Saturday 28 March 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 28/3/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Points of contact

Face the facts
Why do younger colleagues love a video-conference call? Simple: when they get out of bed in the morning their faces don’t resemble an elephant’s backside. A very old elephant’s backside. And their tousled bed-hair at worst risks making them look a little goofy, while yours conjures up more of an image of a dog with mange. It is for this simple reason that I have spent recent years insisting that a simple phone call would suffice, thank you very much.

But along with many other certainties in life, this has all crumbled. Now every day starts with a video-conference call with the magazine team – we had 16 people beaming in yesterday. Followed by more for the bureaux in Asia and then the Americas. And, as a temporary patch to office culture, it’s pretty good. Plus there are lots of things about it that are amusing too.

Firstly, without anyone suggesting the protocol, it’s funny how everyone reverts back to the school classroom by putting their hands up to get attention. Although, I am pleased to say, everyone is punctual and no detentions have been issued just yet for fighting or throwing things at the teacher.

Then there’s the fact that everyone has been careful to choose their backgrounds – the idea seems to be to pick something that reinforces some design or art passion without letting anyone see your laundry. But nothing too contrived, mind. In short, there are a lot of framed posters for obscure architectural shows (hello Will Kitchens in Toronto), gallery exhibitions (managing editor Tom Reynolds sticks with a Hockney poster all week) and paintings bought on reporting trips (Ed Stocker in NYC) to be admired.

And pity Jamie, our fashion editor, who needs to make a dashing appearance every day to keep his reputation intact. Or Tom Edwards, our genius head of radio – and a nicely private man – who has taken a small group of us on a tour of his kitchen (he even received advice on how to perk up his ferns from our executive and pot-plant editor Josh Fehnert). But this is a patch: I miss the speed and efficiency of office life.

Oh, and the other reason I have succumbed is that I have just found a setting that lets you “touch up your appearance” for the call. I am definitely going to give that a go, although on a trial run I looked as though I’d got some dodgy botox doctor to do a home visit.

Up on the roof
The sun has been out all week in London, evaporating the melancholia of last week a little. And people are claiming abandoned bits of public space. I drive into the office one day for Monocle 24 and on the normally busy pavement outside our offices a dad has spread out a picnic blanket for his toddler to eat her lunch on, while around the corner someone is soaking up the winter sun on the street. And in my mews there’s lots of perfectly socially distanced life breaking out: a neighbour’s daughter climbs through a skylight to do her home learning on the roof. Another does yoga in the road. The empty city has been OK this week – even the vapour trail from a rare plane flying overhead is a thing that makes you stop and stare. Its strike across the sky is beautiful.

Clap stars
On Thursday at 20.00, as in many countries across Europe, people in the UK have been asked to come to their windows and clap to show appreciation for all that their healthcare workers are doing and enduring (see How We Live 02, below). We go up on to the roof terrace. And from every corner we hear a thunderous rumble – there’s even someone nearby blowing a trumpet. Not long ago we had Manchester University students claiming that clapping was discriminatory against deaf people and that it should be banned – “jazz hands”, they insisted, was the only solution. They’re wrong. Clapping is inclusive and glorious. This simple sound breaking the silence becomes a rallying call for the worried, the locked down and those on the frontline.


Back in business

We’re relaunching our business podcast The Entrepreneurs next week to help you navigate the choppy months ahead. If you run an enterprise and need advice on anything from branding and keeping a company culture intact to financial guidance, send your enquiries to and we’ll put as many as possible to our experts. The new show airs this Wednesday – listen live or subscribe at, Apple podcasts or on any podcast platform. And thank you to UBS for its partnership. Here to help.

Image: Getty Images


Show of hands

This week the UK became the latest European country to join in with a deceptively simple show of solidarity with frontline medical workers: clapping (writes Venetia Rainey). Whether you were on your front step, hanging out of a window or in your garden at 20.00 on Thursday you probably heard the sound of applause, plus a bit of whistling and whooping. It probably made your skin tingle a little. A similar thing happened last week in Athens where I’m currently based – my now almost-silent street erupted into a welcome few minutes of joyful noise as everyone took to their balconies (Athens is a city of apartments) to show their appreciation. It was surreal and very beautiful.

The #clapforourcarers social-media campaign in the UK was started by a Dutch Londoner who heard about it happening in the Netherlands and decided to organise something similar. But it began in Italy and Spain back on 15 March and has since spread across the continent, from Bulgaria to Portugal and Switzerland. In Paris it’s now a nightly event. Let’s hope that the habit sticks – not only is it great to show our support for those working to keep us safe, it’s also a welcome reminder for everyone stuck at home that they are surrounded by people going through exactly the same thing.


Too-casual employment

In recent weeks I have found that when I confront my wardrobe every morning, one of Karl Lagerfeld’s greatest and much-quoted zingers rings through my head: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants,” as the late designer said (writes Jamie Waters).

They are words to recall at the moment, when our living rooms have become our offices. Should you so desire, you can slouch about in pyjamas or sweatpants (or, for that matter, nothing at all) right now. But it’s important to make an effort. These are anxious, uncertain times, and looking pulled-together is a small yet important expression of resolve. Rather than admitting that we’re losing control over things by wearing sweatpants, as Mr Lagerfeld said, put on a brave face and good trousers – and get ready to tackle the day.

There’s a more practical aspect too: the rapid rise of video-conference apps means that at any moment your face might be about to pop up on your boss’s laptop. Do you really want them to think that you’re firing off emails in that gravy-stained sweatshirt? No. You want a nice knitted jumper (bright would be good) to pop on screen and give your colleagues something to smile about, as well as stretchy tailored trousers and some comfortable shoes – trainers or Birkenstocks are acceptable. Now, you’re ready to do some work...


Anna Careborg

Published daily in Stockholm, Svenska Dagbladet is one of Sweden’s most influential newspapers. Despite being partly subsidised by the government, its voice remains independent, offering coverage of national and international news. Anna Careborg joined the title as a reporter in 2004 and was appointed editor in chief in 2019. Here she tells us which French espionage drama is worth watching and why playing the piano helps her find calm.

What news source do you wake up to?
I wake up to our morning report from Svenska Dagbladet. I scan some Swedish news sources, such as Dagens Nyheter and Omni, which gives me an overview of all the news – national and international. Then I usually scan more international sites such as the New York Times and The Guardian, and read newsletters from Quartz and Schibsted, which collects media and tech news.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
On weekdays I have a ginger and citrus shot at home; I wait for the coffee until I get to the office. But my routine on the weekends is different. I like to drink a lot of coffee – several cappuccinos – and have a long breakfast. We recently bought a really nice Profitec espresso machine that makes a great cup of coffee.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
Spotify – but I rarely get the chance to listen to music nowadays; there are so many great podcasts that I find it difficult even to listen to all of them. I love music but I’m obsessed with journalism and podcasts and I have very little time, so I often choose words instead of music.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I never hum in the shower! It’s one of the best times for me to think. I tend to get lots of ideas in the shower. I know it sounds like I’m not a musical person, but I recently did buy a fantastic electronic Kiyola piano, hand-built in Japan. For me playing the piano is a great way to relax.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
I read our own [weekend supplement], Kulturmagasinet and Perfect Guide. And I also read our competitors’ magazines. Quite recently I’ve subscribed to [digital magazine app] Readly. I didn’t think that I would like it but actually it’s quite handy to have all the latest issues on my mobile. Digitally I’m also a big fan of the Atlantic magazine. I like its ability to find clever angles on huge topics. We have a deal with Atlantic at Svenska Dagbladet, where we translate one piece a month for our subscribers.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched lately and why?
One of my favorite series is The Bureau, a French espionage drama series. I like it because it is from France, I lived there for a while, and because it is really intelligent and addictive.

Sunday brunch routine?
The Sundays that I love the most are the ones when I have a lot of time; when breakfast can turn into brunch. I enjoy being with my family, read magazines or listen to an interesting podcast. With busy weeks, just to be able to finish a conversation and being at home is lovely.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? A favourite newsreader perhaps?
Not really, but I do screen the headlines of the national news. On Sundays I always watch Agenda, which is a Swedish political TV show.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
If I’m a bit tired, and want to doze off, I actually like to do some sudoku. Being surrounded by words all day makes it kind of nice to drift off to numbers.


Inward investments

‘The Bass Rock’, Evie Wyld. British-Australian writer Wyld’s passion for horror shines through in her choice of setting for this latest novel: the wind howls and the seagulls circle around the Bass Rock – a stark, uninhabited islet off the Scottish coast. It is within its surroundings that Wyld sets the stories of three women: one, in the 1700s, is accused of being a witch; another needs to adapt to a new domestic life in a strange village in the aftermath of the Second World War; while in the present day a third needs to clear out the family house after her father’s death. Remnants of the past help to bring the women closer, and these connections sustain them through their lives.

‘Il Processo’, Netflix. Like the best courtroom dramas – and many of the discussions that actually take place in tribunals – this Italian series hinges on the clash of two opposing takes on reality. During a trial for the murder of a 17-year-old girl, the public prosecutor and an ambitious defence lawyer fiercely fight their corners. Some might view the trial as an excellent career opportunity; others see the case as a game of Cluedo to be solved. But for all those directly involved, life will be forever altered by whichever version of the truth prevails.

‘New Me, Same Us’, Little Dragon. Despite having played music together since meeting at high school in Gothenburg and already having five albums under their belt, Swedish four-piece Little Dragon say that this is their “most collaborative record yet”. Each member’s inclinations were taken into consideration and the resulting album is suitably genre-bending but always energetic. After all, these are synth-pop songs about renewal and finding a new optimism after tough times. With its simple but soulful (and very danceable) beat, opener “Hold On” is the perfect tone setter.


Setting the standard

Don’t expect the Vermont Standard to be stymied by coronavirus (writes Will Kitchens). Despite floods, fires and tropical Storm Irene, which in 2011 swept the Woodstock-based newspaper’s offices into a nearby river, the Standard has reportedly never missed publishing a single edition since its founding in 1853. While the ongoing pandemic has forced the state’s oldest weekly newspaper to adjust – its latest issue is the first produced entirely remotely – it continues to pump out the type of reporting that has netted it multiple awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Editor Neil Allen, a 22-year veteran of the newspaper business, tells us how the Vermont Standard is serving Windsor County during an uncertain time.

What’s the big story making news this week?
The school board is making lots of news. It was discovered that some audits hadn’t been done for a couple of years and it now has a deficit of $175,000 (€161,000). Then there was a relatively small accident that ended up having a larger impact. Two tractor-trailers crashed and took out the front of a convenience store in one of our little towns. If it’s not able to open then that takes away a source to buy toilet paper and things like that [during the pandemic].

Your favourite headline?
There weren’t any interesting ones this week but a couple of weeks ago we had a crested caracara visit our area. It’s a falcon that’s native to Mexico but it managed to find its way to southern Vermont. So we had the headline “Bird is the word” because it was the talk of the town.

Best picture?
Because we can’t get into some places to get interesting pictures, we have depended more on people sending us pictures. The Woodstock Inn and Resort, which is the biggest employer in town, closed for the first time in a very, very long time. On Saturday morning, it took all of the fresh food that it had and had its staff come in to pick it up. Whatever was left over was donated. The picture with that was nice. It showed a business doing something for its staff when it can’t do very much at all for them.

What’s your latest down-page treat?
I wrote a story about one of our seniors’ centres. Before now, all the people delivering meals on wheels were 75 years or older and so they had to be told to stay at home because it’s not safe to be out. Apparently, it was really difficult to convince these folks not to do this for a little while. But 25 [younger] community members have stepped up to take their places temporarily. It’s been nice to see more community members stepping up.


Clicks not bricks

Monocle has always been a firm believer in the power of bricks and mortar but, with physical shops temporarily shutting, now is the time to support brands and vendors by heading online. Beyond e-commerce stalwarts, where should you direct your clicks?

If you’re after something from a big luxury brand, visit the e-shops of the French department stores. Paris’s premier physical retailers have ramped up their online offerings of late: 24S, the digital channel of Le Bon Marché, added a men’s section a couple of months ago, while Printemps launched its e-shop earlier this month.

If you’re in the market for smaller independent brands, start with the US-based Namu Shop, which sells a thoughtful selection of tough-to-find men’s and women’s brands from across Europe, Asia and the US; everything is shot so beautifully that, whether it’s a jacket from Korea’s Eastlogue or a dress by Japanese label Ichi Antiquites, you’ll end up with a bulging bag unless you exercise strict restraint.

Guys should also head to No Man Walks Alone, whose website features helpful product descriptions, high-quality visuals and brands from Italy to South Korea and styles from formal to casual. Women, meanwhile, can check out Doda The Store, a newly launched site by London stylist Grace Wright, which features accessories and jewellery by emerging designers.

Finally, Content Beauty & Wellbeing offers a bit of everything. The retailer, which stocks skincare, books, accessories and knitwear, has been around for a decade and is an industry leader when it comes to eco-friendly brands. A cosy Kowtow jumper and smart Eym candle will go a long way in times like these.;;;;;


Should I send a text?

No. Phone them. Around the world people are in lockdown and many are facing this time alone. And even those with cherished partners – yes, that’s you, Mr Tiddly – yearn to hear other voices. In the past few weeks I am happy to report that our phone has started to ring as never before; well, not since the 1990s. People need to talk.

Sure, some are still sending nipped texts and emojis but that really looks and feels a bit second rate at this time. We've even found ourselves agreeing to sign up to a video-conferencing app, which turns out to be jolly too. Voices matter – add yours to the comforting cacophony with calls to friends and neighbours.


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