Saturday 12 March 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 12/3/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Surprise, surprise

A trend for bleached eyebrows, the reason why Hong Kong’s freezers have never been fuller and Brazilian pop royalty – and that’s just for starters. Elsewhere there’s high-fashion tweed, a trove of African American memorabilia and, with some thoughts on the week, Andrew Tuck.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Lost and found

Before each yoga class – yes, I am back toppling for Britain – the teacher asks whether anyone has any injuries that he should know about. Now seeing as my absence in recent weeks has been because of a dodgy knee, for the first time ever, I raised my hand to tell him and everyone else in earshot of my fascinating sports injury. His response? “Oh well, do what you can.” It was not the level of interest in my wellbeing that I had been expecting. In truth, I only volunteered the information because my other half (a bit of an annoying teacher’s pet) said that it would be wise; he then, when I got zero sympathy, actually sniggered. I have decided that next week I am going to raise the game and, when the yogi asks about any injuries, tell him that I sat on a cactus and have a few spikes still in situ that he might help me retrieve during downward dog. I will get sympathy whatever it takes.

My knee? Well, let me confess something: I have been a bit of a physical-therapist slut lately. I was seeing this one guy but he’s gone away on a trip, so I organised a date with his colleague but things didn’t exactly work out how I had hoped. For the sake of this story we’ll call him Jake. Now Jake is in his twenties, handsome, with a mop of rich hair that, as he chats, moves back and forth like some giant, happy sea anemone. Anyway, he looked through his colleague’s notes and moved my knee this way and that. “Does this hurt?” he asked, pushing the spot that I had just told him hurt. I was waiting for some nice comments about my overall litheness but his assessment was less than rosy. “Look,” said Jake. “You’ve hit the age when you are just degenerating. Your joints, your skin, your hair.” I was amazed that he didn’t recommend a wheelchair supplier. That night before I went to sleep, I said a little prayer: “Dear God, could you do me a favour? Could you please make Jake the physiotherapist go bald? This week would be ideal if you don’t have too much on. I can supply his address and phone number if that would make it easier to trace him.” Let’s see what happens.

Still, I have been having a senior moment. I hid a zip pouch – blue, made in Japan, a gift from Tyler – with some money in it and cannot find it anywhere. Now it’s not a life-changing sum; it’s just bewildering. But I have some form with this. The other half has told me never to tell this story because he insists no good will ever come of it but, as he’s not here today to stop me, here goes. We were at a beach-shack restaurant and to use the loo you had to get the key from the barman. The key was attached to a length of string and the string, in turn, was threaded through a pebble with a hole in it. I went to the bathroom, washed my hands, clicked the door shut, walked the 100 metres back to the bar – and realised that I had somehow lost the key. I quickly retraced my steps along the sandy path. The barman, who had a spare key, joined me and reopened the door but it was not there either. I checked my pockets. It had vanished into thin air. That evening, as I got undressed to shower and took off my underwear, I heard a funny sound: the clank of key and pebble on marble floor. And no, my cash is not also in my knickers. I checked.

My opticians is not cheap and when it tried to upsell me on a pair of prescription sunglasses, the sum was eye-watering (as Jake will confirm, when you are degenerating as fast as I am, you need to cough up for the sort of lenses found in one of those Atacama desert space telescopes). Then a friend asked me to help him choose some glasses in Ace & Tate, which is one of those companies with a limited number of cool styles and low prices. I ended up being the one who placed an order and I pick up my new bargain sunnies this week. But the price was not the only surprise: scanning the names of the frames I saw Tyler, Wilson, Bobby and Saul. I took a picture and sent it to TB (assuring him that the Tyler was the most expensive in the shop), Fiona Wilson in our Tokyo office (her line was very popular), Robert – aka Bobby – Bound (I promise that his namesake frames are available with special lenses that allow you to see straight after a big night out with him) and our Saul Taylor in Barcelona (the Saul was stylish and oddly cheap, considering some of those old expenses claims). No, I did not choose any of them to sit on my nose, as it were. But now I want Ace & Tate to introduce some Tucks, which will come with little built-in laser guns that can singe the mullets off the bonces of unsuspecting virile youths in seconds.

The Look / Irony-free eyebrows

Brow, beaten

The expression “that’s going to raise a few eyebrows” often accompanies a bold lifestyle choice (writes Annabel Martin). But those partaking in the latest cosmetic trend may find it a little difficult to express their surprise – or any emotion for that matter.

This isn’t the first time that bleached brows have been in fashion; in the early 1990s, when Francis Fukuyama heralded the end of history, Madonna and her merry band of legwarmer-clad club kids were gallivanting across the globe with nothing but scorched earth between eyelash and hairline. But as the bald-faced truth has sunk in that Fukuyama may have been a little premature with his predictions, so the bleached brow has found its way back onto the world’s red carpets and runways. History repeats itself – first as tragedy, then as farce, some wry wag might add, with a raise of her brow. Were there any brow there to raise.

Image: Shutterstock

As a recent Versace show in Milan and Bella Hadid’s Sacai appearance in Paris have proved, this is an irony-free look, which would indeed fit with the spirit of the time. The fashion world, once filled with acerbic models and voluble designers, is now a rather blank-faced place. When the actors that frame the eyes have departed the stage, sarcasm (as well as other, higher forms of wit), are bound to be lost in translation. And as for healthy scepticism… Well, what ever happened to that?

How We Live / Frozen food in Hong Kong

Freezer crowd

As Hong Kong grapples with its first proper wave of coronavirus (writes James Chambers), some residents are being forced to do the unthinkable: eat frozen food. It all began with an outbreak among the fleet of lorry drivers who deliver vegetables daily from China to the city. Then it spread to the main abattoir. Wet markets quickly ran out of fresh produce, sending shoppers towards the frozen-food aisle.

The past few weeks have seen a return to the panic-buying of 2020 – only this time, shoppers are scrambling for packs of frozen pork rather than toilet paper. Judging by the horrified reactions of shoppers cornered by journalists on their way out of supermarkets, the disruption has been difficult to stomach. One customer told the South China Morning Post that she was buying frozen meat for the very first time. As remarkable as the case of Mrs Wong sounded to a Brit like me, who grew up in the 1990s eating frozen sausages, broccoli and spinach, it speaks to the relationship that most Hong Kongers have with fresh food.

Live fish swim in tanks at the market, butchers cut up meat on the kerb and chickens are killed, plucked and bagged in front of waiting customers. These ingredients are bought daily, so the average household freezer is a cold and lonely place for the odd bag of frozen dumplings and forgotten tub of ice cream. The good news (well, not for them) is that live pigs are once again being slaughtered in Hong Kong and Styrofoam boxes at the wet market are brimming with bok choy. Nevertheless, Hong Kongers are now facing the prospect of having to live with frozen food, if not the virus, for a little while longer. It’s a chilling prospect for many of them. Although, I must admit, with a freezer full of garden peas and cupboards packed with tinned tuna, I’m feeling very much at home.

House News / Monocle Quality of Life Conference

Joie de vivre

Join Monocle’s editors alongside some of the world’s boldest thinkers, industry leaders and cutting-edge creative talents in Paris this summer to learn how to improve your quality of life and build a brighter future for our cities. Our seventh Quality of Life Conference, which runs from 2 to 4 June, will bring together more than 20 speakers and 200 international attendees for conversations, inspiration and the finest Parisian hospitality.

Image: Francois Cavelier

You will:

  1. Meet like-minded peers and build connections with some of the most exciting players in a range of global industries.

  2. Leave with fresh ideas and insights about how to revitalise your home, business and community.

  3. Explore a Paris that is re-energised with new ideas, projects and architecture ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games.

The three-day schedule begins with cocktails on Thursday evening before a packed day of interviews, panel discussions and mingling on Friday, followed by an evening of dinner and dancing. We say farewell with breakfast on Saturday and tours of the best retail and cultural spots in the city.

We will be hosted by Le19M, a prestigious new craft and innovation centre which is home to some of Chanel’s finest creative partners.

The Interrogator / Bebel Gilberto

To the beat

Bebel Gilberto, daughter of musician João Gilberto and singer Miúcha, is Brazilian musical royalty (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). As well as her starry lineage, however, she’s also accomplished in her own right. Having recorded with the likes of David Byrne of Talking Heads and Brazilian composer Caetano Veloso, Gilberto is known for her fusion of bossa nova and electronica. Here, she tells us about creature comforts, travel essentials and her favourite Brazilian podcast.

Image: VicenteDePaulo

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Coffee. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up. If I’m travelling, my French press is always in my suitcase.

Do you prefer Saturday or Sunday?
Sunday! Saturdays are for hangovers.

What do your Saturdays usually look like
I never go to the beach on Saturdays; it’s too crowded. If I’m in Rio, I tend to have lunch with my cousin. Saturdays are also usually for giving my shih tzu, Ella, a bath.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
I live near the Livraria da Travessa. I could spend hours there.

Which news source do you wake up to?
I’m not a big newspaper reader but I always watch the evening news. I love Globo’s Jornal Nacional. My Brazilian friends make fun of me; they think I’m addicted to it. I even watched it when I lived in New York. Globo does a great job, especially now that they don’t like Bolsonaro.

What’s the last podcast you listened to?
Rádio Novelo’s Praia dos Ossos – that was really good.

What are you currently humming in the shower?
I tend to sing scales in the shower. It’s embarrassing to do it in front of other people, so that’s where I go. My warm-up song of choice is Caetano Veloso’s Alguém Cantando.

What have you been reading lately?
I always have a book by Clarice Lispector with me on my travels.

What do you listen to before drifting off?
I don’t listen to much before bed but I do read fashion magazines and The New Yorker.

Gilberto is performing at the Southbank Centre, 27 March, as part of the London Latin Music Festival.

Culture / Watch / Listen / Read

Uncommon ground

‘Red Rocket’, Sean Baker. A comedy-drama about an ageing adult film star’s inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl might sound out of step with today’s mores. But director Sean Baker, who is best known for 2017’s The Florida Project, challenges his audience to spend time in the company of a character who is immoral, selfish and sordid – and even enjoy it. His skilful direction and Simon Rex’s magnetic lead performance give Red Rocket an irreverent charm and fidelity to a downtrodden, rural America.

‘Multitude’, Stromae. Belgian popstar Stromae is a hit across Europe, thanks to singles such as 2009’s “Alors on Danse”. After an eight-year hiatus, he’s back with Multitude. Though still uplifting, his songs are now more personal; “L’enfer”, for instance, explores his battle with suicidal thoughts. Yet there’s space for light: “Santé” is dedicated to workers who have helped us through the pandemic, from bakers to doctors. A splendid return from one of Belgium’s most exciting voices.

‘Our Wives Under the Sea’, Julia Armfield. The debut novel from the author of the strange and wonderful short-story collection Salt Slow charts the changing relationship between two women. When Leah returns to her wife, Miri, after a disastrous deep-sea voyage, it soon becomes clear that the underwater mission isn’t the only thing that has gone wrong. Miri clings to memories of their past together as she watches the life they had begin to unravel. It’s a modern-day myth about love, grief and the depths of the ocean that moves fluidly between romance and horror.

Outpost News / ‘Guysborough Journal’

Coast lines

In the breathtaking Eastern Shore region of Nova Scotia is the small county of Guysborough, which is home to about 7,500 people. When the community’s monthly newspaper went out of business in 1994, residents Helen and Allan Murphy took a leap of faith and started their own. Fast-forward to 2022 and the Guysborough Journal is celebrating its 28th anniversary. We speak with managing editor and owner, Helen Murphy, about how the newspaper came to be, an award for the worst typographical error and the events that encourage community spirit.

Image: ALAMY

Tell us about the history of the newspaper.
In 1994 my husband Allan and I were in our mid-20s and looking for a way to stay and raise our young children in the rural area of Nova Scotia that we loved but where jobs were scarce. We heard someone grumbling that the monthly newspaper in nearby Guysborough County had gone out of business, again. We thought, “Hey, maybe we could run a newspaper.” With a lot of stubborn determination and many all-nighters, we started a new monthly publication there, changing it to a fortnightly and then a weekly within three years.

How do you give readers a break from hard news?
Producing community newspapers, especially during tough times, calls for a little bit of fun and some offbeat stories. From the woman who found a small frog in a bag of frozen peas to the elderly gentleman who played many rounds of golf without losing a ball, life is full of quirky stories that have their place in a community paper such as ours.

What’s been your favourite headline?
We often have fun with headlines. Last year we needed to explain how a long-awaited new rural transit service was delayed because of the global shortage of semiconductors. It was partly an explainer piece, with the header, “Where public transit, mathematics and butterflies meet.” We touched on chaos theory and the butterfly effect in that one. Despite having a very small staff, we have a good record in avoiding typos – but we aren’t immune. One year we won our regional newspaper association’s Red Lobster award for the worst typo, by accidentally using “wench” instead of “winch” in “men with a wench to haul the catch onto the wharf”.

Which events will you be covering in the next few months?
This summer we look forward to covering the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, an international gathering of songwriters in Canso. And then there’s all those little summer festivals and annual come-home events for our rural communities. Dory races, woodsmen competitions, cardboard-boat races and lobster boils: you just can’t beat these events for fun photos, stories of community spirit and, especially this year, resilience.

Fashion Update / Chanel PFW

Free the tweed

When it came to designing her most recent autumn/winter 2022 collection for Chanel, creative director Virginie Viard’s approach was straightforward (writes Natalie Theodosi). She devoted the entire range to tweed.

The walls inside the sprawling room of Paris’s Grand Palais Éphémère, where the show took place, were covered from floor to ceiling in repurposed tweed, while the collection featured skirt suits, loose tailoring and maxi dresses, all rendered in, you guessed it, different tweeds. Even sequins on evening dresses were embroidered in geometric patterns to resemble the woollen cloth.


“We followed the footsteps of Gabrielle Chanel along the river Tweed,” says Viard. “She would go on her walks through the Scottish countryside and gather ferns and bouquets of flowers to show the local artisans which tones she wanted.” The long wellington boots (pictured) in the range were another wink to the brand’s Scottish ties, while the androgynous tailoring nodded to the founder’s flair for borrowing tweed sportswear from her lover, the second Duke of Westminster, in the 1920s. “Of course, I’m fascinated by this ever-contemporary gesture,” adds Viard, whose grounded, pragmatic design ethos has struck a chord with women around the world.

In the spirit of women bending the rules in the 1920s, Chanel has inaugurated the new Pionnières exhibition this week. Held at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, the show shines a spotlight on the female artists whose contributions to major artistic movements, dance, literature and design, have until recently gone unnoticed.

What Am I Bid? / The Elizabeth Meaders collection

Living history

Antique-collecting is usually a piecemeal occupation: it is rare that the opportunity arises to purchase an entire museum’s-worth in one go (writes Andrew Mueller). However, that is exactly what is going under the hammer at Guernsey’s on 15 March: an astonishing trove of African American history assembled over the past 70 years by Elizabeth Meaders, a Staten Island schoolteacher.

Meaders is now 89 but began collecting as a teenager, seeking out memorabilia related to Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman who, in 1947, became the first black man to play Major League Baseball. The Elizabeth Meaders collection now comprises more than 20,000 artefacts.

Image: Reuters

Some would be valuable on their own. There are medals presented to African American soldiers during the US Civil War, examples of which have gone for five-figure sums elsewhere. There is at least one autographed photo of Josephine Baker, the astonishing showgirl-turned-spy who was born the grandchild of slaves in Missouri in 1906, became a superstar on both sides of the Atlantic, was decorated for her service with the French Resistance during the Second World War and spoke before Martin Luther King Jr at the March on Washington. Similar items regularly fetch thousands.

The Elizabeth Meaders collection will not come cheap. Previous appraisals have run comfortably into the millions and the overdue upsurge of interest in African American history prompted by the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests will likely have hiked the price further. Added to that will be the considerable expense of housing and maintaining the hoard. An opportunity for some forward-thinking city government, perhaps?

Photo of the Week / ‘The Very Fire They Sit Beside’

Forgotten power

The conversation around climate change moves so quickly that many things which were entirely unremarkable even a few years ago now give us pause (writes Alex Briand). Commissioned in 2019 by non-profit organisation Clientearth, a project by London-based photographer and regular Monocle contributor Dan Wilton explores and documents the effect of coal production on people and communities across Europe. In the resulting exhibition The Very Fire They Sit Beside, alongside portraits of miners, camped-out protesters and those living with coal plants on their doorsteps, is this beach scene from the southern Portuguese coastal town of Sines.

Image: Dan Wilton

When the photo was taken in 2019, beachgoers played in the shadow of one of the most polluting plants in Europe. In the years since, climate concerns have taken the world stage and sustainability appears on every business pitch, fast-food advert and political manifesto. A lot can happen in three years: in 2021, 10 years ahead of schedule, the Sines plant closed, soon followed by the country’s last coal power plant. Today, Portugal is entirely coal-free.

‘The Very Fire They Sit Beside’ is on display at the Huxley-Parlour gallery in London, closing today.


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