Monday morning. It’s 04.55, the alarm’s about to sound and I’m already up asking myself, “Is this it? Is summer officially over? Is the crazy coming week the start of life back in the faster lane? Am I happy about it? And will anything change if I sleep for another 25 minutes and take the later train to the airport?” I opt for a snooze, scramble to the shower at 05.25, throw some things in a bag at 05.29, make a coffee, find some other things to drag along and am out the door at 05.56, on the platform at 06.01 and in my seat to the airport at 06.02. London awaits.
At 06.30 I arrive at Zürich airport, glide up the escalator to security and am at the gate by 06.45. This is travel as it should be and there’s still time to catch up with colleagues Anna and Julia at the Pret beside the gate. We have a coffee and wait for most of the flight to board. It’s all going swimmingly until somewhere in the boarding process we’re told that some passengers didn’t have the right forms and their bags need to be found and off-loaded. A few minutes later we’re told that the bags have been found and they’re closing up the hold but we’ve now missed our slot and we’ll need to stay at the gate for another half hour. Note to airline: wouldn’t it have made sense to check the vax docs before you allowed the passengers to check in the bags? Just a thought.
London. The last time I was in London was April and I’m looking forward to being back at base, seeing the crew, checking out the neighbourhood, going to the River Café and just being back in the city. The arrival is remarkably smooth and the cab ride into town is fast, but all the rubbish strewn along roundabouts and motorways suggests that the UK doesn’t just have a shortage of van drivers at the moment – the local councils just don’t have the manpower (or attention to detail) to deal with all the fast-food wrappers, face-masks and plastic shopping bags wrapped around tree branches. Note to Global Britain: don’t forget about first impressions as Heathrow flights return.
Marylebone. Our neighbourhood is looking much better than it did in spring; a bit of sunshine and more traffic helps. There’s life on the street, cafés are boisterous and bustling, and you can feel that the city’s ready to give it another shot – just as soon as the August bank holiday is out of the way. That said, there are a worrying number of empty shopfronts. You don’t notice them at first but when you start to tally them up it becomes alarming. Shopkeepers say that landlords are in no rush to offer rent rebates and don’t seem particularly interested in filling up stretches of empty shops with any great speed. They should! And they should use this period to think about how they might subdivide space, as well as engaging existing tenants to see if they’re up for expanding and launching new concepts. London has every opportunity to reposition itself as one of the world’s most dynamic places for retail but the various players are not in lockstep. Note to landlords: drop your rents a bit, take a punt on new concepts and do your bit to help kick-start the retail scene.
Midori House. We had a wonderful end-of-summer party on Tuesday evening at our London hub and I made sure that the Turkish and Greek ambassadors spent as much time together as possible in order to ensure that we have a smooth conference in Athens. Note to eastern Mediterranean watchers: keep a close eye on Istanbul and Ankara. More soon.
Seat 1A. It’s Wednesday evening and time to return to Zürich. I’m beat after three days in London. Swiss has put on a long-haul aircraft for the one-hour jump back to Switzerland. Note to airline, part two: keep doing this; it’s a good tease to remind passengers how lovely it is to fly transcontinental.
En route to Stuttgart. I’ve had to do a little roadtrip up to Stuttgart to do an interview and I’m stopped by the German border authorities. I’m thinking that they’re going to want to see assorted coronavirus paperwork but they’re more interested in my wrists. “Why are you wearing two watches?” asks the border guard. “Will one of them be staying in Germany?” I explain that I’m having fun accessorising and that the Swatch and Rolex will be staying with me. He then asks who I’m interviewing. I tell him it’s the CEO of a rather large German car-maker. “What’s the name of this CEO?” he asks. His grin suggests that he’s now having fun. I pass the quiz and he waves me off with a slight chuckle. Note to Grenzkontrolle: more human interaction like this please; it’s good for brand Deutschland.
Friday afternoon. It’s apéro time at a grand hotel in the Engadine and I’m chatting to a media baron who likes to take a week out for a bit of hiking. His empire is in the process of transformation and we both start to question why the creative landscape has become so corporate and dull and devoid of interesting people. I tell him to read Offline Matters (very, very good) as it underscores the need for fewer metrics and less digital guff, and more risk and weirdness. I also tell him that it’s time his company brought back some star personalities, creative freaks and oddball geniuses, and maybe moved away from misguided targets and bland box-ticking. He seems to agree. Note to readers: what’s the point of going back to the office if there’s no sense of fun, adventure and daring? When did we stop hiring personalities? And why?
Saturday evening. Monocle’s Merano end-of-summer party is starting in 30 minutes and I need to shower and get spiffy, and ensure this copy lands in Wellington on time. Note to all those attending the Salone in Milan next week: a full Monocle crew is on hand to host you across the week. Hope to see you at our USM and V-Zug events from next Sunday onwards.