Saturday 1 May 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 1/5/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Stroke of luck

In two weeks’ time restaurants and bars will reopen for indoor dining in England, groups of up to 30 will be allowed to meet outdoors and foreign travel may even be permitted – but when the sun shines, London already feels buoyant with alfresco spots outside cafés nabbed in seconds and parks packed. One of the nicest hints of a return to better times has been olfactory. In the evenings you catch the smell of fragrance dabbed on wrists; of aftershave applied to chin. A city slowly sharpening up its act, heading out for date night.

Less pleasant is my gym. After months of enforcing a strict booking regime of one person per swimming lane for 30 minutes, it has now “had an assessment” and decided that you can have 23 people at any one time in a very modestly sized pool. Crikey, you might as well bring a bottle of wine, crank up the music and call it a hot-tub party instead. Meanwhile, it has also become overly passionate about taping out the gym floor to ensure that nobody gets within metres of each other – yes, “It’s according to the assessment.”

In the health-food shop near Monocle’s offices, I cannot find a supplement I take that’s supposed to ensure your knees stay supple and happy even when you are pounding concrete on your nightly run. The manager sees me looking lost and explains that they have stopped putting it on display as it is one of a select list of products being targeted by a group of shoplifters. Well, the good news is that if the thieves also have dodgy knees, they should at least be easy to catch once spotted. Or perhaps they are controlled by a cabal of seniors with aching joints?

What programmatic ads get served to you? I was talking to Tom, our managing editor, some time ago and was explaining how on Instagram I am often targeted by ads that seem to know my cultural tastes rather well. He scanned his account to see how this worked and was a little dismayed that the first thing he discovered was a supermarket ad for fish fingers. Well, currently, I am being hit by several different campaigns for underwear brands that promise to fix problems I never knew I had. Steady, not that. More along the lines of, “Can’t find comfortable underwear? Fed up of seams in your knickers? Want to feel more relaxed in your Y-fronts?” These are not issues I have ever fretted about and, I promise, would not be enquiries located in my search history. But judging by the number of designs that I am being lured to try, many of our brightest minds are engaged in this issue.

A haircut after four months! You’ll be pleased to know I kept it long. But Jackson, my man with the scissors, tells me that half of his customers have made the same decision. A talisman for the times, or a hint that we are not quite back to normal yet?

Back to the pool. As a first step towards hot-tubbery it has decided to have two people in each lane. So you now have to eye up the others getting in the pool to see who looks like a safe lane buddy. I avoid anyone who looks too keen; the high-speeders who smash through the water as though this were the Olympics – and you do not exist – are not fun. How about the young man who looks a bit sleepy? No, he’s the one whose swimming style involves more splashing and flailing than a supper-table-destined tuna being hauled out of the water on a fishing line. Instead, I look for someone north of 80 or with a jaunty swimming cap decorated with flowers. These are my people. But watch your valuables if it looks like they have bad joints: they could be granny gangsters.


Best of drawers

If I had to pick a favourite item of clothing it would be shorts (writes Fernando Augusto Pacheco). Weather permitting, I would wear them all year and on most occasions. It’s news that shouldn’t come as a surprise to my colleagues, where spring’s arrival in London is matched by my appearance at our HQ wearing the year’s first pair of shorts to the office.

In some corporate circles, however, such a sartorial choice by men would be controversial. In offices in Brazil, even in the searing heat of Rio de Janeiro, wearing a pair to work is banned. And in the UK last year, pharmacy chain Boots reprimanded an employee for wearing a pair of cotton three-quarter-length trousers to work on a scorching summer day. But times are changing. A number of banks, who usually have notoriously stuffy styling requirements, have relaxed dress codes in recent years. It’s a way for these corporate big boys to show that they’re actually cool, flexible and creative, and to attract talent that fits that mould. With people returning to the office this spring after a long time at home wearing whatever they like, expect this trend to continue.

Thinking of giving them a whirl? Try some classic cargo shorts or sleek Bermudas by Los Angeles-based ERL. Personally, I’ll be in corduroy, pretending to be a semi-retired California surfer.


Dream ticket

I have trouble sleeping (writes Chiara Rimella). In fact, I have had trouble sleeping for a while, becoming a seasoned expert at walking around a pitch-black flat at 03.30. It’s hard to pinpoint precisely where it all comes from, which is why, after three coffees and a Diet Coke, I decided to join apothecary (and Monocle’s Chiltern Street neighbour) Anatome for a sleep workshop. Could the lack of a nice aroma spritzed on my pillow actually be the problem?

Anatome is keen to stress that what we are talking about is aromachology – not just aromatherapy. Scientists got involved and proved that certain odours cause certain reactions, and that your body learns to react to the memory of a smell, which is why your stomach starts rumbling at the whiff of freshly baked bread. Choose your scent wisely, associate it with the right ritual and you should be able to turn yourself into Pavlov’s dog.

For bedtime, Anatome suggests making your own scented-oil blend (like a clumsy chemist, I mix lavender with Japanese seaweed oil) and applying it to specific sensory points before hitting the hay. Some feel more predictable – ear, wrist, back of the neck – while others, such as the soles of your feet, are more left-field.

The secret, I’m told, lies in massaging the oil and making time to connect with your body. But inside I’m wondering: if a perfumed foot lies under the covers and nobody is around to smell it, does it really make a scent? And at 03.30, can anybody hear me scream? But as instructed, I rub it all in – and darkness falls. I know that even if I never drop off, at least my feet will smell nice.


City pop

Tim van Berkestijn, better known by his stage name Benny Sings, is a musician with many strings to his bow. The Dutch songwriter, producer and performer has eight studio albums in his catalogue, including the recently released Music, which brims with his signature brand of sunny, melodic pop. He tells us about his love of British reality television and which of his fellow countrymen’s music he’s been listening to recently.

Which news source do you wake up to?
I don’t keep my phone next to my bed. No news platforms for me in the morning.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
I don’t tend to consume much caffeine. I have enough life energy already and can very easily be overwhelmed, so I try to avoid stimulants. I like to keep it simple.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
There’s a very cool new Dutch singer called Froukje. She’s 19 years old and has just released her debut LP Licht En Donker. It’s awesome.

Any new projects that you’re working on?
I’ve been writing a lot, for other musicians and for myself too.

A favourite bookshop?
Scheltema is a huge bookshop in the centre of Amsterdam, near my house. It has everything you could possibly want and an excellent kids’ department.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
The last one I listened to was Rabbit Hole from The New York Times. It’s a deep dive into the world of social media and how it can divide us.

What’s the best thing that you’ve watched on TV recently?
I’ve been watching The Morning Show [with Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell], which is awesome. It’s super topical and well written. Before that, my wife and I watched Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. That really made an impression on me.

A favourite film?
The last film I really enjoyed was Marriage Story. I’ve been a big fan of Noah Baumbach ever since watching The Squid and the Whale.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
To unwind I like flicking through Dutch television channels. My wife hates it. I also sometimes stick on the English reality TV show First Dates, which I love.


Live and direct

‘Discovery: Live in Rio 1994’, Pet Shop Boys. The iconic English duo are fans of physical formats, always delivering their music in the best way they can find. For their latest release, they remastered tape footage of a 1994 Rio performance as part of their Discovery tour, which touched down in Australia, Singapore and Latin America. An enthusiastic Brazilian audience elevates the brilliance of tracks such as “King’s Cross” and “Being Boring”. The release comes with two CDs, a DVD and a covetable 36-page booklet.

‘Everybody: A Book about Freedom’, Olivia Laing. Known for nimbly combining scholarship, memoir and cultural criticism in her writing, Laing promises with her new book to weave together similar threads. Everybody grapples with some of the most significant figures of the past century, including Nina Simone and Susan Sontag, as well as the era’s great freedom movements: gay rights, sexual liberation, feminism and civil rights. At its core, however, is a conversation-starting look at the human body with the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich.

‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’, Burhan Qurbani. That this modern silver-screen interpretation of Alfred Döblin’s classic Weimar-era tome feels meandering and picaresque shouldn’t be a surprise: the original book, an exploration of good, evil and human nature, is 480 pages long. (If the three hours of this filmic version seem like a lot, remember that a previous adaptation clocked in at 15 hours.) In director Burhan Qurbani’s version, we’re in contemporary Berlin, following the misfortunes of a Bissau-Guinean undocumented immigrant, as he struggles to carve his own fate in the city’s underbelly.


Gulf club

You can find the Gulf Islands sandwiched between the southwest coast of Canada and Vancouver Island. The small archipelago is home to some 20,000 people and most of that population is concentrated on Salt Spring Island, which is known for its agriculture, its artistic community and for being popular among retirees seeking a slower pace of life.

“I’ve been here five and a half years now,” says Damian Inwood, a former newspaper journalist who arrived on the island shortly after its commercial radio station closed down. Though he originally moved from Vancouver simply to have enough room for a vegetable patch and some chickens, Inwood saw that he could contribute to the community by helping to launch a new station in the old one’s place. In 2015, Gulf Islands Community Radio was born. The service goes out 24/7 online and its dozen or so volunteers eagerly await news from the local government concerning its FM broadcasting-licence application. “We feel we’re contributing something,” says Inwood.

What’s the big news?
There was a dog attack on some livestock not so long ago. There are ongoing problems with some people either letting their dogs run loose or escaping. It’s “sheep worrying”, basically. If farmers lose their livestock, they get pretty upset.

Do you have a favourite show?
Our morning show Beam Me Up Scotty, which used to be called “Great Scott”. As you might have guessed, it’s run by a guy called Scott – Scott Merrick – and it’s on for two hours from 07.00 every Monday to Friday. He brings in a lot of guests and does a good job of covering the local arts community and the news.

What sort of music do you play?
It’s a real mix as we have a lot of different music shows. There’s a three-hour R&B show on Saturday nights that’s run by the manager of the old station that used to broadcast here – he’s very good. And I’ve been doing one called Rock and Roll Family Trees, which links bands together through the different people they’ve played with.

What’s it like covering the news on the Gulf Islands?
Salt Springs Island has been described as an argument surrounded by water – people have a lot of strong opinions here. The families who were born here are often in the agricultural or logging industry, while the people who move here tend to have strong views regarding environmental preservation. In short, people don’t always agree.


Carried away

The bigger the bag, the better. That’s the outlook of Tina Lutz Morris, the German designer and founder of the luxury leather-goods brand that shares her name. Her newest offering, the Saylor, is a generously sized tote made from recycled cotton canvas, which in turn is made up of clothing and pattern-cutting waste. And, Lutz Morris assures us, it’s ideal for your first weekend getaway as the world begins to open up. Handwoven in Spain, the bag features a removable, leather-bound reinforcement and leaves plenty of space for travel essentials, books and magazines.

Oh, and should you have any guilt about treating yourself to a little escape, know that for every purchase, $10 (€8) will be donated to charity. It seems that, in this case, bigger really is better – for everyone.


Style of life

Over the coming week, Paris-based auction house Artcurial will exhibit 600 lots from the estate of the late, great Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada (writes Chloë Ashby). From its enviable HQ in the neoclassical Hôtel Marcel Dassault, potential buyers will be able to browse Takada’s personal collection of furnishings, sculptures and canvases before the sale on 11 May. “We’re going to recreate his apartment, which will be the last chance for the public to see what it looked like,” says auctioneer Stéphane Aubert.

Takada, who died last October, was born near Osaka in 1939 and moved to Paris in 1965. By the 1970s he was the fashion world’s darling, making his mark in the new ready-to-wear market before sliding into couture. In his designs, he melded old and new influences from east, west, north and south, and the same diversity can be found in his collection of furniture and objets d’art. “This was his talent – marrying all periods, styles and places,” says Aubert.

Collectors of Asian art should keep an eye out for a wooden horse sculpture from the Chinese Han dynasty (lot 191, €20,000 to €30,000), while furniture fans will find bright and zingy pieces that recall Takada’s lively clothing lines. For something extra special, there’s a life-sized self-portrait of Takada sitting with his legs crossed (lot 1, €2,000 to €3,000); beneath his silvery grey blazer, his white shirt complements the wavy streak in his dark bob. “He was a fashion designer and an interior designer and a painter,” says Aubert. “He was an artist.”

For more on Artcurial and the Takada auction, pick up the May issue of Monocle.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00