Saturday 7 March 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 7/3/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


It’ll never catch on

It’s Friday morning and I’m happily installed in the breakfast room of the Can Bordoy hotel in Palma de Mallorca. Out through the French windows the sun is hitting the lush foliage. It’s going to be 17C today – the first time in weeks that I won’t need a scarf. There’s some jazz playing in the background and I am hoping that the resident Afghan hound, Mr B, will come around soon. If you’ve put your northern-Italian skiing holiday on hold, I’d recommend this city. Stepping away from the rolling news is good for you – but... well, in Europe there’s some unease. People are questioning their travel even when there is no suggestion to stay put from anyone in the know.

Last night we went to a bar-cum-restaurant, La Rosa Vermutería, and as we managed to polish off rather a lot of verdejo and patatas bravas (who knew that a diet of wine and chips could be so delicious?). I got talking to another couple from the UK who explained that, along with their holiday looks, they had packed rubber gloves and masks. I looked around. The bar was packed with locals, visitors and lovers young and old, and life looked pretty normal. I imagined them sitting there in their medical gloves – would people think a pair of tipsy heart surgeons had nipped out mid-operation for a cava chaser? Even they now laughed at the thought.

At the airport we did see two or three British travellers in masks; one couple had found something that made them look like extras from the TV series Chernobyl. There was a funny plastic piece over their mouth that resembled the cap from a water bottle – perhaps they had found the instructions for a craft version of a mask that you can make yourself. Or snapped up something a bit homespun on Etsy. Anyway, they looked horribly self-conscious; not your natural early adopters.

And I understand. For every show-off early adopter who brags of wearing a look before everyone else, there are 10 people whose style bets go wrong and leave them hoping that no one was there taking pictures (bad luck). I gave up on early adoption long ago. And I blame my parents.

Now I admit that even at the age of 10 I had some unusual sartorial requests for my very conservative parents. There was the phase when I bugged them like crazy to buy me velvet trousers – why at 10 I wanted to resemble a pocket-sized Hugh Hefner I don’t know (although I did have a real pet rabbit). They refused.

Even when they did acquiesce to my fashion fads, my mother would normally take my clear shopping instructions and then add her own creative juices and end up purchasing something that was just odd. I organised a whole “I need a denim jacket” campaign at the age of 12. I am sure that I supplied photo references. My mother came home with something that, yes, was made from denim, but the material had been styled into a safari jacket, complete with gold-buckled waist. It was a silhouette that demanded a swagger that was half-pimp, half-colonialist – and, to be fair to me, I think anyone would struggle to pull that off. But I was sent to school, which had no uniform, wearing this number.

I am not sure what sort of figure I cut among my contemporaries back then (although, as my parents took more than enough pictures of me in a parade of outfits that resembled a psychotic fancy-dress fiesta, I have a pretty good idea). But somehow I got away with not being bullied.

However, I still shudder at the memory of the day that my mother gave me a purple cravat with a little gold toggle to keep it all in place. There was a practice run in front of my sisters who said nothing (never trust your sisters). But then – why, oh why – I wore it to school and from the looks I received I realised that I needed to fire my stylist (sorry, mum). I’d like to claim that, from then on, there were no style stumbles but the photo albums prove otherwise. Yet at least today, when I open the wardrobe, there’s a sea of comforting navy and grey. And, as yet, no masks.

Image: Alamy


Bright new dawn

Hong Kong woke up last weekend, looked out of the window and had the same idea: let’s head to the beach (writes James Chambers). Families and friends flocked to Repulse Bay and filled the restaurants along the beachfront. It was a similar scene across the harbour. Every patch of grass at the West Kowloon Cultural District’s Art Park was occupied by people playing music, flying kites, pushing prams, sitting in deckchairs and wearing sunglasses (not just to look cool); dogs eating ice cream are a sure sign that this pampered city is on its way to getting back to normal after being cooped up at home for a month.

Hong Kong was clearly in need of some collective fresh air and the city’s beaches, parks and hiking trails have been an invaluable outlet at a time when a lot of indoor facilities have shut their doors. Maintaining access to public spaces during a crisis is part of a broader debate about the privatisation of our cities; although that important topic can wait until Monday. The weather forecast for this afternoon is looking good and I’m already reaching for the sun cream.


Subs’ club

Many of our favourite news kiosks and airport magazine stands have been closed in recent weeks. And that’s never a good thing – indeed, for independent media companies such as Monocle, it’s a bad thing. That’s why we would love to have you as a subscriber (and your friends and colleagues). If you head to and do the business, we will be very happy to keep you informed, entertained and a little inspired for a whole year ahead. And furnish you with a Monocle tote too.


The illustrator man

Question: what does living in a commune in the 1970s have in common with an education from a prestigious art school? Answer: there’s a good chance that at both setups the teachers’ behaviour was influenced by mind-altering substances (and maybe some booze too).

At least that was the experience of our beloved Weekend Edition illustrator, Mathieu de Muizon. But his interesting life has left him well placed to depict the absurd behaviours encountered by Mr Etiquette (and his pal Mr Tiddly), add poise to The Look and even make the column at the top of this bulletin, by a certain Mr Tuck, stand out.

As the Monocle Weekend Edition has just celebrated its first birthday, we thought that we’d put the spotlight on de Muizon for once. We called him at his light-filled studio in Marseille and asked him for the secret of his endless creativity. Turns out it’s not anything he smokes or even a shot of absinthe (although he’s partial to a crisp cider) – just plenty of tea. Tea! Our editor’s views on tea drinkers is well known. (He’s not keen. Coffee is king.) But, well, even he says that he will put the kettle on for Mathieu. Well, just this once.


Justin Kurzel

Australians have wrestled with the story of Ned Kelly for generations. Was the legendary “wild colonial boy” of the 19th century a political revolutionary unjustly targeted by corrupt elites? Or was he a violent thug who faced the justice he deserved? The moral ambiguity of the bushranger is at the heart of True History of the Kelly Gang, the new film by Justin Kurzel, based on Peter Carey’s novel. Kurzel, who lives in Tasmania, here reveals his media habits, from going through the advertisements in the local newspaper to brushing up on a 1970s cinematic classic.

What news source do you wake up to?
I usually read The Age and then go to for an update on all the Australian rules football scores and news. Then I browse my father-in-law’s paper, The Mercury, on the kitchen table. It gives me all the local news about Tasmania and endless advertisements of dogs needing homes, which my girls keep insisting I act upon.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Really bad instant coffee is my rescue in the morning. I can’t be stuffed to brew a great coffee but I do spend 20 minutes stirring the creamiest scrambled eggs.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
Usually it’s a podcast I’m listening to. I seem to listen to a lot of [US comedian] Joe Rogan at the moment: he is good at leading you down the rabbit hole.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
It will always be what my 13-year-old daughters are humming. This morning it was a made-up song called “Canada Goose”.

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk?
Papers delivered. I like the regularity of it.

Four or five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
The only ones I read are on planes while waiting for the plane to take off.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser?
Subscriber. I love being able to flick through different publications quickly.

Do you have a preferred bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon?
Fullers in Tasmania is fantastic. One of my favourites is Foyles in London’s Soho. It just feels like a serious bookshop and I like that the staff have a kind of “I don’t want to sell you a book” vibe.

Sofa or cinema for the evening?
I’m trying to buy a projector at the moment for the house so maybe a bit of both. There is nothing like going to a great cinema by yourself and discovering a film that hits you in the face. I cherished those moments when growing up of never wanting the film to stop and feeling so down when you have to leave and go back to life outside.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched lately and why?
I’ve just watched Wake in Fright again. It’s an Australian masterpiece made in the 1970s by a Canadian that probably says more about Australia than any other film.

Sunday brunch routine?
Driving to our local bread maker on Bruny Island, who leaves bread in an abandoned fridge at the side of the road for the residents to buy. Warm homemade bread with a mountain of butter and local honey: it doesn’t get much better than that for brunch.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news?
Not any more. I wish I did. I loved sitting quietly with my dad every night to watch the news.

A favourite newsreader perhaps?
Alan Partridge.


Pulling punches

‘Lampedusa’, Steven Price. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s 1958 novel The Leopard is one of the most poignant books ever written about Sicily. Steven Price’s Lampedusa is the story of the writing of the historical tale – but mainly, it’s a story of the importance of creativity in times of adversity. Like his protagonist, Tomasi di Lampedusa is a man who lives in the past but being diagnosed with lung disease forces him to face a desire to leave a legacy for the future.

‘Hillary’, Hulu. Now that Super Tuesday has heated up the Democratic race, reminiscing about how things panned out four years ago (and whether they could have been any different) might seem like a painful exercise. But the much-anticipated four-part docuseries on Hillary Clinton promises to be more than a post-mortem of her presidential bid. Other than sifting through more than 2,000 hours of footage shot during her campaign and 35 hours of interviews, director Nanette Burstein traces Clinton’s life to make this a wider story of feminism – and the struggles of women running for office.

‘The Fight’, Overcoats. Fights can be invigorating things, in love and politics alike. Brooklyn-based electro-pop duo Overcoats know this very well, which is why their sophomore album is more powerful and optimistic than angry. Singer-songwriters Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell have struck a tight alliance: their bond shines through in their decision to always sing together in rousing harmony. Their drum-heavy electronic pop is the motivational kick up the backside that every grey morning needs – as the single “Fire and Fury” puts it: “Sky’s falling but we’ll get through it.”

Image: Kohei Take


New chapter

If you’re in Tokyo, visit the Tsutaya Tokyo Roppongi bookshop near the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Owner Culture Convenience Club is reopening its Roppongi branch today after a makeover. The premises, which spreads across two floors and is open from 07.00 to midnight, has almost doubled its inventory to 70,000 books and magazines, including 24,000 foreign-language titles, along with pens, notebooks and fragrances. We had a sneak peek and like its focus on design, fashion and art – run along with a fat wallet if you fancy the rare first edition of Farewell Photography by celebrated Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama from 1972 at ¥400,000 (€3,355). There is also a children’s section with 10,000 titles. Designed by Tokyo-based Klein Dytham architecture studio, Tsutaya has a lounge upstairs where you can kick back and browse books and magazines over coffee or a glass of wine. And don’t forget to check out our Monocle corner too.


Speaking up

Great Palm Island, part of an archipelago off the coast of Queensland, Australia, has experienced a sorry history. From 1918, Queensland aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were shipped here as prisoners by colonialists who had claimed their territory. It was only after receiving their own aborigine council in 1985 that the inhabitants were allowed provisional management of their affairs by the Australian government. The 3,000 or so islanders have been working to build a healthy community ever since.

Alongside running newssheets for two other aborigine councils and reporting for the Koori Mail (Australia’s national indigenous paper), Christine Howes edits the island’s biweekly newsletter The Palm Island Voice. “The first intention is to make sure that the council has a line of communication with the community,” she says. “The second is to shine a light on things on the island that unify people.”

What’s the big story this week?
The island has recently opened its first shopping mall. We’re featuring a few of the bidders there. One of them is a friend of mine – he’s planning on putting up a food outlet with lots of local recipes: fish and curry dishes. There’s also provision for a commercial gallery for local artists.

Do you have a favourite photo?
The ribbon-cutting photo on the front of the latest issue is great. You’ve got a politician, elders and school kids. They’re all in a row looking in different directions. It makes a great banner across the top of the page.

What’s your down-page treat?
We used to run a crossword that would use clues that were specific to the aboriginal community. For instance, one clue was, “What’s the word for Palm Islanders that starts with ‘B’?” It’s Bwgcolman.

What’s the next big event?
The current mayor is standing down so we will have a new mayor in the next month or so. But State Government laws mean that I can’t offer any opinions on this. And [Australian rules] football, of course – they love it here.


Should I shake hands?

Last week we noticed that at the end of several very pleasant meetings there was a certain reluctance when it came to the farewell handshake. We understand. While some people might argue that a fist bump is an acceptable alternative, or that a coordinated tap-kick of feet can replace the usual manoeuvre, we have decided that neither will pass muster.

We have contemplated copying the elegant bow used by our friends in Japan but feel that this cultural shift is not quite right either. So, for now, we will agree to hold back our handshakes; although Mr Tiddly is still going in for the paw-pat to the face. And, that, we have decided, is OK too.


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