Saturday 17 October 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 17/10/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Prop up the bar

Hold on tight, we’re going down the slide again. I’m not sure how your city is doing but it feels as though most of Europe’s metropolises are reeling from rising numbers of coronavirus infections. And that means “new measures”: curfews, tighter quarantines, everyone tucked up in bed early and no funny business either. In London, my hometown, we cannot now have people from other households in our homes (unless they are in the garden – if you have a garden) or meet them inside a pub or restaurant (you can sit outside in the rain). These measures have been introduced without any suggestion of when they might end. The new rules kicked in on Friday at midnight, although seeing as it was already illegal for a pub or restaurant to be open that late, I am not sure why they set the comedy cut-off time. So on Thursday, aware of what was about to vanish, I did something I rarely do: when I got home from work I went straight to the local pub with my neighbours.

The Duke is an architectural sore thumb: designed in 1937 and completed the following year, it is slotted in behind houses that were erected in the early 1800s. The pub was part of an ambitious project that also includes a small block of red-brick flats and offices, all in a late deco style. It’s what modern folk would call a mixed-use development. Somehow, over the years, it has avoided being made over. It’s pretty much as it was built and yet it doesn’t flaunt its historic status – it’s a boozer.

On Thursday, the four of us took up residence in one of the high-backed wood-panelled booths, ate crisps and drank. There were perhaps another 20 people in the pub – all with friends, all safely in booths, all being served at their tables.

There is no clever way out of this mess but I hope that The Duke makes it through what lies ahead. It certainly has some good precedents to draw on. The first landlord started serving pints just a year before the outbreak of the Second World War and carried on pulling them even when aerial bombardments took out neighbouring buildings. Many of his customers would have lost homes and loved ones. They would have pushed open the pub’s doors to seek companionship, perhaps to dull the worry, and no doubt to sometimes enjoy a rousing song or two. Hopefully those kindly ghosts are keeping a watchful eye now.

People talk about “the hospitality industry”, which makes it sound like some cold, bland trade. It’s not. Restaurants, bars and pubs host communities, allow for conversations, offer sustenance in times of trouble and in doing so keep people going. Now in London, Paris, Barcelona it’s the same story: places that have already shown extraordinary resilience being hit all over again and this time with limited financial aid. In the US it sounds even worse – a friend tells me that every place he frequented in Brooklyn is closed. But it’s the loss of the community service that these places supply that’s so terrible.

There are no simple answers; there is no way to dodge this. So even if it does involve standing in the rain, brolly in one hand, glass in the other, I realise that going to the pub is a mighty fine thing to do. By the way, isn’t it your turn to get the drinks in?


Parachute pants

Judging by my outfit of late, you’d think I’d turned into a cricketing sensation – just don’t throw a hard ball at me; it won’t end well (writes Jamie Waters). My favourite trousers of the WFH era are not track pants but a high-waisted, pleated pair of Margaret Howell slacks the colour of chalk. They’re smart enough that when I wear them it looks as though I’ve at least gestured towards making an effort. More importantly, they are supremely comfortable. They are so baggy ­– positively parachute-like – that if I were to wear them while jumping from a plane I’m sure I’d sink slowly through the stratosphere. There’s almost zero fabric-to-skin contact. It’s all slouchy and breezy.

One major effect of the lockdown on dressing will be a widespread allergic reaction to anything that’s not super comfy. That means no tight tops and certainly no skinny jeans (thank god). This continues a movement that was already happening in menswear. Over the past two years, roomy painters’ trousers have been strolling into wardrobes, kicking out cigarette-thin Hedi Slimane facsimiles and shrunken Thom Browne suit trousers.

We’ve embraced big slacks many times before. In the 1930s Edward VIII favoured a high rise and a wide cut, while in the 1940s and 1950s, matinee idols including Cary Grant and James Dean were supremely elegant in billowing cotton numbers (and you thought Dean only wore T-shirts and jeans). Yet it was in the 1980s that slacks really swelled. The band Kid Creole and the Coconuts popularised the zoot suit, an ensemble of wide, cropped proportions popular among Latino and African-American communities. That same decade (and into the 1990s), Comme des Garçons’ Paris runways regularly featured boys in baggies with about as much fabric as a circus tent.

Now, as then, insouciance is in. You could still look to Comme – or, for something more understated, try San Franciscan Evan Kinori’s workwear versions. Just make sure you tuck in whatever’s on top so that the full trouser silhouette is on show, in all its pleated, bloated balloon-like glory.


A woman for all seasons

Suzan-Lori Parks was the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer prize in drama, which she clinched in 2002 for her darkly comic script, Topdog/Underdog. Also recognised by the MacArthur Genius award, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Ford Foundation, Parks is the current writer and executive producer for National Geographic’s documentary series Genius – a set of writing accolades that add up to a CV longer than the average arm. Here she talks about water with a splash of vinegar, the Queen of Soul and the somnolent effects of New York City traffic.

What news source do you wake up to?
I meditate for 20 minutes first thing. That’s my “news feed”. Especially these days, when the traditional news sources can be so toxic, I find it helpful to start my day with quiet and compassionate focus.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
Warm water with a splash of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar. Then my husband, Christian, makes me coffee. We used to enjoy something called “Muckefuk”, which is a sort of tasty coffee-ish concoction, but now we’re drinking the real thing.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I don’t appreciate that Spotify underpays its artists. What a drag, right? I’m a songwriter so if I want to hear music in the morning, I play some of my own songs. During the pandemic I started learning the fiddle and playing that; sometimes I play scales with our son, Durham. He plays the violin for real.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I’m always writing something in my head; either a song or a scene. And I’m more of a bubble bath person. You’ve heard the story of Archimedes jumping from the bath, running naked through the streets yelling, “Eureka! I’ve found it”? Well, I feel like the bath helps me ruminate too.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
Here are some of my go-to choices: Mojo, The Root, The Believer, The Paris Review, Yoga Journal, Mother Jones, Architectural Digest and Acoustic Guitar.

Newspaper that you turn to?
I like The New York Times. I also like having conversations with all types of people; having real human connections, discovering what’s impacting folks and hearing from their mouths how their lives are going. For my news, I rely on more than one source.

Favourite bookshop?
In New York City I love the Strand, Three Lives & Company, Housing Works Bookstore, The Lit Bar and, of course, Revolution Books on Malcolm X Boulevard. In Los Angeles? I’ve got to send some love to Eso Won Books, Book Soup and The Last Bookstore.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
No. It’s the voice of my muse. I’m always tuning in to her. But two great podcasts are: On Being with Krista Tippett and The Michelle Obama Podcast.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
The Boondocks, Lovecraft Country, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Bob’s Burgers, Atlanta, Insecure, Downton Abbey and Lakers basketball games with my son.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
James Baldwin. I knew him back in the day as he was my creative writing teacher. Also, these days I’m all about Aretha Franklin. Her music, politics, style, love life and her wonderful connection to her family. Why am I obsessing about the Queen of Soul? Well, I’m the head writer and executive producer of season three of National Geographic’s Genius, which focuses on Aretha Franklin. I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to create a joyous, relevant and impactful show during these challenging times.

And what’s your movie genre of choice?
I love a good romcom. Even the over-the-top, ridiculous ones. Bridget Jones had me at “hello”. I also love great art house films like City of God and Roma. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love and Basketball is a great one. Also, Ava DuVernay’s work is incredible. Liesl Tommy’s work is fantastic and I’m really excited to see her film Respect.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? A favourite newsreader perhaps?
I don’t sit down to watch the nightly news but I’m often tuning into NPR and the BBC for news because they go deeper than the headlines.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
New York City traffic and the city’s very vocal street personalities tend to lull me to sleep.


Labour of love

‘Rocks’, Sarah Gavron. The most radical thing about this coming-of-age story is not its gritty east London, council-flat setting or that its main characters are all teenage girls but how gut-wrenchingly real it feels to watch. Alienation and despair, as well as sweetness and hope, are portrayed with a sense of natural ease by the young ensemble cast supporting lead actress Bukky Bakray, who plays Rocks, a 15-year-old girl who arrives home from school to find that her mother has vanished, leaving her to look after her younger brother.

‘Dark Hearts’, Annie. Norwegian singer Annie is back with a new album after an 11-year break. In Dark Hearts, she applies her beautiful, icy vocals to some incisive lyrics. This album also sees her working with Swedish producer Stefan Storm, of Sound of Arrows fame, for the first time. They recorded the album in an (allegedly) haunted country house – which suits the record’s atmosphere perfectly. Our highlights? The pure pop perfection of track “Dark Hearts” and the nostalgic and poignant “Forever ’92”.

‘The First Woman’, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. Opening in 1970s Uganda, this is a bold tale about a young girl named Kirabo (the “Eve” of Ugandan mythology), who lives with her grandparents. What begins as questions Kirabo asks about her absent mother soon turns into a much broader, bigger struggle to understand her place in the world and have her voice heard in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society.


Patchy outlook

As an unincorporated US territory in the West Pacific, Guam (population 170,000) is the closest destination for Asians in search of US culture. Beautiful, tropical and of strategic importance, the island has two major industries – the military and tourism. Sunny boulevards, hearty food, luxury clothes outlets and a route to US citizenship make the island a desirable package, meaning many migrants who come for fixed-term work contracts end up staying a good deal longer.

“I had one year on my contract and I’m still here now,” says Mar-Vic Cagurangan, a Filipino who came to Guam to write for Marianas Variety (now the Guam Daily Post) in 2003. Today, she edits and publishes the Pacific Island Times, which she launched with two partners in 2016. The others have since left the paper and Cagurangan remains the only full-time journalist at the title, which circulates among 5,000 people each month and has a popular news website. Here, she tells us which way the winds are blowing on her Pacific patch of sand.

What’s the big news?
The Guam Chamber of Commerce has been clashing with the government recently; it has organised a community rally to demand the government provide a long-term recovery plan. We are living day-to-day off handouts from the US federal state but if we stop receiving this money then there is no clear strategy. We have no homegrown industry to rely on.

Do you have a favourite headline?
“Where is the egg’s mother?” This is from a column written by someone from Chuuk, a state of the nearby Federated States of Micronesia. Many Chuukese have been trying to learn English and he tells the story of a woman who had gone shopping in an English-speaking store. She’d forgotten the word for “chicken” and instead, to signal what she wanted, she pointed to an egg nearby and said: “Where is the mother?”

What’s your down-page treat?
We have a travel section on the back page of the paper. It’s not about a place but instead it’s always about the writer and her travels, often relating funny anecdotes. We published a “wardrobe malfunction” story recently, for instance – she accidentally let her breast slip out because she hadn’t tied her bikini top properly. She was mortified! Silly things like this.

What’s the next big event?
The next cover story involves a bit of speculation about what will happen to Guam. It’s very hard for us to say where things will go – the US money we’re receiving now will end on 31 December. It’s not clear where we will find our money after that.


Star attraction

“Icon” is a word used to the point of meaninglessness. But Jeanne Moreau more than qualifies: her face and femme-fatale persona became symbolic of 1960s New Wave cinema and more widely of French style from the 1950s through to her death in 2017 (writes Genevieve Bates). Orson Welles declared her “the greatest actress in the world” and Patti Smith described her as “a barbed wire fence on fire”. This weekend, fans and cinephiles should check out Artcurial’s online-only auction of the Jeanne Moreau Collection, a tribute sale comprising nearly 300 lots coming largely from the artist’s wardrobe.

And if you’re in Paris you can view the collection, which is on show at Artcurial until 22 October. As well as museum-worthy jewellery and clothes from Moreau’s 1960s heyday, there are more recent pieces for sale, such as a fresh-looking Chanel dress that she wore to the Cannes film festival in 2003, and prints of photographs taken by the many snappers who considered her a muse. They include greats such as Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, Cecil Beaton, Bettina Rheims, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Agnès Varda and Slim Aarons.

A love of art and literature defined Moreau’s life and was at the root of her relationship with film-makers – from Louis Malle and François Truffaut to François Ozon – and fashion designers, including Coco Chanel and Pierre Cardin. So it is fitting that the sale will benefit the Jean Moreau Foundation, which supports the creative arts with a particular focus on making the theatre and cinema more accessible to children. Part of what makes Moreau’s image so compelling on screen and in photos isn’t merely her beauty or her ability to make us swoon just by lifting a cigarette to her lips – but that her appeal is rooted in her seriousness and dedication to art. Iconic indeed.


Fast fashion

Mallorca’s mountainous scenery, flat rocky planes and expansive views of the Mediterranean Sea have helped make it a pilgrimage site for bike enthusiasts from all over Europe – some 250,000 came last year (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). Yet Briton Paul Skevington, who relocated to the Balearic island in the summer of 2015, saw that even as the two-wheelers came in their droves, the cycling mecca remained without a true uniform for its disciples.

Cue Parietti, Mallorca’s first and only cycling-attire brand, co-founded by Skevington in the island’s capital, Palma, last year. Named after the civil engineer Antonio Parietti – the brains behind the island’s scenic, winding mountain roads – Skevington intends the high-end kit to serve as a kind of homage to the patch he now calls home.

The range, currently just a base layer and jersey, will feature relaxed silhouettes as opposed to tight-fitting and streamlined, which Skevington says suits the climate and easy island vibes. “I want you to still look good having a beer after a ride,” he says. The jersey design also incorporates Mallorca’s traditional ikat weave patterns, which the brand collaborated on with a textile manufacturer on the island.

Factories in Spain and Italy keep Parietti’s production close to home. And by opting for high-quality fibres made from recycled plastic bottles, each item even helps clean up the surroundings. “We wanted to show a little deference to the environment we’re making these in,” says Skevington, detailing a slow-and-steady production plan for a handful more items next year. “After all – it is beautiful here.”


Is it OK to tell people that I’m worried – all over again?

Oh dear. Mr Etiquette and Mr Tiddly were curled up on the sofa the other night after a particularly energising game of find the stuffed mouse (once again he had managed to drop it behind a chest of drawers which then had to be manoeuvred with brute force – and at the personal risk of a slipped disc – in order to retrieve the damned thing) when you came mind. Mr Etiquette thought you might be fretting. Look, these spiky covid numbers can make for anxious reading and a feeling of “Will it be OK?”. Of course you can express these woes to anyone (although, if calling Mr Etiquette, please allow some time for him to pour a large glass of red). But here’s an idea that will bring you some calm and do some good too. Turn the tables. Phone people who you know are alone and offer a friendly ear; call in at your local pub, restaurant and coffee shop and lend them your support – hopefully in the form of some money well spent. Hear other people out. Like our editor, Mr Etiquette visited several establishments last night to offer his support and showed some incredible dedication to the cause. Possibly too much dedication judging by his dusty head this morning. But it’s the way ahead – share some love, keeping marching on.


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