Saturday 21 November 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 21/11/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday



1. Off you go
It’s early morning at Midori House and I’ve managed to get in before anyone else for once. It’s the first still moment for days. This week the team sent Konfekt, a new quarterly title aimed mostly at our female constituents, to press. It was a whirlwind that brought back memories of making issue one of Monocle in 2007. A magazine launch needs determination, a willingness to let go of stories that have taken their toll on you but have not quite made it past the finishing line, at least one standoff, some guts and dinner in the office. But now it’s all out of our hands and the wait begins for a box of advance copies to return here from the printers in the coming days. That’s another memory of Monocle’s launch – the first box being ripped open, pages being flicked, paper caressed. We even had a photographer on hand to record the moment. God we look young. But now I wonder, do I remember the moment or does the photo cause me to?

2. False memory
Judging by the number of people discussing it, The Crown must be delivering epic audiences for Netflix. Even in an age of on-demand viewing it’s a show that has created that water-cooler moment, when people unpack a programme’s twists and revelations the next day at work. The Monocle office is no exception – even if we don’t have any water coolers (for proof, see The Look, below). And while crusty royal commentators have been harrumphing across the British press about the terrible inaccuracies – that’s not the way Prince Charles would kiss his mother! He never had that medal! They only eat Battenberg cake on a Wednesday! – nothing they vent about has any impact. We are hooked by the glorious storytelling. And so, with every passing day, The Crown’s edit of events re-engineers our memories. Its version of history is bedding in as the truth. “I had forgotten how badly the royal family treated Diana,” said a friend the other day. “That part where the Queen refuses to hug her is so awful.” I pointed out that the scene was imagined but she insisted, “I’m sure that’s exactly what would have happened.” Memory, history and fiction are all being stirred together with delicious effect and it will be hard for viewers to ever recall how they used to feel about these events, these people. Or even to remember that this was not a history programme.

3. Zoom out
Boris Johnson is languishing in self-isolation after spending time with an MP who subsequently was diagnosed with coronavirus. Mr Johnson has clearly decided to use his lockdown time to undermine video conferencing and to make everyone yearn for a return to the office – for their old life at the water-cooler. In a series of genius appearances he has looked forlorn, like an old dog, far from the action. I don’t know who his new advisors are but they are doing wonders for the return-to-the-office push that the nation will need this spring. I hear he might do the next Prime Minister’s Questions sessions from bed in his pyjamas and Wee Willie Winkie nightcap. Go Boris.

4. Birdseed for brains
Now that the temperature has dropped and the trees have shimmied off their leaves, I decided it was time to refill the bird feeders on our small rooftop garden. Some 10 minutes after the grand replenishing I happened to glance out of the window and there, waiting in the branches of the silver birch, was an excited flutter of various finches and tits jostling for their turn on the premium-select nuts and seeds. How did word spread so fast? Have they had a feathered mate keeping watch all autumn, anticipating this moment? I don’t know for sure but, somehow, a chirped-out message had spread around the ’hood along the lines of, “The plant-based restaurant that we used to frequent last winter has reopened and it’s offering as much as you can eat – for free!” I admit that’s quite a detailed message for an old-school tweet but how else did they move so fast? Anyhow, I am happy to see them back at Chez Tuck Nuts and they will be well catered for in the weeks to come. Thanks for remembering.


Double whammy

Next Thursday the bumper December/January issue of Monocle hits newsstands around the world. We wrap the year (and kick off the new one) with our annual soft-power survey, sit down with the Swiss president, and visit a rustic Alpine town experiencing a revival. Of course, if it feels a little too chilly to venture outside, then you can get your issue direct to your door by joining us as a subscriber. Simply head to



The Crown returned for a fourth series this week, picking up the story of the British royal family in the late 1970s (writes Lewis Huxley). And while much of the focus for fashionistas has been on the dresses worn by Emma Corrin, who plays Lady Diana Spencer, the Netflix drama also has a more subtle sartorial attraction: the double-breasted jackets of the Prince of Wales, portrayed by Josh O’Connor (pictured with Olivia Colman).

At that time, Charles was an arbiter of style as a result of his preference for the relaxed silhouettes of Anderson & Sheppard. The Savile Row tailor’s “English drape” is a roomy cut that gives the illusion of a larger chest and lends its wearer a certain insouciance. The heir to the British throne wore double-breasted suits everywhere – and he still does – seeing it as his duty to promote the UK’s tailoring. And though the clothes on The Crown are immaculate, the real prince’s nonchalant combinations saw him labelled in his youth as a “shabby” dresser – enough to appeal to many a rebellious rake.

This style is somewhat anachronistic now but can still work. For my wedding last year I wore a charcoal double-breasted two-piece. Conservative enough to ensure that my bride was the centre of attention, it also enhanced my frame and was – as all good double-breasted garments are – supremely comfortable. But perhaps most importantly, it was distinctive enough to guarantee that none of our male guests would wear anything similar. Thanks to The Crown, future grooms might not be so lucky.


Movable feast

Given that I’m Australian, it might seem a little odd that American Thanksgiving is one of my favourite days of the year (writes Nic Monisse). My partner’s family is from the US, and for the past few years I’ve enjoyed a holiday built around big meals with few commercial frills. But it’s a celebration that’s slowly being eaten into by my least favourite calendar entry: Black Friday.

Once a one-day sales event, it has in recent years transformed into a week-long global shopping extravaganza that, in the US, now starts on Turkey Day itself. The result? People skip pudding with their loved ones to fight each other in shopping aisles (or this year, refresh their browser online) for dramatically reduced flat-screen televisions and obscenely cheap food processors. Retail staff are also forced to work through what should be a day off, one spent with family and friends. Which begs the question: what’s the point in having a holiday if no one’s around to celebrate it?

Cycling brand and retailer Rapha has come to the same conclusion. Not only will it be closing shops this Friday but it will also be encouraging its staff (and their friends) to hop on their bikes and ride as many miles as possible. As an added incentive to spend time on the saddle and not in the shop, if a million miles have been collectively clocked on the day the brand’s foundation will donate £120,000 (€134,000) to charity. For me, it’s not only a step towards reclaiming the holiday – one that other brands would be wise to consider – but some added motivation to work off the turkey.


Press day

Publishing industry veteran Kristina O’Neill has made her mark on New York. Working on the editorial boards of New York Magazine and Time Out New York before assuming tenure as executive editor of Harper’s Bazaar – a post she held for more than a decade – O’Neill then became editor of WSJ Magazine in 2012. She has since directed the monthly lifestyle magazine’s major shift towards round-the-clock reporting with its bumped-up digital output. Here she tells us about her daily diet of morning newsletters, green tea and drama with a side of tissues.

What news source do you wake up to?
The first thing I do is check my text messages. I have a few threads with friends that run the gamut from politics to gossip, full of links, Instagram grabs and wry analysis. Then I open my email to scan my morning newsletters. I subscribe to a tonne: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Wear Daily and the Business of Fashion.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
I quit coffee a few years ago and now drink a steady stream of green tea, all day.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
FM, never. I occasionally plug into my boyfriend’s or my daughter’s Spotify playlists. They have way better music taste than I do. Mostly I listen to NPR – morning, noon and night.

What’s that you’re listening to in the shower?
I’m usually in the shower during Morning Edition on NPR. If I’m running late, it’s the BBC’s Newshour.

What’s in your weekend sofa-side stack?
Weekend reading is mostly newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the FT, as well as their affiliated magazine offerings. I keep up with all the fashion mags, especially ones edited by my friends: Laura Brown’s InStyle, Sara Moonves’s W and Samira Nasr’s Harper’s Bazaar. I also love my pal Kerry Diamond’s Cherry Bombe. I keep up with the Shelter Island Reporter too. Online I read The Washington Post. But daily, it’s The Wall Street Journal app and the occasional Daily Mail skim.

Favourite bookshop?
Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

What’s the best thing you've watched on TV recently?
Hands down, I May Destroy You. It shook me to my core. I was mesmerised by Michaela Coel’s bravery and boldness. Nothing else has really compared. But recently I did binge The Queen’s Gambit and a Swedish show called The Restaurant. On election night I watched Emily in Paris in tandem with the results rolling in on cable TV as a distraction. It worked.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
Michaela Coel, who I’m thrilled is one of our eight WSJ Magazine Innovators this year.

And what’s your movie genre of choice? Bring on the drama with a side of tissues, please.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? I will sometimes watch MSNBC or CNN if I must.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? NPR on my Alexa while I’m washing up.


Trip hazard

‘No Man’s Land’, Hulu. This new drama tells the story of a Frenchman who heads to war-torn Syria after he thinks that he sees his missing sister on TV in the background of an unsettling news report. Once there he accompanies a group of female Kurdish fighters as they travel through Isis-occupied land with interesting results. The militia exists to intimidate Isis fighters, who believe that they will go to heaven if they die in battle – unless they are killed by a woman.

‘Leave the World Behind’, Rumaan Alam. In this chilling novel, a middle-class white couple from Brooklyn head out of the city to spend a week in a luxury rental on Long Island, accompanied by their two teenage children. On the second night, the wealthy black owners of the house unexpectedly turn up on the doorstep. The whole of the East Coast has suffered a blackout, they explain, and Manhattan is in chaos. What begins as a comedy of manners, dissecting white privilege and prejudice, spirals into a convincing apocalyptic nightmare.

‘Hey U X’, Benee. New Zealander Benee made it big internationally with the single “Supalonely”. Now the young popstar regales us with her first full-length album, charting some new terrain that ranges from ballads to funky dance tracks. Opener “Happen to Me” is melancholy but the mood veers immediately into breezier territory with “Same Effect”, while there’s plenty of edge to “Sheesh!”, Benee’s collaboration with Canadian polymath Grimes.


Strait talking

A Japanese island on the Tsushima Strait, Iki is home to 26,000 people who roam its grassy hills and fish off of its tranquil shores. The landmass has been inhabited for millennia, with traces of human settlement dating back as far as the Japanese Paleolithic era more than 12,000 years ago. By comparison, Iki’s newspaper Iki Shinpou can only attest to a relatively youthful 100 years of pedigree. With 2,600 copies circulated every week, a century has been plenty of time for the four-page periodical to earn its place in the islanders’ hearts. Covering community events and local affairs, the editorial team of three have Iki’s remit covered. Here, the paper’s editor Eiji Ono tells us a little more about what’s causing a stir on this ancient isle.

What’s the big news?
A civil dispute has been unfolding. Some houses on Shingonourako Road have been facing subsidence issues because the prefecture that built the road didn’t conduct a proper survey on the surrounding buildings. The residents discussed the issue with the council many times but made no progress. The latest news is that this summer a lawyer accepted a lawsuit filed by the residents against the government department that was in charge of the construction. Nine years on from the completion of the road, the case has finally started moving toward resolution.

Do you have a favourite picture?
It’s a happy snap of 200 Iki residents who turned 60 this year, celebrating with their old school friends. In Japan a coming-of-age ceremony is common enough when people turn 20 but a public event to celebrate the age of 60 is rare. Here we do it every year to mark the beginning of residents’ second lives.

What’s your down-page treat?
We ran a story about a lovely event as part of the Shimagoto Art Festival at the Ikikoku Museum in Iki city. The city’s TV station did a special broadcast of its popular music show, where they play oldies from the Shōwa era [before 1989] on vinyl. The show provided selections from its 3,000-strong record collection and fans also brought records from home.

What kind of challenges do you face running a newspaper in Iki?
We publish weekly in Iki but do the printing in Fukuoka city on the mainland. When ferries are cancelled due to typhoons or strong winds, publication is delayed. So we’re constantly checking the weather forecast. We have to bring the deadline forward when the arrival of a typhoon is likely to coincide with the sales date.


Norse majeure

When it comes to modernist furniture, nobody does it quite like the Scandinavians (writes Hester Underhill). From Poul Henningsen’s Artichoke pendant lamp to Arne Jacobsen’s Seagull chair (pictured), many of the most era-defining pieces of mid-century Nordic design are about to go on sale at French auction house Artcurial. On Wednesday, the French auction house’s Scandinavian Design sale opens with 134 lots, which also include a pair of Ananas stools by Aulis Leilonen (going for an estimated €1,000) and a rare prototype of Poul Kjaerholm’s 1952 Bowstring chair (expected to fetch at least €120,000).

What makes these pieces a solid investment? “Prices are rising year after year,” says Aldric Speer, Artcurial’s Scandinavian design consultant. “Over the past five years or so this kind of piece has become very trendy. But when I started collecting 20 years ago you could go to flea markets across Scandinavia and pick up amazing bits of mid-century furniture for next to nothing.” With pieces including Alvar Aalto’s 1937 birch serving trolley and Paavo Tynell’s Snowflake chandelier, the forthcoming sale has a particular focus on Finnish works – Speer’s favourite of the Nordic countries. “Swedish design is about heritage, Danish is about craftsmanship. But for the Finns, design is more rooted in nature,” says Speer. It’s a quality that Speer believes gives the country’s creations an inimitable, almost meditative aspect. To the Nordic design aficionados among us: pick up your paddle and get bidding.


About time

Swiss watch-maker Jaeger-LeCoultre pays homage to its 187-year history in a new exhibition, The Sound Maker, which launched in Chengdu this month (writes Nina Milhaud). Showcasing rare watch models, documents and artefacts alongside specially commissioned artistic pieces, the exhibition also explores the enchanting noises that watches make. A “sound sculpture” by Swiss contemporary artist Zimoun is the highlight of the show, a striking composition making use of almost 2,000 watch parts.

The installation produces an immersive flickering soundscape that was inspired by the noises of the Vallée de Joux, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s home in the Jura Mountains. “I was hooked by the sound [of ticking], like the soft sound of rain,” says Catherine Rénier, chief executive officer of Jaeger-LeCoultre. “As you get closer, the movement of the metal is mesmerising. Every angle gives a different feeling and invites you to stop, enjoy and listen.” Presented at the Guangdong Hall in Chengdu until Sunday, The Sound Maker will later travel to Paris and be showcased throughout March.


Should I mediate between squabbling friends?

Nobody envies the middleman in a dispute. Mr Etiquette recalls a recent disagreement between his dear friends Miss Bawdy and Mr Sanctimonious – suffice it to say that a joke, though admittedly uncouth, was taken very much the wrong way.

Mr Etiquette is an obliging fellow and, as such, set out to pacify by explaining the various pros and cons of each argument to either side. And indeed he made some headway. Miss Bawdy nodded along at suggestions to consider time and place more carefully when mentioning certain, ahem, unsavoury acts; and Mr Sanctimonious eventually acquiesced to the simple notion of levity. In theory at least. However, in practice the two sparked up another row at the next opportunity, by turns even ruder and more supercilious than the last. And so Mr Etiquette was faced with a decision to either continue in his attempts to mollify or give it up. Sadly, the latter won out.

Although it’s always commendable to seek resolution, in some cases personalities are simply destined to clash. Attempting to smooth over the squabbles of others might only add fuel to the fire and tire you out in the process. Instead, take a leaf out of Mr Tiddly’s book. Lounging supine on the sofa, furry stomach upturned, is sometimes more effective than lifting a finger at all.


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