news about what’s happened during the day; after that there are conversations and debates with politicians, analysts or economists. I would say the best TV news we have is the public broadcaster’s [RTP] news channel. I also like the sober way the BBC broadcasts the news.

CULTURE / LISTEN, WATCH, READ

Fresh perspectives

Girl, Girl Ray. This north London trio have evolved from the indie band of their first record into a mellower pop outfit (perhaps due to the influence of Christine and the Queens producer Ash Workman). Title track “Girl” is a hazy tune, all synths and funk guitar riffs. Elsewhere you’ll find lashings of R’n’B – welcome additions that avoid betraying the 1980s inspiration of the girls’ debut album.

La Belle Epoque, Nicolas Bedos. A man disillusioned with life and his wife decides to employ the services of an entrepreneur, whose business consists of recreating historical scenes with a full-scale acting troupe. Our protagonist chooses to immerse himself in what he believes was the best moment in his existence: the 1970s, when he first met and fell in love with his partner in a café in Lyon. This achingly French romantic comedy is a melancholy ode to the past – and how it’s often an idealised land of fantasy.

Othello, illustrated by Chris Ofili. UK painter Chris Ofili’s 12 etchings – scattered across Shakespeare’s text – contribute to making this edition of the classic tale of jealousy (released by art gallery and publisher David Zwirner) feel ever more contemporary. In his beautiful white-on-black images, Ofili traces Othello’s moods and thoughts, zooming in on the stunning – and sometimes overwhelming – power of the mind.

OUTPOST NEWS / WAIHEKE, NEW ZEALAND

Green and pleasant land

Waiheke is an island paradise just a short ferry ride from Auckland. Home to fewer than 10,000 people, it is a 19km-long slice of unspoilt meadows, forests and sea coves. “People come here as a lifestyle choice,” says Liz Waters, editor of Waiheke’s weekly newspaper Gulf News, which has been published for the past 46 years and is credited with defining the island’s eco-conscious identity and easy pace of life.

“Developers called us hippies,” says Waters, laughing. And to the developers’ chagrin, the hippies seem to have won: many islanders live off homegrown produce and solar-powered technology, as well as capturing rain to fulfil their water needs. “It really does feel like the far end of the earth,” says Waters.

What’s the big news this week? We have a resident who turned 100 on Wednesday – that’s 36,525 days, as she pointed out. She’s a very articulate woman who campaigns for nuclear disarmament; she camped at Greenham Common in England as part of a major protest. She has a salty tongue and often wanders into the office to tell us what we’ve done wrong – which happens less these days than it used to.

Favourite image? There’s a great shot of the school children being taken out on the classic A-class 193 racing yacht Ariki. It’s a Maori word that means “leader”. The skipper and restorer are on board and the kids are clustered around the boat, taking it all in.

Down-page treat? This week we have a spread on learning bird-rescue skills. There are a lot of endangered birds in New Zealand and we are trying to pass on the skills for working with sick and injured ones. There’s a strong bird-rescue team on the island; they’re working with penguins, native wood pigeons and the godwits that come and go from the Arctic.

Big event? We had our annual trolley race recently. It started in the 1980s and people take it very seriously. Leading up to race day they’ll cover up their garages so no one can see what they’re working on. The trolleys this year were a creative feast: everything from a converted wine barrel to one that looked like a Lamborghini. We race them from the top of our high street, from where you get an amazing view of the sea. The only thing is, there’s a big shortage of wheelchair wheels on Waiheke these days.

MODERN ETIQUETTE / EDITION 32

I’m too busy to see friends. Help.

This is a delicate one but here goes. Chances are that unless you’re the head of the World Bank or president of a relatively important nation, you’re not really that fraught, are you? Ask anyone from streetsweeper to solicitor and they’ll say the same thing: they’re busy. But shouldn’t we try to slip the illusion that being overwhelmed equates to being important or interesting or even doing well? If you ask Mr Etiquette, being too busy smacks of struggling rather than succeeding. Mr Tiddly, my faithful feline friend, counts a well-spent day as a decent wash, a little socialising with the alley cats and 23 hours of sleep; I think we could learn from him. Still too busy to see your pals? Then the chances are that you need to readdress your priorities and slow down a little.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

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