Saturday 7 August 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 7/8/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Place in the sun

When you ask people in Mallorca where they are going on holiday this summer, they will often name a destination that’s little more than an hour’s drive from their home. They are renting a house at the beach, spending a couple of weeks on their boat with the kids or even just staying put. They may even have a second home up in the cooler mountain air of, say, Valldemossa, where they will retreat to. A few adventurous ones reveal that they are off to a neighbouring Balearic island for a change of scenery. But not that many.

Indeed, when we have asked people there for their views on other places to visit in the Balearics, they often beat a hasty conversational retreat; many claim to have only ever ventured to the neighbouring isles a handful of times. If they go anywhere, it’s more likely to be Madrid or London but not now in the peak of summer. In short, they simply recognise that they live in a pretty good place. And as one person said to us, “What’s also brilliant is that if we forget to pack anything, I can just nip home and get it.”

Perhaps that’s part of Mallorca’s success. It’s physically small and somehow in its heart and ambition quite big too. There are about 1.2 million inhabitants, some 400,000 in the capital Palma, and that’s enough to support good cultural institutions and lots of industries that have nothing to do with tourism. It feels like its own self-contained nation.

We were back there last week and on Saturday drove east across the island, out past red-soiled fields as redolent of Africa as Europe. Past farms with their old-school wind turbines. Through towns that become dozy at weekends, the shutters on shops all down like sleepy eyelids. And on to dust-swirled lanes. Then, finally, to a spot not far from the beach of S’Amarador.

My dithering meant that it was already mid-afternoon by the time that shoes were slipped off and sand felt underfoot. But judging by the other people who were also snaking down to the beach through the breeze-shimmied pines, this was a good time to arrive, when the sun’s heat had abated a little.

From a position under our umbrella I found myself surveying the other beachgoers. There were lots of extended Spanish families with elaborate shading set-ups under which beers were being drunk and jamón sandwiches constructed. Their kids darted to the water with snorkels, jumped on laughing mums, enticed dads to play chase: happy summer moments being etched into minds that would shape these children forever.

At the water’s edge, young men were playing with a beach bats and balls yet somehow never whacking anyone in the face. It seemed a pursuit more collaborative than competitive. There was some canoodling (not me, I hasten to add). Bookworms sat in their low-slung beach chairs. I thought of my parents’ unease with stripping off on a beach and of visits to the seaside in the UK when you would most likely end up dodging the rain. There’s something about growing up in this kind of sun that gets into the soul. I was a little envious of these heat-touched Mallorquin nippers being filled with easy confidence. As outsiders you have to recognise that while a language can be learned and customs understood, you will never be at home like this. You need to have been shaped by the place. But who cares? Even “observer status” is magical.

We lingered on the beach until almost 19.00 and although many people had already left by then, some stragglers were still arriving. I’d felt a bit sluggish in the previous days but as we retraced our steps through the trees, I felt the healing benefits of a Spanish beach. So the next day we came back to the very same spot to take to the water again, already allowing our world here to contract and find routine. Not feeling a need to always venture to new places. Who knows, perhaps we might just fit in after all.


Game on

On Wednesday I had a brief moment of amnesia (writes Kieran Pender). At the Izu Velodrome, reporting on the track cycling as Monocle’s Olympics correspondent, I witnessed Italy’s team-pursuit squad break the world record. An exhausted rider clasped his indigo bike and raised it aloft as the crowd offered their adulation. Applause rang out across the track as Japanese spectators suddenly invested in a team from halfway across the world. It was a special moment, a reflection of what the Olympics are all about. Pandemic? What pandemic?

The mirage did not last long. Tokyo 2020 has been no ordinary Olympics. With the velodrome sitting outside Tokyo and its state of emergency, it is one of the few venues that is admitting fans. Just 24 hours later I was back in Tokyo watching the men’s hockey final with a handful of journalists and officials, grouped together in the main stand with empty seating all around us. The cicadas did their best to compensate but the lack of atmosphere was palpable.

Covering these “made-for-TV” Games has been a unique experience. There have been moments of levity (arena DJs trying their best to raise the roof) and moments of poignancy – none more galling than seeing Tokyoites lined up for a photo with the Olympic rings, at the Games they could not attend.

This event will be remembered for many things. But I hope that above all they will serve as a reminder of the simple power of sport. In Izu and on televisions around the world, these Games brought a measure of joy. That, surely, is worth cheering for – unless you’re one of the aforementioned residents of Japan’s capital (see Junichi Toyofuku’s view below).


Games off

Japan is a famously rule-abiding country (writes Junichi Toyofuku). Standards are high here; everyone not only follows laws but also respects unspoken customs and etiquette in public.

But in the past couple of weeks there has been a change in mood in Tokyo. Under the rules of the current state of emergency, restaurants and bars must close at 20.00 and not serve alcohol at any time of the day. Still, many are keeping their businesses open late and diners are enjoying wine well into the evening.

For more than a year, people have been living under a series of restrictions, hoping that their collective efforts would serve the greater public interest and maybe allow attendance at the Games. But when the current state of emergency kicked in, just in time for an event that many Tokyoites no longer wanted to host, it exhausted people’s patience and kicked off this quiet rebellion.

This is not to say that things aren’t still civil. People are quietly dining out with their partners or a small group of friends. As for me, my new post-work routine is to head to my colleague Fiona’s place to kick back and watch the Olympics with a glass of rosé or two.


Clued up

CNN anchor and senior Washington correspondent Pamela Brown knows how to get to the bottom of a story. “I always thought that if I wasn’t a journalist I’d be a detective,” says Brown. “But I get my fill trying to solve mysteries in movies.” She covered the Trump impeachment proceedings and the firing of FBI director James Comey, and worked as a lead reporter on the Mueller investigation. It’s not detective work but it’s not far off. Brown tells us about what she’s watching on Netflix, coffee and 1990s nostalgia.

What news source do you wake up to?
The cache of CNN emails that have flooded my inbox overnight, Twitter and Apple News. I don’t watch any morning shows because our only TV is in our basement – a compromise with my husband who would prefer to live without electronics altogether. So I just read up before our morning editorial call at 09.00.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
Two cups of coffee every morning. I add collagen powder to one of them. Apparently it’s supposed to help your skin, hair and nails. I have no idea if it’s true but I’d like to believe it is. I’m a sucker for good marketing.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
The Time Capsule option on Spotify is great. The 1990s is still my favourite era of music. I love listening to Dave Matthews Band because it brings me back to middle school when I would listen to his songs and dream about all my crushes.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
Currently on the stack are The Atlantic, The Week, The Economist, Vogue and Nature.

Newspaper that you turn to?
The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal – all on my phone, though I miss the days of reading the printed versions. Growing up it was the Lexington Herald Leader in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
The Daily but I don’t listen to many podcasts. I prefer books on tape that do a deeper dive into specific issues. Right now I’m listening to After This, which was written by a woman who lost her mother and is now a grief counsellor.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
Lupin and Mare of Easttown. Lupin was so well done and Omar Sy is such an incredible actor.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the news in the evening?
No. Nightly news is right in the thick of bedtime chaos with the kids but I grew up watching Peter Jennings and Christiane Amanpour. I love Christiane and still have to pinch myself sometimes when I remember that I’m her colleague at CNN and even get to interview her on occasion. To me she is the embodiment of what a journalist should be.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? Usually something on Netflix or HBO Max. Lately I’ve been trying to limit screen time in the hour before bed. The key word is “trying”


Outside influence

‘Small Bodies of Water’, Nina Mingya Powles. From a swimming pool in Borneo to the Ladies’ Pond on London’s Hampstead Heath, by way of the coastal waters of New Zealand, this lyrical, glowing essay collection spans the globe. Poet Nina Mingya Powles examines her experience of growing up between cultures that are separated by some of the biggest bodies of water on the planet. She was born in Wellington to a Malaysian mother and her girlhood was split between the Antipodes, New York and Shanghai. Combining memoir, nature writing and cultural criticism, these essays examine a host of subjects, from food, language and family to butterflies and earthquakes.

‘Due North’, Liam Kazar. Having long worked as a session musician for the likes of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Steve Gunn and, more recently, as an acclaimed chef for his own Armenian pop-up restaurant Isfahan, Kansas City-based Liam Kazar has finally taken a leap into solo musical territory and we can only be glad he did. Singles such as “Shoes too Tight” are an instant hit of feelgood and there are also chilled, quasi-country ballads like “Frank Bacon”. Put on “On a Spanish Dune” on a hot afternoon and get lost in the dreamy atmosphere.

‘Adrian Sassoon’, Parham House. Last year, the art dealer’s collaboration with Stockholm’s Modernity gallery brought impressive decorative art and mid-century furniture to a fascinating, stripped-back location in London. This year, Sassoon is bringing his bounty to an Elizabethan manor further out of the city, in the West Sussex countryside. Expect contemporary ceramics by the likes of Takahiro Kondo and Hitomi Hosono to stand in delightful counterpoint to the ornate surroundings.


Low frequencies

Puerto Williams, a town of about 3,000 on the Chilean island of Navarino, is by almost all accounts the southernmost city in the world. Officially the port of entry for ships en route to Antarctica, it nudged out Ushuaia in Argentina for the title in 2019 due to its new categorisation as a city. But the rocky landscapes, forests and long stretches of uninhabited land that surround it have drawn in adventurers since long before that. “The island is beautiful but life here isn’t easy,” says Mauricio Bahamonde, a long-time presenter at local station Radio Navarino. “The winters are long and tough. It snows a lot. Temperatures are low and we don’t get a lot of daylight.” He tells us about the history of the world’s most southerly radio station, the town’s latest news and why we shouldn’t be surprised that, even in the most distant of places, people are still listening to Dua Lipa.

What’s the big news this week?
Not a lot happens in a small town like ours. Usually, the news we have is centred around problems we have with the government. Lately we’ve been having issues leaving the island. The government has a deal with a private company that is supposed to give residents tickets to the regional capital, Punta Arenas. But there’s a huge waiting list and it’s really hard to get out. If I wanted to go out to Punta Arenas tomorrow, I’d have to wait 30 days. That has been tough for us.

What’s your roster like?
We have two main programmes. One of them is in the morning from 10.00 to 12.00 and the other one is in the afternoon from 15.00 to 17.00. The morning show is more informative as we use it to broadcast local, regional and national news, whereas the afternoon is reserved for announcements. Lots of community organisations use it as a space through which to invite people to participate in events, courses, workshops – that kind of thing.

Do you play music?
Yes. In the mornings it’s usually Latin music, whereas in the afternoon it’s more English-language stuff. We tend to lean toward pop or musica urbana.

Any artists or songs on repeat?
We stay up to date with the global pop charts, so if something is playing in the UK or the US, chances are it’s playing here too. If I had to say one name, it would probably be Dua Lipa.


Don’t sweat it

Heritage brand Sunspel might be best known as a maker of coveted and comfortable T-shirts and undergarments that are ideal for spending a lazy Saturday afternoon lounging in the garden. But the label’s latest release breaks from that trend.

Unveiled this week and designed with vigorous activity in mind, its most iconic styles have been released in a quick-drying cotton blend. This reimagining of the Classic T-shirt, Riviera Polo and Loopback Trackset means that getting sweaty doesn’t mean donning fluorescent shorts and an old “I completed the London Half-Marathon” tee. It’s perfect for catching some rays in the garden and then heading out for a sunset jog at the end of a hot summer’s day.


New terrain

It’s no secret that the loud revving of engines is often associated with overt displays of masculinity (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). So, when Los Angeles-based British artist Nico Sclater, who paints vehicles under the moniker Ornamental Conifer, was commissioned to customise a Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer military vehicle, it felt like a good opportunity to rattle this notion.

“I’ve always been interested in humanising that macho culture,” says Sclater. “Instead of putting anything serious or aggressive on the Pinzgauer, I thought it would be funny to poke fun at the fact that it’s actually a little vehicle.”

The skinny, compact, Austrian-designed all-terrain vehicle was in the possession of collector Paul Andrews for years. But next week, Sclater’s customised design will hit RM Sotheby’s auction block in Monterey, where it’s expected to sell for upwards of $60,000 (€50,000). “To find such a vehicle on the market in such excellent, customised condition is a very rare opportunity,” says Gord Duff, global head of auctions at RM Sotheby’s. “Those looking for a reliable off-road adventure will surely be interested as it is engineered to perform in aggressive and demanding environments without compromise.”

Granted, it’s not exactly how Sclater hoped it would be used but at the end of the day, he says, “I’m just here to make people chuckle.” With this in mind, we’d add that anyone with a good sense of humour and an interest in art on unconventional canvases might find it a smart purchase too.


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