Saturday 12 June 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 12/6/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Out of the ordinary

Once I was staying at the Copacabana Palace in Rio, and my phone fell off my sun lounger and landed in a glass filled with a delicious if sticky caipirinha. When I finally spotted this and started to grumble, the other half gently pointed out that there could be no greater definition of a first-world problem. And I had to agree. So a warning: the following story is of the Copacabana-phone-cocktail variety and if you are not in the mood for such moaning, scroll on down. But seeing as I have told you everything else, I might as well share this story too.

Many years ago we started going on holiday to Palma de Mallorca, staying at the Portixol Hotel with its sunny Scandinavian take on the Mediterranean. Then, in the early days of Monocle, Tyler came up with a great summer plan to open a pop-up shop in the city’s Santa Catalina neighbourhood so that our team could come for a few days to be shopkeeper, meet the city’s residents and our vacationing readers, and have a bit of a treat on the company. And I took my turn behind the counter very happily. Next, friends started buying homes on the island and one, Guilherme, would regularly invite us to his apartment overlooking the sea. Over time I also began to nab reporting trips to Palma and my passion for the place grew. I should have been listed as Palma correspondent on the masthead.

Over these years Palma became important to me and my partner, and we decided it was a place that we would like to spend more of our time. So we started looking for something small to buy that would not require too much work. After years of dithering we found it: a new apartment that was being built next to the 1960s Palma Sport and Tennis Club. At the end of last year, just when the world was slipping back into lockdowns, it became ours.

And then? Well, nothing much – it sat there empty as the weeks became months and the seasons changed. Occasionally I would order some lights or a piece of furniture. I even managed to have a sofa delivered from Barcelona and organised the crane needed to bring it in through the third-floor balcony windows. The Spanish lessons ticked on.

But, this week, we finally came to see it, deciding to just face the quarantine consequences when we return home. And you know what? I opened the front door and all I could focus on was the dust, the piles of boxes, the filthy windows. I had Copacabana-phone-cocktail wobbles.

Here’s the thing. Many of us imagine that we have glided through this pandemic unscathed and that it’s just the people around us who have gone a bit off-kilter, but these past months have been exhausting and challenging for everyone. As a manager, as a friend, I often talk with people about this: “Give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve made it to here. Of course this is difficult, we are living through a pandemic. Wait, don’t make snap judgments in the middle of a global crisis.” But your own advice can be hard to follow.

“What are you thinking?” asked David tenderly as we walked around our home, and the truth was, I just didn’t quite know.

Yesterday we met the lawyer who was also part-therapist (he even stole my line about decision-making in a pandemic) and he told us that we had made a good move on every front – and that apparently it’s common to be distracted by the dust. Then the nice woman in the mattress shop said she would be able to deliver in time after all and that her strapping lads will even carry the beast up the stairs. So we can sleep there tonight and leave Gui in peace. I also did a lot of cleaning. But I paused again and again to look at the view of the tennis club, of life on all the other balconies, of the brazenly bloomed jacaranda trees. It’s a pretty special spot.

In the evening I took some cardboard boxes to the recycling bin (it’s non-stop glamour if you hang around with me) and one of them was just too big to poke through its letterbox mouth. Another recycler spotted my problem and offered me his craft knife. We began chatting. How did I know this spot? I explained about the shop in Santa Catalina and how we had once done a fashion shoot at the tennis club, and he said, “Yes, I went there and now I realise that I have met you before. You were working in the shop. I still have your card somewhere.” And so, standing by the municipal bins, me dusty from head to toe, talking about design, exchanging numbers with my neighbour Toni, I suddenly felt rather at home.

Who knows when travel will become easy, how many of our plans will ultimately come to fruition or what will need to be amended. But I intend to follow my own advice and wait this out a little while yet. And in the meantime there’s a very nice bar, La Chica de Santa Catalina, across the road and rosado and tapas can always end the day well.


Team colours

During the World Cup and Copa America (the South American football tournament that kicks off tomorrow) I like to wear the full Brazilian kit – even into work at Midori House (writes Fernando Augusto Pacheco). My national team’s canary-yellow jersey is iconic and thanks to players such as Pelé, Sócrates (pictured) and Ronaldo, the football team is often the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Brazil.

But in recent years, wearing the kit has acquired some new and not altogether welcome political implications. Donning the national shirt now can mean you are mistaken as a pro-Bolsonaro nationalist, since the kit has become the de facto uniform of his supporters (plenty are right wingers, if you’ll excuse the football pun). On a recent journey through São Paulo’s international airport my penchant for yellow meant a woman shouted “Bolsonaro” at me with approving eyes – I didn’t know how to react but I felt like I’d missed a penalty.

Since talking to friends from around the world I’ve since learned that this situation is not unique. National shirts and flags, from Germany to England, are often used as divisive symbols of national and nationalist pride – something I don’t want to happen to my beloved Brazilian kit. So during this Copa America I’m fighting back by wearing it and showing that supporting Brazil in football does not also mean support for its nutty leader. As fans of my national team have chanted at past World Cups (in a ditty that’s admittedly less catchy in English), “I am Brazilian, with lots of pride and lots of love.” Go, Brazil!


Alpaca my bags

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but when it comes to missing out on the surprises and spiritual succour of great holidays in faraway lands, it’s more of a heartbreaker (writes Tom Edwards). The good news is that redemption is at hand – and it’s a lot more feasible than flying to a monastic retreat in Tibet or hiking through the high Andes.

Recently I made the short hop from north London to north Norfolk. There, in Wells-next-the-Sea, I was transported from the sunny but ever blustery shores of The Wash estuary straight to Machu Picchu itself. The architects of this impossible journey? Ian and his four-legged friends at Alpaca Trekking.

The trek involves a curiously transcendental constitutional along the highways and byways of Wells town centre in which you walk your very own alpaca, handpicked by intuitive Ian to match your character traits. Nervous by nature, sir? Then meet curly haired and confident Alphonso. Shorter of stature, young man? Yaco here is your guy. Interested in an alpaca with a more complex back story, madam? Then very carefully take the reins of the dark and brooding Diego.

As well as creating a wooly double for The Beatles’ Abbey Road (and dropping the jaws of unsuspecting tourists at every turn) you learn such nuggets about the richly coiffured camelids as: never make eye contact with an alpaca, never feed a spitting alpaca and, somewhat mysteriously, never, never, never walk behind Diego. If like Alphonso and Yaco’s close cousins you’ve had the hump about cancelled holidays, forget flying to visit the Dalai Lama and instead dial a llama to achieve both vicuña and vacation perfection. Spiritual fulfilment is guaranteed.


Down to a T

Since 1860, Sunspel has been renowned for its high-quality materials and manufacturing. The company was family-run for almost 150 years before being eventually sold into the safe hands of Nicholas Brooke and Dominic Hazlehurst in 2005, who helped the British brand cement its reputation as a maker of coveted and comfortable T-shirts and undergarments. Though Hazlehurst has since left the business, Brooke continues to serve as co-owner and CEO. He tells us how the company is preparing for change in the coming months and gives us a hot tip about a new independent radio station playing acid jazz.

What have you been working on lately?
We recently had a collaboration with Paul Weller and we also have a few projects coming up with Studio Nicholson. We’ve also been working on making our shops even more focused on personal service and the personal experience.

What news source do you wake up to?
I wake up very early but I avoid checking the news in bed. I’ll read the Financial Times and BBC online and then scan The Times to read what I would call slightly more “opinion-type” news.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
Water with squeezed lemon juice.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I have a record player. Spotify is much more mobile, so I listen to it around the house and then in the evenings. If I’m sitting down, reading or relaxing, I’ll play records.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
Wallpaper**, Monocle, *The Economist, The Gentlewoman and the FT’s How To Spend It.

Favourite bookshop?
John Sandoe in Chelsea, near our shop on Duke of York Square.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
Yes. My favourite is The Rest Is History. I also like Talking Politics, with David Runciman and Helen Thompson.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
My Father and Me. It’s a film by Nick Broomfield about his relationship with his father, Maurice, who was a photographer of Britain’s factories.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
In terms of film, I was brought up on classics like The Philadelphia Story. Now, I always look to the Coen brothers, partly because they reference past genres of film.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
I’ve started listening to Totally Wired Radio. The show that I particularly like is called Pull Up, with Dean Chalkley and Harris Elliott. They play some great tunes.


Summer selections

‘Coeur’, Clara Luciani. French chanteuse Clara Luciani has already given us the sunniest possible soundtrack to the summer with her single “Le Reste”. For proof, take a look at its exhilarating video shot in the Provençal town of Sanary-sur-Mer, not too far from where she grew up. The remaining 10 songs on the album promise more eminently danceable disco-funk – and beats that will steal your heart.

‘Festivals’, Oliver Keens. After a long hiatus, festival season is (almost) back: jamborees of all kinds are tentatively staging editions this summer. So if you’re in search of inspiration, or are curious about back-stories and anecdotes, this handbook to the world’s best festivals, from Primavera Sound to Flow via Dekmantel and Fuji Rock, makes for a beautiful guide.

‘Diversity United’, Tempelhof. The grounds of Berlin’s disused Tempelhof Airport will come into their own this summer as a huge park for the city. From this week, the airfield’s hangars will also play host to ambitious group exhibition “Diversity United”. Bringing together 90 artists from 34 countries, it’s a chance to reflect on Europe, democracy and integration, courtesy of works by some of the continent’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, including Georg Baselitz, Tacita Dean, Alicja Kwade and Wolfgang Tillmans.


Island hopping

The Cook Islands are 15 tiny paradises dotting the South Pacific (writes Amanda Saxton). White sand, black pearls, turquoise lagoons and tropical heat abound. Fast-food chains are not permitted; nor is building anything higher than a palm tree. About 17,500 people live on the islands, though more than 60,000 Cook Islanders live in New Zealand, which grants them citizenship at birth.

The country closed its borders when the pandemic began, grinding its main industry – tourism – to a halt. Frontiers stayed closed until last month when a travel bubble with New Zealand finally opened. “We’re so, so pleased to see some new faces,” says Rashneel Kumar, editor of the Cook Island News.

Kumar is a fifth-generation Fijian-Indian living on Rarotonga, the largest of the Cooks. He kicked off his career as a sports journalist in Fiji, before being hired as a junior reporter for the Cook Island News in 2015. Here, he gives his take on the country’s latest.

What’s the big story of the week?
There was a huge panic because the Cook Islands had its first coronavirus case – we have been virus-free all this time. But a Cook Islander flew from Egypt to New Zealand, where he quarantined in a hotel before flying on to the Cooks. He tested negative in Egypt, positive in New Zealand, then negative in New Zealand, then positive in the Cook Islands. It turned out the man was a historical case: not active, not dangerous. Nevertheless, he faces criminal charges because he lied on his arrival card by stating he’d never had coronavirus.

A favourite photo?
Normally, everyone flying into the Cook Islands is met with a garland of fragrant flowers. But last year, after our borders had been closed for some time, no one was allowed to go and meet the first planeload of returnees at the airport. They’d be taken to quarantine immediately. We decided to run a big “Welcome home” photo on the front page of the newspaper to make up for it. It’s a lady with her big Cook Islands smile, holding up a beautiful garland in the shape of a heart.

Down-page delight?
After lunch every day our in-house cartoonist, Kata, comes into the office. He’ll spin our stories around and come up with a masterpiece. There’s always a smile on my face when I see what he’s done. For example, the prime minister just announced the national budget. Kata drew him, holding a beautiful pineapple-meringue pie labelled “Budget”, and the opposition, sniffing it, saying, “Hmm, smells too good to be true.”


Euro step

Over the past year, Hermès-owned bootmaker John Lobb has continued to keep the well-heeled, well, heeled as its retail network expands. Its most recent opening? A new shop in Paris, at the centre of which is the “capsule”: a walnut wood-clad area dedicated to repairs and bespoke bootmaking.

Speaking to Monocle for our April issue, CEO Philippe Gonzalez explained that the capsule “concentrates all the values and elements of savoir faire that are key to John Lobb into one place, at the centre of the shop”. It’s here that customers will be able to tap in to 155 years of bootmaking knowledge and create a custom pair of Lopez or City II-style shoes.

For anyone looking to truly fill their boots, there’s also a limited number of the brand’s bespoke Mogador shoes available to order at the Paris shop too. So go on, put your best foot forward.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00