Saturday 26 December 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 26/12/2020

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Peace of mind

While all the focus is on the joys of Christmas Day (or Eve, depending where you reside in the globe) or having a knees-up on New Year’s Eve (restrictions permitting), perhaps the best part of this time of year starts today. You know that it’s true: the bit between those two big days can be the most rewarding. Even in our overconnected world, even with a bit too much news swirling, these are days when people desist from rattling out the emails and when you can hopefuly, finally, take stock. It’s a time to start thinking about what you want to kick into play when this year flickers and fades, and a new one arises on the horizon. And you’re not expected to be sporting a party hat.

For many, this clearing in the forest of seasonal events is going to be particularly important in 2020. Look, it’s not my job to give you a pep talk but I will anyway. If you have made it to here, then well done. If you have taken some knocks and are still standing, double well done. This year has been a challenge and, although many of us have friends and contacts who have seemingly sailed through the choppy seas with ease, others have not – jobs lost, careers derailed. Yet even they seem reluctant to give themselves a break; to acknowledge how difficult, how painful, how plain weird this period of their lives has been. Feeling a bit exhausted? Really, that’s not surprising. This is a year that people will be talking about for a long time. That’s a chunk of history you have just played your part in.

When I was growing up, Boxing Day was always reserved for a drive to the blustery coast. Before we headed off, flasks would be filled with soup, and chunks of bread were filled with the leftover turkey. Sometimes the weather would be so miserable that the entire picnic was consumed in the car. Windows steamed up. Rain lashed the roof. But usually there was a break in the clouds and we would walk – always further than me and my sister thought was appropriate for our age (there might have been some moaning at the back of the pack). It was the start of a reset. And now, years later, I still love this day. If it involves dogs, wellingtons and a muddy hike to a pub, all the better. It’s a day that needs a hike of some variety in the mix.

At Monocle we try to leave each other alone (while secretly thinking up numerous projects for when we return that will keep everyone busy). We allow this resetting to happen out of sight. The fuel tanks need to be edged back to full. When you glance at your email inbox during the first few days after Christmas you actually wonder if the server is down – you press refresh a few times on your phone before realising that actually you don’t have hundreds of unanswered missives. Although this year the news team have been kept busy throughout.

We all need a break. Your mind starts working with refreshed clarity. Lists are made – for me it’s stories to cover, projects to start (and finally finish). And personal lists are made too – even now, you can dream a bit in this quiet valley of December. This year the lists of dreams and ambitions for 2021 might be longer than usual after so much was put on hold in recent months. But before you get too carried away with the planning, these are also the days for enjoying some calm and giving yourself an almighty pat on the back. It has been a mad year.


Beat goes on

Brazilian musician Sérgio Mendes has been at the forefront of bossa nova, jazz and contemporary music for more than 60 years. Since releasing his first album, Dance Moderno, in 1961, he has helped to popularise Latin music in English-speaking countries, won US and Latin Grammy awards, and even been nominated for an Oscar for his score for 2012 movie Rio. Here he tells us about reinventing himself for his latest release, In the Key of Joy, watching a documentary on his own life, and a flowery Brazilian new year tradition.

What news source do you wake up to?
CNN and TV Globo Brazil.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
My wife makes me coffee every morning – two great cappuccinos.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I’ll listen on the radio or a CD player or a record player.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I don’t really sing in the shower.

How do you keep reinventing yourself musically for each album?
It has a lot to do with the collaborators. I am always really excited about working with young, bright artists. It motivates me immensely and it brings enormous freshness to the work.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
Time, Vanity Fair, Variety, Billboard and Rolling Stone.

Newspaper that you turn to?
The New York Times and the Financial Times.

Favourite bookshop?
Barnes & Noble. But almost all the Barnes & Nobles around me [in Rio de Janeiro] have closed, so I usually have to buy my books on Amazon.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
John Oliver on Sundays in Last Week Tonight. He’s brilliant, unique, innovative and fresh.

And what’s your movie genre of choice?
Comedies. I love the new Borat.

Speaking of movies, what was it like watching ‘In the Key of Joy’, the documentary on your own life?
It was a wonderful experience, especially since it was done by a very sensitive and brilliant director, John Scheinfeld, who, in my opinion, captured me and my trajectory so well.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
Siriusly Sinatra on SiriusXM. I like hearing all the Sinatra-Jobim collaborations.

A favourite new year tradition?
In Brazil, on New Year’s Eve, we throw flowers in the ocean for Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea.


Setting out their stall

In a year where holiday gatherings have been severely curtailed, extending festivities into the new year makes even more sense than usual (writes Christopher Cermak). All it really takes is a change in the name from “holiday” or “Christmas” to “winter” market.

The Super Mountain Market in St Moritz is a case in point. It has been open since 6 December and will continue until 9 January at the Forum Paracelsus, with reduced guest numbers and advance booking required to help with physical distancing. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers that one London tradition can restart when the lockdown eases: the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew hopes to reopen in the new year and has extended its “Christmas at Kew” outdoor light display until 24 January. Now that’s the winter spirit!


Full stream ahead

‘Mank’, David Fincher. It has been six years since Fincher’s last film was released but his latest project is well worth the wait. Told in the visual vernacular of old black-and-white Los Angeles noirs, Mank follows the life of famed Hollywood screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz and his volatile working relationship with Orson Welles during the production of 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane. Gary Oldman stars in the title role of a film that’s a love letter to the golden age of the movies.

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, George C Wolfe. In this Netflix production starring Academy, Emmy and Tony award-winning actress Viola Davis, we follow the trailblazing “Mother of the Blues” in 1920s Chicago as she builds a name for herself while white music managers try to control her success. Based on the play by screenwriter August Wilson, the film also stars the late Chadwick Boseman in his final role.

‘The Prom’, Ryan Murphy. Yes, this is an ultra-cheesy holiday movie. It’s about an Indiana girl who wants to go to the prom with her girlfriend but can’t because of the school’s small-town mentality. Director Ryan Murphy, of Glee fame, adds plenty of saccharine-sweetness to proceedings but the adaptation of a Broadway musical does bring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, James Corden and Andrew Rannells to the protagonist’s rescue in the form of out-of-luck actors with a plan. So why not go along with the glittery party?


Stories from the back of beyond

In our regular Weekend Edition segment “Outpost News”, we speak to the editors behind community news desks in remote locations around the world. And they all have different stories to tell. Here we round up some of the best of 2020 in the words of the journalists who committed them to print.

Sindri Ólafsson, editor, ‘Eyjafréttir’, Iceland. “Last year two beluga whales were rescued from an aquarium in Shanghai, where they were being mistreated. They were flown across the world in giant containers and were being looked after in a special care pool here on our island, Heimaey. In August they moved them to a bay nearby, where they can continue to recover.”

Peter Adani, editor, ‘Hills Hornbill Express’, India. “Our main link to the outside world, highway NH2, had been slowly degrading. Vehicles including ambulances would break down on it every day and the company responsible for fixing the road was not doing its job. So we took to writing regularly about the situation and interviewing the different drivers about the issues they faced. The campaign caught the local government’s attention, eventually resulting in the road being fixed. Now we finally have an asphalt road that we can drive on safely.”

Jessica Kany, co-editor, ‘Stewart Island News’, New Zealand.
“The Stewart Island man of the year competition in February was a whopping success, though not without a few hitches. The unexpected arrival of a 2,000-person cruiseship meant that its passengers witnessed something they hadn’t wagered for, when contestants began throwing up over their own beards on the beach. Also, during the annual gumboot throw, an American lady was given a broken nose by an errant shoe. However, although she an obvious exception, everyone enjoyed the day and together raised NZ$6,800 [€3,900] for the island’s crèche.”

Mar-Vic Cagurangan, editor, ‘Pacific Island Times’. “My favourite story of 2020 has to be when we spoke to 82-year-old Ana Meno. She told her story of the Guam War; she was six when the Japanese invaded [the US-occupied island] in 1944. I felt privileged to hear her tale of survival. She was among 300 remaining war survivors who finally received reparation from the US government in February. It’s the culmination of 70 years of waiting and it finally brought closure to an awful period in Guam’s history.”

David Scott, senior reporter, ‘John O’ Groat Journal’, Scotland.
“Caithness General Hospital [CGH] in Wick normally deals with humans but one rather prickly patient turned up one afternoon in need of some help. I was covering a story about a woman from Lybster – Janet Ross, who had raised more than £800 [€875] for the CGH maternity unit – when a spiky ball was seen moving around the corner of the hospital. It turned out to be a poorly hedgehog. I called Tiddlywinks Wildlife Hospital, which has a depth of experience tending to hedgehogs. We also sought advice from the SSPCA and I’m glad to say that the little animal has made a full recovery.”


Art of Africa

Nestled among the lush olive trees and rosy gardens of central Marrakech, La Mamounia exemplifies Moroccan elegance (writes Nina Milhaud). The five-star hotel is perfect for a luxurious getaway and, with Artcurial’s decision to host its year-end auctions here, it’s also an ideal spot to pick up a piece of art. On 30 December, the French auction house will welcome Moroccan and international collectors in La Mamounia’s Grand Salon, where they will be able to view three sales dedicated to contemporary African art.

But what can prospective buyers and browsers expect to find? “Gone are the codes and aesthetics of tribal art. These young artists consider themselves to be citizens of the world,” says Christophe Person, director of the contemporary African art department at Artcurial. For proof, look to Mohamed Melehi’s 2018 sculpture “Flammes” (pictured; modern and contemporary Moroccan and international art sale, from €70,000) and Ugandan artist Joseph Ntensibe’s 2020 “Tropical Garden” (contemporary African art sale, from €20,000).

If you’re looking for a way to spend your Christmas money, why not invest in a great piece of African art to liven up your home? Or if you’re feeling really flush, book a stay at La Mamounia for a Marrakech escape in the new year.


Rover coats

In 2016, Milan-based designers Riccardo Gardoni and Maurizio Azzimonti launched a luxury fashion brand specialised in refined clothing – for dogs. Poldo Dog Couture, named after one of the founders’ hounds, has since partnered with Moncler to design high-end dog fashion lines inspired by iconic Italian ski brand’s men’s collection.

“The brand was founded with the aim of offering something more by pampering with ultra-chic and comfortable pieces,” says Gardoni. “The cuts are both classic and trendy, and are inspired by the timeless ‘Made in Italy’ style.”

This year’s collaboration features forest green and crimson red duvet dog vests in Moncler’s signature nylon laqué, miniature versions of the Bady and Badymore jackets in an all-terrain print, and a super-lightweight silver reflective jacket for a Bowie-inspired festive look – the perfect chance to twin up with the fur ball in your life this holiday.


Healthy appetite

Danish furniture brand Frama has just opened a new restaurant in the same well-preserved Copenhagen pharmacy – dating back to 1878 – that hosts its fêted shop and studio. Apotek 57’s menu features seasonal foods by chef Chiara Barla and coffee from Aarhus-based roaster La Cabra. House-made jams, preserves and fermented drinks are all produced on-site. It’s a quaint spot to grab a bite to eat or a seasonal holiday treat, before perusing the brand’s smart, modern wares.


Should I apologise after a family row?

It’s been an unusual Christmas by anyone’s standards. Many of us will have taken the difficult decision to remain in our own households this year, missing out on seeing friends and relatives. But there is another, more familiar form of physical distancing that will be taking place right now thanks to that staple of the Christmas calendar: the family bust-up.

It’s no secret to Mr Etiquette that a Christmas spent in close proximity to others can lead to pleasantries being abandoned after one too many glasses of claret. It might have something to do with the political views of that uncle you see once a year or the grating cackle of a distant cousin. Words have been uttered that are regrettable and the Boxing Day atmosphere can become charged to say the least.

So what’s the solution? It’s easy to be stubborn in these situations, especially if you think that you’re in the right. But that approach will put a dampener on proceedings around the table as you tuck in to some cleverly reinvented leftovers. So be the bigger person and raise the white flag. Tell your adversary that you didn’t mean what you said (even if you did) and make a pact to listen to and understand one another more. Mr Etiquette and Mr Tiddly have done just that and now they hardly ever argue. Oh, and maybe you should also consider taking it easy on that exceptionally good Saint-Émilion.


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