Saturday. 2/10/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Wardrobe of words

I bought a pair of shoes. I wore them all day but they felt odd; they didn’t quite fit as I had hoped. When I took them off that night the problem became apparent: they were different sizes. The shop was apologetic and gave me a new pair and, as a bonus, told me to keep the others. Nice. But now I had a spare shoe for my right foot and a larger spare shoe for my left foot that would only ever be of use if, say, I got gout or puffy foot disease, or intended to enrol in clown school.

Now here’s one of those moments when you see how you and your partner approach life in curiously different ways. As I went to put the shoes in the bin, he said, with some strange confidence, “You’ll regret that. I guarantee that one day you will wish you had kept those.” Now the other half gets called many things (not least by me) but, as far as I know, “The Grand Seer of Bloomsbury” is not one of them. “Please explain,” I said.

“I bet you’ll lose a shoe and wish you had the spares,” he said. He can be a wise owl and, believe me, I lose a lot of things. But, so far, I have never awoken to find that an item of footwear has parted company with me on the journey home. The shoes went into the bin.

This approach to life has always divided us – and also always divided the wardrobe in rather unfair proportions: his fulsome side is replete with shirts not worn for a decade but which he claims he really needs. Or even more annoyingly, clothes that still have their tags on, which he says he is saving for a “special occasion”. Judging by the number of times that he’s ignored them on actual special occasions, I have a feeling that he’s holding out for a visit to the palace for a knighthood or the awarding of some ancient medal for oracles.

Every now and then I will lure him into having a clear-out. But like stumbling on a skittish – and sage – old deer in a forest, you have to approach with caution, not revealing your intentions until the very last minute in case your quarry bolts. We, (well, I) even have a name for these sessions. They are called “use it or lose it” and it’s a phrase that strikes terror into his heart.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The process goes like this. “Do you think you will ever wear these Elizabethan-style elbow-length gloves?” I ask. He will caress said object and then say with confidence, “We have to keep them. They are very good gloves. I wore them when I was in Hamlet.”

“What about this rather tired shirt?” Again, much sighing. By now he might have even had to take a seat as it’s all getting a little too much. “Well, I used to love it. But, OK, it can go.”

Sometimes I appeal to his better judgment and suggest that someone else could be in dire need of one of his 50 stripy shirts. We even make a special halfway-house section on the rail where items can hold out for another month to see whether he will “use or lose” them.

You can’t play “use it or lose it” for too long as tempers will fray like an old shirt’s cuffs. It’s also good to quickly get the outcasts into a recycling bin to ensure that no panicked retrieving takes place. We also give good stuff to Cleo, who has helped to keep the house in order for the past 15 years, and she in turn sends it to her family and friends in rural Brazil. I like to imagine that there’s a whole village dressed like the other half – perhaps one person even going about their day in long, slender gloves and hoping that a ruff is in the next clothes drop from Auntie Cleo.

Meanwhile, back in London, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the bin bags awaiting collection on Monday but if you happen to be in my neighbourhood of Bloomsbury and see a man shuffling around in two clearly different-sized shoes, you’ll know that I have failed.

The Look / Velvet blazers

Promotional material

Film reviewers have gushed at No Time to Die, the latest instalment in the James Bond franchise, following its world premiere in London on Tuesday (writes Tomos Lewis). But it wasn’t just the film itself that left commentators shaken and stirred. The red-carpet attire of its leading man, Daniel Craig – a double-breasted tuxedo jacket in bright pink velvet – made an impression too. It was made for the occasion by storied Savile Row tailor Anderson & Sheppard, which was established in 1906 and holds a royal warrant to dress Prince Charles.

Craig isn’t alone. A string of famous men have donned colourful velvet for their moment in the spotlight recently. Pages of praise were penned for US actor Jason Sudeikis and the blue-green number that he wore to the Emmys in September. Add to that the garment’s appearance on recent fashion-week runways, and the velvet jacket, so we’re told, will be a staple this season.

Image: Getty Images

But did it ever really go away? From Oscar Wilde’s comfortable black velvet smoking jackets onwards, it has retained its steady presence in wardrobes through the decades. John Lennon’s patterned, navy-blue number, which he wore in the video for Imagine, reflected its popularity in the 1970s, while Chanel’s gold-buttoned versions for women were a fixture in the 1990s.

Although not everyone will feel pretty in pink, velvet in darker or dustier hues never fails to exude a subtle sense of the sumptuous, be it on a red carpet or simply worn over a jumper during a stroll on a pleasant October day. It’s a classic worth indulging in. And why not? You only live once, after all.

How We Live / Scooters

Taken for a ride

Turned loose upon the streets of your city are swarms of swift, silent vehicles, steered by drivers without instruction, licence or accountability (writes Andrew Mueller). What could possibly go wrong? Among the many major cities increasingly plagued by e-scooters, Liverpool now has an answer to that question. A trial was undertaken with Swedish company Voi to provide about 50 of its e-scooters for public hire. The result: more than 1,000 week-long bans issued for “anti-social riding” (as if there’s any other kind) and those were just the ones who were caught. It prompted a petition to be submitted to Westminster – born out of concern for pedestrians competing with unsociable riders – that showed some 38 per cent of the Merseyside scooter fleet was not fit or safe for use.

It remains illegal to ride a privately owned e-scooter on public roads or pavements in the UK. But a stroll around any British city will demonstrate that this law is sparsely enforced, though some jurisdictions are stepping up: in August, the machines were banned from London’s Royal Parks, whose overseers correctly declared them a menace to pedestrians, especially those suffering mobility, sight and hearing impediments.

Regulating e-scooter hire schemes is at least possible. In Liverpool, in fairness, restrictions are being applied to parking, and there is no service after 21.00 on weekends, for reasons requiring no elaboration. But permitting private riders to break one law does not appear to be discouraging them from breaking others.

The Interrogator / Sun Heidi Sæbø

This just in

Norwegian journalist and non-fiction writer Sun Heidi Saebø is the editor of Morgenbladet, an independent Norwegian weekly that focuses on cultural and political affairs. She’s also one of the country’s foremost Asia experts. Having worked as the Asia correspondent for Dagbladet, another Norwegian daily, Saebø has written profusely on North Korea and on China under Xi Jinping. Her most recent book, Kim Jong-Un: A Shadow Portrait of a Tyrant, is part murder mystery and part biography, telling the story of the death of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam. Here she shares her secret to feeling energised in the morning, weekend reading and which Netflix series has it all.

What news source do you wake up to?
I’m old school: I listen to the radio and NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
I’m addicted to iced lattes with a bar of milk chocolate. Not exactly a healthy or nutritious breakfast but it does give me plenty of energy.

A favourite tune at the moment?
“Pray For Me” by The Weeknd featuring Kendrick Lamar. It has an element of drama and yet it is soothing and upbeat at the same time.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I don’t. I’m an introvert during the first hour after waking up.

Newspaper that you turn to?
I usually go through four or five Norwegian newspapers a day but if I had to settle for one it would, of course, be Morgenbladet.

A favourite bookshop?
I buy many of my books online or randomly. I should, of course, be a more conscious consumer and support smaller, independent bookstores: a post-pandemic ambition there.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
Like so many others, I listen to The Daily and I also subscribe to Sinica and the North Korea News Podcast because I have an interest in East Asia.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
I would have to say Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive. It has everything: adrenalin, conflicts and handsome men.

And what’s your movie genre of choice?
I should probably list something highbrow but I have to admit that I have a weak spot for blockbuster action movies.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
I listen to novels that I take a slight interest in. I always fall asleep when I listen to audiobooks.

Culture / Listen / Read / Visit

Giving voice

‘Interblaktic’, Muzi. One of the stars of the South African scene, producer, singer and DJ Muzi is finally releasing his fourth album. It’s an infectious mix of synth pop and pure electro Afrofuturism, heavily inspired by the nation’s bubblegum rhythms from the 1980s. The frenetic Chicago-house beats of the title track are a highlight, as is the suave duet with Mozambican musician Deltino Guerreiro in “The Traveller”. “Juice” is a particularly catchy number that’s guaranteed to transport you to a sunnier place.

‘Madgermanes’, Birgit Weyhe. This graphic novel, which toggles between autobiography, documentary and fiction, takes its title from the name given to 20,000 individuals who were sent from the People’s Republic of Mozambique to East Germany in the late 1970s. These Mozambican contract workers toiled for the German Democratic Republic before losing their residency status and any hope of compensation when the Berlin Wall fell. This is a moving story of identity, migration – and where people belong.

Athens Biennale. With the theme “Eclipse”, the seventh edition of the Athens Biennale centres on the idea of shining direct light onto voices that have traditionally been marginalised. Across three venues, the programme comes to life in very different ways: inside abandoned department store Fokas, artworks tell a story of dystopian turbocapitalism; in a former courthouse they evoke the haunting nature of the past; and in a dilapidated office block they evoke a sense of isolation and lost identity. Greek artists are paired with voices from Europe, North America and beyond for a show that proves how interesting perspectives on global issues can come from cities that are not international art capitals – not yet, at least.

Outpost News / ‘The Horsham Times’, Australia

Come one, come all

With a population of 16,500, Horsham, in rural Victoria, Australia, isn’t considered particularly large by any stretch – but the town has big aspirations (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). “A lot of the conversation over the past few years, outside of coronavirus, has been how to attract tourist dollars,” says Jessie Gartlan, editor of The Horsham Times. “People typically go to the bigger cities but Horsham is up and coming and finding its feet.” When the newspaper started 16 months ago, Gartlan worked on the first edition from their car. Now the paper has grown in size and plays an increasingly important role in the community. Here, Gartlan tells us about a controversial merger and a theatre production that might never take place.

What’s Horsham like? There’s definitely a townie-versus-farmer divide. We have a main street and a few others with shops and restaurants but there’s a lot of farmland too. It’s primarily legumes, lentils and sheep because it’s too dry to be dairy country.

Can you share a big story from this week? An ongoing story is the proposed merger of our health services with nearby Ballarat, because of a long-term shortage of GPs and other medical practitioners. It has been controversial, with petitions to parliament and a one-man protest with a sandwich board out in front of the hospital.

How about a photo that stuck with you? Unfortunately, we’ve been in lockdown for the past three weeks. There is a photo I took of some students rehearsing a production of Matilda that’s probably never going to see the light of day. They’ve been rehearsing for almost two years now.

And a favourite regular? We have a veterans’ column. It’s a very old-fashioned town with an ageing population, so we have a good relationship with the Returned Services League. They provide us with a story from the region every week and it sells quite a few copies among our older readership.

Retail update / Georg Jensen Gallery

Style and substance

Danish design brand Georg Jensen has taken some time away from purveying tableware to the country’s queen (with whom it has a royal warrant), to open a flagship store on New Bond Street in London (writes Grace Charlton). Here, a curated selection of jewellery pieces, ranging from statement to understated, are being showcased alongside the brand’s home and silverware collections. And while there are exclusive in-store pieces to celebrate its opening – such as the Nanna Ditzel-designed 18-carat white gold necklace, with a London blue topaz – it’s the design of the space that really grabs headlines.

The interior was created in partnership with award-winning firm Universal Design Studio, which took inspiration from the brand’s Koppel 1401 dish. This iconic archival piece, designed in 1954 by Danish modernist Henning Koppel, is echoed throughout the store, explains Ragnar Hjartarson, Georg Jensen’s creative director. “The organic shape of the dish characterises timeless Danish design and craftsmanship,” says Hjartarson. Its form is reflected in a fluid light fitting that hangs above the entryway and sculptural paper details that frame display cases. It’s a reminder that good Nordic design never loses its shine.

What Am I Bid? / Al Capone’s possessions

Untouchable legacy

A Colt 45 semi-automatic pistol for $150,000 (€130,000); a handwritten letter valued at $50,000 (€43,000) (writes Will Higginbotham). It sounds like a rather interesting and expensive garage sale but this eclectic mix of items once belonged to one of the US’s most notorious mob bosses, Al Capone.

They’re among 175 of his possessions, some fairly quotidian, which will be auctioned in California next week. Estimated to go for less than $5,000 (€4,300) are an 18-karat gold belt buckle, the bed he shared with his wife and numerous personal photographs. The aforementioned letter, written to his son from Alcatraz prison, and a platinum-and-diamond Patek Philippe pocket watch are each estimated at between $25,000 and $50,000 (€21,500 and €43,000).

While it is easy to get caught up in the idea of Capone – the Prohibition-era mobster known for his bootlegging syndicates, gambling rings and gunning down of rivals – this collection offers a more nuanced take on the man. “When you handle his possessions, when you see his pictures of him holding his grandchildren, something happens,” says Brian Witherell of Witherell’s auction house. “You start to see the human side.”

He notes that some items are unusual sights at auction but their deep connections to an American historical figure have enhanced their worth. Every lot will include a written note from Capone’s granddaughters, who are parting with items that have remained in the estate since Capone died in Florida in 1947.

So far, bidders from all 50 states have registered their interest in the auction on 8 October, as have representatives from 13 other countries – Witherell and his team can expect the sale to be mobbed.
witherells.com

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