Sunday 5 July 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Sunday. 5/7/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday


Great strides

A couple of months ago I embarked on a new physical (and mental) health regime that’s turned out to be rather transformational – and, no, it doesn’t involve a trampoline, a skipping rope or a virtual trainer on a beach in La Jolla. Following a week or two of aches, flash fevers and sore lower legs I visited the doctor and was promptly taken to a clinic in the hills above Zürich. After the rather unpleasant coronavirus nose probe (does that cardboard stick actually hit your brain when they stick it up there?) it was established that I didn’t have the latest export from Wuhan, so the doctors embarked on a series of other tests. After a couple of days of scans, probes, puffing and pulling of blood they decided it was time for a more invasive procedure and prepped me for a round of surgery. Having found a cluster of very inflamed lymph nodes and a large growth on the back of my right lung, the clinic’s head of pulmonology decided that he needed some biopsies and that the angry looking tumour needed to go.

The next day I was wheeled into a super-slick operating theatre (I’ve seen a few in my time) and had a quick chat about Italy with the hospital’s chief of pain relief. The next thing I knew I was being coaxed to sit up by a sweet yet stern Swiss nurse who was in charge of the post-op intensive-care unit. After three days of monitoring, the results came back from the lab and I was told that I had an acute case of Löfgren’s Syndrome – a form of sarcoidosis. The next morning I sat down with a couple of specialists and was given my marching orders – literally. “We’re hoping that this just runs its course and goes away. That’s the situation in about 70 per cent of cases,” said the doctor. “The problem is, we really don’t know much about this disease and we don’t get that many cases in Switzerland.”

I was then told that I was squarely in the target zone because of my Estonian roots (it seems that people from the Nordic region have a knack for contracting sarcoidosis) and that I was to return home, to rest and walk. “It’s very important that you slowly but steadily rebuild your lung capacity,” said the pulmonologist. “No more running for now, no stressing your lungs. So get out and explore the trails around the city.”

That very same day I started with a small walk around the neighbourhood and felt more than a little defeated. Although I’ve never been a competitive runner, a brisk 5K trot has long been part of my regime and a walk seemed somehow lacking in ambition. Three months later, my view has changed. My morning walk now lasts for anything from 60 to 90 minutes and has become much more of an urban hike, combining forests, cosy streets, peaceful cemeteries, frisky dogs and familiar, friendly faces. There’s something very positive to be said for groups of teenage boys walking to school who make an effort to look up and say “Grüezi” to everyone they pass – a fine Swiss tradition.

Two weeks ago a fresh round of tests indicated that my lungs sounded “completely normal” again and my inflammation levels were likely better than they were before I got sick. I’m also hooked on the new morning regime that finds me hitting the streets and trails. It allows for plenty of time to sort through the tangle of ideas from the night before, breathe in green scents and prep for the days, weeks, months and years ahead. Running will likely return in the autumn but it’s certainly not superior to an hour of hills, headstones and happy hounds, all enjoyed at a fast clip.


Toast of the town

The world was once divided into urban and rural: places where things were grown and others where they were enjoyed (writes Josh Fehnert). Today, though, the advent of city agriculture has given rise to a crop of vineyards that cling to hillsides overlooking towns or even vines on the top of skyscrapers. Our cheery, out-now July/August double issue of the magazine charts a few of our favourites, from Krems in Austria to Perth in Australia and an island in the Venetian lagoon.

Most unlikely, perhaps, is the winery in New York. “The city has its own microclimate,” says Devin Shomaker of Brooklyn-based Rooftop Reds. Along with his own bottles, Shomaker stocks produce and tipples from a range of New York State food folk, particularly from around The Finger Lakes, where he studied viticulture. He’s also working with producers in other cities to support them in their own high-rise enterprise, including one in Tokyo. “It’s not just about one rooftop that people can go to drink wine on,” says Shomaker. “Can we do 200 over the next 20 years?” We’ll drink to that.


Finding his groove

Transcending the worlds of fashion and music, Wolfram Eckert is bringing Austrian music into the spotlight (writes Nic Monisse). Famed for his eccentric dress sense and his brand of smooth electronica that’s perfect for the catwalk, the DJ and producer’s globetrotting schedule has been put on hold as he’s spent most of lockdown at home in Vienna. Here he reveals his penchant for Helmut Lang, herbal liqueur and a dog called Dima.

How are you handling all this extra time at home?
I studied art and digital media at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. I’m now focusing more on this – making audio-visual art, homepages and videos – than on making music.

Where do we find you this weekend?
I’ll be in Berlin. My art show at Krematorium Wedding with the gallery Ebensperger Rhomberg has recently opened. On 15 August we plan to do a proper closing party with me playing.

What’s the ideal start to a Sunday?
Waking up next to your loved ones and having a breakfast in bed with them.

Gentle start or a jolt?
Gentle start. I like to read the news, check my emails and some social media updates in bed, before making myself a coffee.

Soundtrack of choice for a Sunday morning?
Some shameless self-promotion here but during the pandemic I rediscovered some old music projects that I’d been involved in. I started to listen to Sally Shapiro’s Disco Romance again [which Eckert produced], which was released almost 15 years ago.

What’s for breakfast?
Just simple scrambled eggs – no bread or ham – and my daily banana shake, followed by espresso.

News or not?
News. Even if it’s not easy nowadays. I check the Austrian news page Der Standard.

Walk the dog or downward dog?
I would love to walk the dog but I don’t have one. However, I was lucky to spend my first two months of lockdown in Paris with a beautiful dog called Dima and I loved to walk him. It feels weird to say but I miss him and the walks a lot.

Some exercise to get the blood pumping?
Jogging through the parks of Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna.

What’s for lunch?
Something light without meat. I’m not vegetarian but I do try to eat as little meat as possible, although sometimes I’ll have fish for dinner.

Larder essentials you can’t do without?
I always have bananas and tea and coffee.

Sunday culture essentials?
Last Sunday I re-watched the film The Secret of My Success, with Michael J Fox. It’s silly but it reminds me of my childhood and has great music by the Swiss band Yello.

A glass of something you’d recommend?
Kalê – it’s my favourite Austrian herbal liqueur.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?
Vietthao in Vienna’s First District. It has the best Vietnamese cuisine in the city. I’ll order the pho.

Who will join you?
Hopefully all my friends. They’re a mixed crowd: some are painters or other artists and some don’t even have a real job. But as long they have good energy and we can share a good time, I’m happy and thankful to have them in my life.

Sunday evening beauty or betterment routine?
I’m a sleeping beauty, so straight to bed.

Would you usually lay out your look for Monday? What would you wear?
I won’t lay anything out but I’ll probably wear something by Helmut Lang pre-2004, when he was still designing the clothes.

A new outlook

While every season has its draw, it’s during the summer that St. Moritz’s crystalline lakes and lofty peaks offer a fresh perspective on the Swiss scenery typically associated with snowy pursuits.

On a hot day, there is nothing more liberating than a dip in the fresh waters of the Engadin lakes or finding new sights and sounds on a mountain ramble. The area lends itself perfectly to forest bathing, a particular kind of Alpine wellness practice based on experiencing the different senses in the outdoors. Read the full story in issue two of St. Moritz magazine.


Udon noodle curry with poached egg

The base of this beauty is dashi, a Japanese stock. It’s often made with bonito flakes, kombu (kelp) or dried shiitake. You can make it from scratch (recipe below), get it fresh at many larger shops or Asian supermarkets or buy it as a powder and add water. If you’re struggling with dashi then substitute chicken stock. We won’t tell anyone.

Serves 2

2 medium eggs
150g oyster mushrooms, torn into 1cm strips, or any other mushroom sliced into 1cm chunks
600ml dashi, you can substitute good-quality chicken stock
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp mild curry powder
2 tbsp arrowroot or cornflour
8 spring onions (green part) sliced into thin diagonal slices
500g frozen fresh udon or 200g dried udon

1. To make the poached eggs, bring water to a boil in a medium-sized pan over a high heat. When the water is ready, crack an egg into a small dish. Create a whirlpool of water with a wooden spoon, carefully drop the cracked egg into the middle of the whirlpool and turn down the heat to medium. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the egg white is set but the yolk is still runny. When the egg is ready, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain. Repeat with the other egg and set aside.
2. Heat a pan with the dashi over a medium heat. Add the soy sauce, sugar and curry powder, keep warm.
3. Heat a separate large pan with 2 litres of water over a high heat, bringing it to a boil. Then add the noodles, following the packet instructions for cooking. When cooked, drain the water.
4. While the noodles are cooking, add the mushrooms to the broth, cook for 2 minutes, then add the spring onion and cook for 1 minute.
5. Mix the arrowroot and 40ml water in a small bowl until there are no lumps. Add the liquid to the dashi broth and mix well. Simmer for 2 minutes until the broth thickens.
6. Boil water in a kettle and fill a bowl with the hot water, carefully transfer the poached eggs to warm them up for a couple of minutes.
7. Divide the noodles and broth between 2 bowls. Top with the poached eggs. Serve hot.

How to make fresh dashi (optional)
Makes: approx 800ml

1 litre filtered water
10g dried kombu/dried kelp
10g katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes; large flakes are preferable for dashi)

1. Soak kombu in the water for 2 to 3 hours or soak it overnight in the fridge.
2. Put water and kombu in a medium pot, place over medium-low heat and slowly bring it to just below the boil. Remove the kombu immediately (leaving it in boiling water results in slimy stock).
3. Bring kelp stock to a boil, add bonito flakes and turn off the heat. Set it aside for 10 minutes.
4. Strain dashi through a fine sieve.


Exclusive content

For three days starting tomorrow, a dazzle of exquisite gowns will sashay across our backlit screens. Paris’s Haute Couture week, the most rarefied of all the fashion galas, is staging its first digital edition. Maisons including Christian Dior, Chanel and Schiaparelli will present videos of confections that demonstrate what is possible when time and money are no obstacle (couture pieces, made by hand, typically take several hundred hours to complete and come with don’t-ask price tags). Couture shows are not the only ones to venture online – Paris’s menswear collections will do the same later this week. Yet the contrast between the pure, old-world craftsmanship of couture clothes, and the modern, impersonal nature of a digital screening seems particularly stark.

Some designers, though, see this as an opportunity rather than a concern. “Actually, I think it’s much more respectful to do a video showing the piece than it is to just put it on the runway, where you see it for two seconds,” says the Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz. Tomorrow he will release a short video that tracks the journey of a single couture dress, from sketch to finished masterpiece. “For me, it was much more rewarding to show it online than only in a fashion show, because you can see it much better,” he says, adding that he doesn’t think he’ll return to physical shows. The pandemic has forced brands to experiment with different ways of presenting collections, and couture week is one of the biggest tests so far. The question is: can a digital version generate the electricity and cut-through of its physical counterpart?


Good Things Café

When the world returns to normal I’m most excited by the prospect of visiting the casual, everyday places (writes Jamie Waters). Those are the spots that I’ve really missed. When I’m next in my hometown of Perth, for instance, I’m heading straight to Good Things, a small café on a sunbaked suburban street. It does great coffee and serves brunch with a twist, such as hot cakes with lemon curd and white chocolate cream, or red-pepper pesto with roasted pumpkin, fried eggs and roti.

Gourmet brunch is not unusual in Australia but Good Things is my spot. It’s a five-minute drive from my family’s house. When I’m home, I go most mornings with my sister and we solve the world’s problems over coffee and eggs. Sometimes I’ll return later in the day to read the paper. The service is friendly and you can always get a table outside in the sun. It also does burgers on a Friday night: beef with a special sauce or buffalo chicken.

On Christmas mornings my sister and I swing by the beach and then Good Things to pick up flat whites for the family (cafés open on Christmas Day in Australia). On my last trip home I bought a Good Things T-shirt and KeepCup. They’re currently on display in my London bedroom as a reminder of what awaits me in Western Australia once the world is back up and running.

Jamie’s order:

Dukkah pumpkin dish: red pepper pesto, bacon, crispy kale, roasted pumpkin, pecorino, dukkah, fried eggs, roti Cacao banana smoothie
Flat white (several)


Budding romance

You would be forgiven for thinking that lockdown in Toronto has, in one particular way, made me something of a basket case (writes Tomos Lewis). Don’t worry, my general wellbeing is fine, I promise, but I have developed one preoccupation in particular. My fixation is floral: the humble hanging basket. I began lockdown as spring eased into summer with one basket – a simple pot of luminous red geraniums, donated by a kindly neighbour. The collection has grown to a miscellany since then. There are 11 baskets now, each dangling from the perimeter of the porch at the front of my apartment, encasing the space in a fringe of flowers.

Every basket is different: in some are tiny, scallop-edged verbenas in red, baby pink and indigo; in another, white-and-purple striped petunias. The pink and purple pendulums of fuschias dominate one of the other pots, and buttercup-like blooms of orange, yellow and cerise flourish in in the remaining ones. If flowers could wither by fussing alone, mine are at great risk. The day usually begins before breakfast with a quick check-up, while a deadheading of the plants to allow fresh blooms to squeeze through is the morning’s main task. Days in lockdown might have been long and shapeless, and new routines hard to cement, but thanks to my blooms in their baskets it’s the flowers that have powered me through. Have a great Sunday everyone.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00