Saturday 22 February 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 22/2/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


You can work it out

Now I know this is an issue that divides the world but, in our household, along with the vigorous brushing of teeth and the selecting of socks, the early-morning routine involves stepping on the bathroom scales. My partner is a little technology-obsessed and so not only do you see some very aggressive figures flashing in your sleepy face at 06.00, you also know that this damn machine is then sending the infernal number to an app on your other half’s phone, where it will be logged on a graph that shows your weight across the months and years.

It’s the sort of information that he shares with glee when the app reveals him descending the graph like a jolly goat on an alpine path with a sunny meadow just coming in to view. He’s even happier to share it when your own chart could be mistaken for the inflation rate of some faltering nation or, just as bad, when you become marooned on some high plateau with seemingly no chance of escape. Anyway, he’s just got a part in a TV series and they have very good catering trucks.

I know this because in the morning I can now detect the signs of some potential girth gained without even setting eyes on the flashing digital display, or indeed him. First, I hear the scales being repositioned to different parts of the bathroom floor just in case the reading can be enticed a modicum lower. Then there’s the sound of glasses being removed, then boxers. On bad days there follows a few seconds of silence, followed by some comment along the lines of, “Well, that seems very unfair to me. It was only a doughnut.” I have learned to stay schtum at this juncture, although I will admit that I have on occasion encouraged the dog to burst into a fine rendition of “The Only Way is Up”. On such mornings we have been told in no uncertain terms that we are not helping matters.

But, of course, this technology is a very low entry point into the growing world of home fitness. There’s a battle being waged between the brands aiming to become the go-to for working out without leaving the house. The most brutal tussle is among the providers of exercise bikes (“Come on brands! You can do this!”). It’s here that the likes of Peloton are following the Uber business model of spending big to take the market and seemingly not worrying about the profits yet (last year Peloton generated €660m of sales – and made a loss of €180m). Technogym has also entered the fray with its new bike and there are plenty more pedalling like crazy (“Say ‘woo hoo’ if you think this is the best business move ever!”).

Of course, for some people, that €2,000 bike will turn into a stunning clothes rack but home exercise is leaping ahead like a star jump nonetheless. Numerous fitness apps also encourage us to treat our homes as workout studios (hopefully minus the sweaty neighbours). But there’s another interesting element in all of this: the luxury gym-wear market delivers product that is designed to flatter you in public. Will a shift to solo home exercise force a change to pure comfort over a certain athletic sexiness? Where is the brand that’s got home exercise on its product-development agenda? Technology shifts have a habit of undoing whole sectors of the luxury industry – the ability to pay with our phones has mostly scuppered the market for large and expensive wallets and purses – so you can be sure that new home sportswear lines will come.

Tall order A useful evening class would be: “How to order in a restaurant”. I would pay to attend – even leave a tip. It was my colleague Josh’s birthday this week and we took him to a bao-bun joint near our office. I think it took me less effort to complete my tax return than I expended trying to work out the complexities of requesting a modest Taiwanese meal in this otherwise very nice establishment. For every diner there was a pile of paperwork to wade through, charting special deals, very special deals and just deals. We were provided with pencils to complete our demanding forms (“Which flight did you arrive on? Have you ever been refused entry to our restaurant? Are you carrying more than $10,000 in cash – we hope so.”) When form-filling advice was requested, even the staff seemed flummoxed.

And then last weekend we went for dinner with a group of friends to a Japanese restaurant where the menu was longer and more complex than a Murakami novel. There were numerous unique signature dishes and ingredients whose names I had never seen before. We asked the waiter how best to navigate the glut of choices. And we did as we were told: we ordered the chef’s special selection and focused on the wine instead.


Time for change

How was it for you? Now we did let people know last week about a small change. And it’s hopefully one that helps make this a better newsletter service. On Saturdays and Sundays we are now sending out the Weekend Editions to arrive at 07.00 wherever you are in the world. If this runs smoothly we will change the timings of the weekday Monocle Minutes too. It means that we'll be at the table in time for your eggs in Auckland and Sydney rather than joining you for a cheeky wine at sundown.


Artfully furnished

Number 14 Cavendish Square is an 18th-century London mansion that’s only a modest stroll from the swirl of commuters and shoppers at Oxford Circus. But push open its doors and you enter another world. The property is currently awaiting a transformation into offices under the guidance of architects William Smalley and Walker Bushe. They have lots of work to do: there are holes in floors through which you can see the room below, some naked timber rafters and walls stripped back to old plaster. But the house’s elegance is clear.

The building is being marketed in a novel way. For the next year it will serve as a gallery/showroom for Modernity, a Stockholm and London-based dealer of 20th-century Nordic furniture, ceramics and art. There in one corner is a 1958 Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen – yours for £14,000 (€16,500) – and here a 1936 Frits Henningsen sofa for £80,000 (€95,000) and a pair of armchairs by Alvar Aalto for £50,000 (€60,000). It’s all impeccable and all of collector quality. And it all helps to show off the potential that rests in the walls of the mansion; many of the wealthy purchasers of the furniture might wish to snap up the tenancy at the same time. It’s perhaps the most poised show house you’ll ever see.

To arrange a visit to see the furniture, email;


Green energy

If yours is just one presidential yard sign among the many that are currently jostling for attention in US states from New Hampshire to Nevada, it can be tricky to stand out (writes Tomos Lewis). Particularly given that the colours of most presidential campaigns are restricted by that most patriotic of palettes: red, white and blue. But Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar has bravely staked her presidential brand on a different colour entirely: green.

Placards, pin badges and bumper stickers all proclaim “Amy for America”, usually printed in white lettering set on a bright shamrock-green background. It’s a colour that extends to Klobuchar’s would-be presidential wardrobe too – particularly the bright-green winter coat that she wears regularly on visits to northern states. There’s warmth in the shade that Klobuchar has opted for – a bright, cheerful counter to the cool, peppermint tones being used by Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, for example. Warren’s branding team has named her shade “Liberty Green”, apparently to evoke the oxidised copper shell of the Statue of Liberty.

Breaking with red, white and blue can be a risk for a presidential contender, given that any other colour usually marks you as an outsider. That, however, appears to be playing to Klobuchar’s advantage at the moment. Her better-known moderate Democratic rivals (Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg) haven’t proved, so far, that they can unite contrasting corners of the US electorate. Neither, yet, has Klobuchar, although she has performed better than many predicted, with the latest polling putting her on 6 to 9 per cent of the vote. And if the colour green is a breath of fresh air in the visual vernacular of the presidential race, then, her campaign will say, so is Klobuchar’s newly ascendant bid for the White House.


Armin Thurnher

If you want to know where to go in Vienna then you need to grab a copy of Falter. The weekly newspaper has been chronicling the life, culture and society of Austria’s capital for more 40 years. Armin Thurnher is at the helm and here he reveals the staples of his own cultural schedule.

What news source do you wake up to?
Usually Austrian radio’s public broadcaster, ORF – it’s excellent; really high quality. I tune in every day between 06.30 and 07.00. For an international source I use The Guardian and I also have a digital subscription to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Then I have the German newspapers Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
For me, French-press coffee, no sugar and no milk.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I don’t use Spotify but I listen to a few online radio stations. I prefer classical music. There’s a channel called FM4 that is really good for rock music too. I also have my own collection of music that’s large enough to keep me satisfied – on CD, vinyl and a large library on iTunes.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I don’t sing because I don’t like my voice. But I play the piano and I try to practise one hour a day. I make a point of starting the day by practising Bach.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk?
I have the privilege of having them delivered to the office but I buy a few at the bookshop.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, Monocle and then some German titles – Merkur and Blätter für Deutsche und Internationale Politik.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon?
In Vienna, A.Punkt. It’s in the 1st district and specialises in psychoanalysis literature. It also does poetry.

Sofa or cinema for the evening?
There are so many events I go to. But if it is a film, I go to the cinema. There is one called Gartenbaukino – it seats almost 1,000 and has a huge screen.

Sunday brunch routine?
Staying in – often with my wife, who I’m not usually able to spend much time with, doing nothing in particular. Often we prepare for some concert or play we have later in the day.

A favourite newsreader?
We have a guy on the public broadcaster in Austria called Armin Wolf who is a very critical and outspoken anchorman. In the German-speaking world, he’s doing a great job.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
Although our company does a very fine podcast, Falter Radio, I don’t like them – they take up too much of my time. I prefer to read things. I’m not the type who listens to podcasts in a car – I don’t drive very much and if I do, then I listen to classical music.


Look no further

‘Hunters’, Amazon Prime. New York, 1977. After his grandmother is murdered in mysterious circumstances, a shy teenager gets initiated into a secret club by an old family friend (played by Al Pacino in his biggest TV role to date). It turns out that this group are looking for Nazis hiding in civil society, in order to thwart their plans to build a Fourth Reich. The hunters’ unorthodox and gory methods soon attract the attention of the FBI – and a brand-new hunt begins. Produced by Jordan Peele (director of the excellent Get Out and Us), Hunters promises a heady mix of absurd comedy and action.

‘Winter in Sokcho’, Elisa Shua Dusapin. This haunting portrait of an out-of-season tourist town on the border of North and South Korea is French-Korean author Dusapin’s debut novel (brilliantly translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins). A lonely young woman working in a hotel strikes up an apprehensive friendship with one of the guests, a French graphic novelist working on his latest project. The story that unfurls between them is chilling.

‘Vices’, Peggy Sue. There’s a dreamy quality to London-based duo Peggy Sue’s blend of surf-rock and garage rock. Managing to traverse both light-heartedness and melancholia, Katy Young and Rosa Slade’s harmonies and guitar riffs are simple but captivating. After four years of silence from the band, Vices is an album that looks to the summer; evocative single “In Dreams” should be on your next roadtrip playlist.


Overseas dispatch

The British Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha is home to one of the remotest communities on Earth. The 247 permanent residents of the island’s only township, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, live in the shadow of a 2,000m-high active volcano that last erupted in 2004 but also also provides the islanders with mineral-rich earth. Thanks to the egalitarian vision of William Glass (the island’s first modern settler) in 1817, the land is communally owned and yields an abundance of potatoes. Residents are also assigned one cow per family and two sheep per person.

If they fancy something a little more adventurous for dinner, supplies must be delivered by boat from Cape Town, 2,800km and six days sailing away. “There will be 10 trips this year,” says Richard Grundy, who previously taught geography on the island and now edits the biannual Tristan da Cunha Newsletter from Glastonbury in the UK. But if you’re thinking of hopping aboard the next supply ship, think again. “I know people who have been waiting five years to secure a voyage,” says Grundy. On the other hand, thanks to the ship, 150 copies of the latest newsletter arrived in the island on Wednesday. Grundy tells us what’s under the covers.

What’s the big story? The 2019 storms. The main one was in July – hurricane force winds caused the most extensive storm damage ever recorded on the island. It tore off the roofs of the school, the administration building, the post office and the police station. The materials to repair the damage took more than a month to get to the island. Then there was another storm in November, which the islanders are still mopping up now.

Do you have a favourite photograph? An optometrist was sent to the island from the UK as the British government has just finished building the islanders a hospital, which cost more than £7.5m [€9m]. They sent me a photograph of an operation taking place there. They can now carry out all eye operations right there on the island. It saves them sending people to Cape Town.

Your down-page treat? At the back of the latest issue, I’ve run a piece on the tourism department. Its staff have just developed a range of jewellery – sterling-silver items crafted by hand. They have plenty of time between boats to do things like that.

Any big event you’re covering? The waters around the island have Marine Stewardship Council accreditation – that means they are a top-level world fishery. The Tristan lobster (it’s actually a crayfish) is a huge export and goes out to the US, Asia and, more recently, the EU. It earns the government and fishermen in Tristan about £1m [€1.2m] a year, so we’re watching EU trade laws to see if there will be any blocks after Brexit. And, of course, we’re also keeping an eye on when the next volcanic eruption might be.


None the worse for wear

By now you’ve surely heard that the secondhand clothing market is booming (writes Will Kitchens). An industry that was worth $24bn (€22bn) in the US in 2018 is expected to eclipse fast-fashion by 2028. And no, it’s not simply thrift and charity shops that are making a killing. Big players are in on the action.

Fashion-rental app Hurr Collective recently took a dive into bricks-and-mortar, launching a pop-up space inside Selfridges department store on London’s Oxford Street. For the next six months, the pop-up will rent out a shifting stock of some 200 items, from Gucci to Ganni, for four to eight days. The rise of this new “sharing economy” is a reaction to fast-fashion’s impossible to ignore waste problem: the UK alone threw away some €15bn worth of clothing in 2018, while global textile production is responsible for 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

Hurr isn’t alone. Last year the US department stores JC Penney and Macy’s launched secondhand clothing ventures, while last month Nordstrom’s Manhattan flagship unveiled “See You Tomorrow”, a luxury resale shop that sells secondhand goods. While the racks are partly populated by returns, shoppers can sell their own threads in exchange for shop credit. But to do so, items must be in “pristine”, “excellent” or “great” condition.

In in the world of fresh purchases it’s encouraging to see a push towards buying products to love and cherish. Buy less but better is a good mantra too.


I sent a rude email to the wrong person. What can I do?

Hide. Move country. Change your identity. Buy a fake beard (it can work, I believe, even for a woman). Or, better, apologise. The latter is a little old-fashioned but might be your best bet, unless you fancy a new life in the foothills of the Himalayas tending a flock of sheep. Ranting away on email about friends and colleagues is sadly a temptation we all encounter but then accidentally clicking “reply all” or, worse, sending it directly to the person you are bemoaning is an all-too-common occurrence.

And that’s why an apology can work. Because everyone has done it. Even the recipient. Suggest a meeting. Be brave. And in future, pause, save a draft, let the moment pass and then decide whether this is a wise missive to put your name to. And Mr Tiddly says that, with his catty disposition, he’s actually relieved that he cannot use a keyboard.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00