Saturday. 2/4/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Get in gear

From the irresistible rise of protest pink to the questionable value of Eric Clapton’s BMX, our bumper Saturday bulletin is full of fresh observations. Plus: Hay Festival director Cristina Fuentes La Roche on her favourite bookshop. First, Andrew Tuck reminisces.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Pride of place

On Monday I went to the memorial service for my first boss, Tony Elliott, who founded Time Out magazine, which is present today in more than 300 cities. The memorial was held at the Roundhouse, now a great performance space but originally designed in the 19th century to allow steam engines to be turned around in densely built-up Camden. There were hundreds of people there, some of whom had worked with Tony back in 1968 when the magazine began. But every generation of Time Outer seemed to have a colourful story to tell of their time in the business – and a lot of love for Tony.

My near-decade at Time Out, my entry into journalism, started in the 1980s and in the bar after the memorial I saw many of the people who had been my contemporaries. “Wow, you haven’t changed,” people kept saying to each other – but, of course, we had and, in truth, it occasionally took a few seconds to remember who someone was. I guess it’s just not acceptable to say, “Crikey, where did your hair run away to?” But by the end of the evening, despite the wine, everything was back in focus, years somehow wiped away and the humour and confidence among old friends re-emerged. Yet the thing that struck me most is how we often just don’t know how amazing an experience is until we can look back at it.

Time Out in the 1980s was fun, radical, campaigning and passionate. It could cope with large characters and big egos – and some misbehaviour. One of the best stories told on stage was about a chief sub editor, Tim, who one night got lucky at the gay nightclub Heaven and decided to take his newfound pal back to a Time Out building, an offshoot in an old school, where Tony had moved his office. Tim and his catch were, well, in full throttle when the office door opened: Tony had forgotten some papers. But he made no fuss, simply gathered up what he needed, said goodbye and left. The next day, Tim feared the worst. But Tony said nothing; life just carried on. Tim, sadly no longer alive, loved recounting this story and even today it stands as a good mark of the tolerance that Tony Elliott embodied. I hope that our young staff look back at their years at Monocle and feel the same – not about naked shenanigans by our sub-editing team (they are all too neat to allow their desks to be used for that). No, rather that they all feel they lived in interesting times.

This weekend I am up in St Moritz for The Monocle Weekender. We are broadcasting Monocle on Saturday today live from our pop-up space at the Super Mountain Market, a cosy retail and coffee spot in the town. Then, this evening, Monocle’s Georgina Godwin will be in conversation with Dutch author Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer about his bestselling book Grand Hotel Europa, which is available in English this month. It’s a novel about identity, what it means to be European and living among remnants of the past. And the setting of our event couldn’t be better; it’s all happening at the grand Suvretta House hotel, where I have wangled a berth. A hotel designed for conjuring up tales.

In the breakfast room at Suvretta House, you look around at the other guests and wonder how they all fit into this world. The dashing French couple, salopettes all a-rustle? I bet they live in Paris; she’s definitely a model. What about the man with a chestnut-sized gold pinky-finger ring? Old-school Athens money. Of course, this will all turn out to be utter nonsense when you end up speaking to them in the lift. But there’s something about hotels that makes for numerous potential narratives; an air of intrigue.

The other thing you observe is how growing up in this milieu can give you an easy confidence. A boy – aged seven, I guess – politely asks the waiter to bring him a clean spoon; teenagers loll on the sofas, laughing at something on their phones. I guess that’s privilege – not money, just the training to be comfortable wherever you are. It’s certainly something that many of us have to learn. Actually, I am not sure I have completed the first semester some days.

I blame the folks. I remember treating my parents to a holiday in Amsterdam and on the final days I joined them. Their understanding of the role of a hotel guest was sweet if warped. Every day, they made the bed, leaving it looking as though they had never slept in it. They rinsed the coffee cups in the bathroom sink; made sure no clothes were left out.

And, annoyingly, some of that has been inherited but I also like being the guest. You leave your room for breakfast and return to find order restored. You go to dinner and come back to find the room gently lit. The concierge somehow knows your name. It’s great. And I had enough caravan holidays in Cornwall as a child to relish it all. And so, no, I don’t make the bed. But I just can’t find the swagger to leave the towels dropped on the bathroom floor. God, I’m so rock ‘n’ roll.

The Look / Robredo Pink

Rose-tinted view

Pink has become a popular protest colour in recent years, particularly as a way of standing up to strongman leaders (writes James Chambers). Russian punk band Pussy Riot put on pink balaclavas to stick it to Vladimir Putin and, a few years later, hundreds of thousands of women in the US started needling Donald Trump with their hand-knitted “pussy hats”.

This rose-hued revolution has now entered the fray in the Philippines, where presidential hopeful Leni Robredo has adopted pink as part of her colourful crusade against dictators and despots. What started out subtly with a ribbon has since swept her entire wardrobe. Electric-pink polo shirts and matching masks are her everyday campaign clobber. She went full pink for the first presidential debate in March: a striking contrast to all of the sombre-suited male candidates on the stage.

Image: Getty Images

It’s a bold move in the blood-stained world of Filipino politics. Voters seem to have a soft spot for hardmen, from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte – and Robredo is up against both dynasties. The powerful Marcos and Duterte families have united for this election. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr has carved out a lead in the presidential opinion polls wearing the red of his father. Meanwhile, his running mate Sara Duterte, in green, looks to be a similar shoo-in for vice-president.

Robredo has it all to do, with a little over a month to go before the election on 9 May. But she does have form when it comes to staging a late comeback. She defeated Bongbong in 2016 when the pair battled for the vice-presidency, which is elected separately in the Philippines. Back then she was still wearing yellow, the traditional colour of the anti-Marcos opposition and her Liberal party. Robredo is running as an independent this time around and picked pink as a way of uniting voters who oppose the return of a Marcos and the continuation of the Dutertes. With everyone from drag queens to priests dressing in pink to show their support, this politically inclusive approach could just shade it.

How We Live / Twaddle

App-trap

As the Industrial Revolution burst forth, the English language grew to accommodate its new materials, techniques and processes (writes Alexis Self). In the post-industrial era, mirroring the decline in manufacturing, there has been a dismantling of certain words in the pursuit of profit. First, they came for the vowels. Lyft, Grindr and The Weeknd all looked egregious on page but at least you could correct them in speech. Today, however, the desire to create the catchiest brand name is chewing up perfectly usable words and spitting them out as mind-numbing confections.

I refer, of course, to the “le” suffix. Now, I’m no app historian (I bet someone is, somewhere) but I believe that the first effective exponent of such puerile nomenclature was the dating site Bumble. The app’s intention was to create a less-threatening dating environment by compelling women to make the first move. As such, the word Bumble, which connotes the friendly bee, was just the ticket. But the trend really took off with Wordle.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Wordle, in case you live under a rock, is the (six-letter-named) five-letter game that’s taken the Anglophone world by STORM. Its occasionally tricky but generally easy gameplay and attractive interface have won it many fans and imitators. I’ve come across Wheeldle, Byrdle, Heardle, Squirdle and Turdle. Well, not the last one. Besides the infantilising nature of these screen-based entertainments, simply speaking their names aloud sounds like a room full of toddlers learning to talk. Except, at least they’d all be aiming for real words. Perhaps my ire derives from too many mornings spent staring aghast at packed carriages of gormless commuters fusing mind and mobile until the word THINK appears on their screens like both a command and a reward. Or maybe I just need to get a lyfe?

The Interrogator / Cristina Fuentes la Roche

Turning the page

Cristina Fuentes La Roche is international director of the Hay Festival, one of the world’s leading literary events (writes Georgia Bisbas). Since 2005 she has overseen the programming of festivals in Arequipa, Rijeka and Segovia among others. Fuentes La Roche has also been awarded for her work on education and cultural programmes in Latin America. We catch up with her in South London, where she tells us about bookshop afterparties and a favoured Saturday breakfast.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Always coffee: cortado or flat white.

Do you prefer Saturday or Sunday?
Saturday, always, with a full weekend to look forward to.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
On Sundays, Blackheath Farmers’ Market in southeast London, for vegetables. And in summer, Model Market in nearby Lewisham for the pop-up restaurants.

A favourite bookshop?
Richard Booth’s Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye for its beautiful wooden interior and great selection. Not to mention the memories of all the parties we have had in it after-hours.

Which news source do you wake up to?
El País, The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and, of course, The Monocle Minute. I try to read a different outlet every day. The Bookseller and Bookbrunch are essential for UK publishing news.

Which radio station do you listen to?
I switch between BBC Radio 4 and Monocle 24 depending on my mood. I love Cerys Matthews’ show on BBC 6 Music too.

Do you enjoy podcasts?
I always listen to Desert Island Discs on catch up, plus NPR’s Radio Ambulante.

What are you currently humming in the shower?
PJ Harvey; I cannot wait to see her at the Hay Festival this year, where she’ll launch her new poetry collection.

A few magazines from your weekend sofa-side stack?
The New Yorker, Lithub, Babelia [El Pais’s cultural magazine] and Monocle.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen on TV recently?
I really enjoyed This is Going to Hurt, the comedy-drama series based on Adam Kay’s bestselling book. And my kids loved the HBO/BBC His Dark Materials adaptation. I’ve yet to tell them that the cast is coming to Hay this spring...

Any movie recommendations?
Spencer, the Princess Diana biopic by Chilean director Pablo Larraín.

What do you listen to before drifting off?
My kids: they are going to bed later and later these days.

Culture / Listen / Visit / Watch

Have faith

‘Tilt’, Confidence Man. Looking for an uplifting album? Look no further than Tilt by Australian electro-pop band Confidence Man. The follow-up to their 2018 debut, Confident Music for Confident People, is a dancefloor spectacular that channels the hedonism of the early 1990s. Single “Holiday” is tailor-made for non-stop ravers and “Break It Bought It” is an ecstatic electro-house anthem. The final song, “Relieve the Pressure”, combines French vocals with a pounding drumbeat.

‘Steve McQueen: Sunshine State’, Pirelli Hangar Bicocca. Steve McQueen already has a Turner prize and an Oscar to his name but he’s not resting on his laurels. His new show at Milan’s Pirelli Hangar Bicocca will feature works from throughout his career alongside new commission “Sunshine State”, an exploration of early Hollywood and its influence on our sense of identity. “Western Deep”, his dizzying dive into a South African mine, is also on show, as well as “Charlotte”, an extreme close-up of actress Charlotte Rampling’s eye.

‘Trom’, Viaplay. Before Trom, the Faroe Islands was one of the few Nordic locations not to have played host to a prestige noir drama. No longer: the North Atlantic archipelago is now the setting of this new crime series commissioned by Scandinavian streaming service Viaplay. Based on Jógvan Isaksen’s crime novels, the series follows journalist Hannis (Ulrich Thomsen from The New Pope) as he attempts to discover the truth about his estranged daughter’s unexpected death. Unconvinced by the efforts of the police, he takes matters into his own hands. Secrets and conspiracies play out against the islands’ stunning terrain.

Outpost News / The ‘Tenby Observer’

Green grass of home

The Tenby Observer is a newspaper with about 3,000 readers published every Friday on the idyllic South Pembrokeshire coast of Wales. In 1907 the paper’s editor helped to overturn a court case that ended up changing UK legislation, allowing the press into public meetings. As current editor Liz Davies explains, what has remained important in its history are stories that affect the community, be it errant walruses or tourist takeovers. Here, she tells us what she and her small team are looking forward to covering this summer.

Image: Alamy

Tell us about the newspaper.
The Observer is fabulous; it has been around since 1853 and is a good, solid paper. It is regional news, focused on the community it serves, and it has a loyal readership. It used to have a very traditional design; the masthead hadn’t been updated since the 1960s. When I joined last October, I worked with reporters to update it and the new design has been well received.

What are some memorable moments in your time as editor?
Last summer an arctic walrus was spotted in the harbour and even the BBC picked up on our coverage. The town was very excited. Recently we ran an obituary for a lovely man known as “Mr Tenby”, who owned a music shop for 70 years and was a real entertainer. When he died, we ran a double-page tribute and hundreds of people turned out to see the hearse procession through the town. The newspaper is a big part of the fabric of Tenby, so we try to keep a good blend of positives and slightly harder news to reflect what happens here.

What events coming up will you be covering?
For about eight months a year, Tenby is busy with visitors, which can cause issues among residents because it makes housing so expensive, so we will be sure to keep covering that. We are also looking forward to the Tenby Blues festival this summer and the fireworks on the quay. The Ironman Wales competition happens in Tenby in September with thousands of athletes; it is great for tourism but really takes over the town. We will also be covering the new tourism taxes and how that affects the businesses here in the summer. That will be a big story.
tenby-today.co.uk

Fashion update / Watches & Wonders

Fresh faces

Watch sales have ticked over nicely in the past two years, with Swiss watch exports reaching CHF22.3bn (€21.8bn) in 2021, exceeding pre-pandemic levels (writes Natalie Theodosi). Still, there was plenty to suggest change at this week’s Watches & Wonders trade fair in Geneva.

Rather than competing on creating bigger timepieces or more complex mechanisms, brands turned their hands to heritage styles that have withstood the test of time. Cartier has continued reworking icons such as the Pasha and the Tank (pictured) – the latter updated with monochrome red or anthracite grey dials, a nod to art deco-style models from the 1990s (pictured). A reinterpretation of the crystal-and-diamond bracelet worn by Gloria Swanson in the 1930s was another highlight.

Image: Alamy

Designers are also getting (slightly) bolder and more experimental, feeding clients’ post-lockdown appetites for optimistic styles. Jaeger-LeCoultre took the most playful approach of all, with its new Rendez-Vous, which features a shooting star passing across the dial every few hours. If you do catch it, be sure to make a wish.

Hublot also debuted some upbeat, rainbow-coloured models, while Zenith mixed and matched metals on its popular Chronomaster Sport model, which propelled the brand to a record-breaking year of sales when it launched in 2021. “That was a strong accelerator and we had a tsunami of positive responses,” says CEO Julien Tornare, who has been working to open up the brand by adding more accessibly priced and unisex watches – another growing trend – to Zenith’s line-up. “You need to build innovation that will eventually turn into the tradition of tomorrow.” Time will tell.

What Am I Bid? / Modern Collectibles

Star dust

The law of supply and demand holds that the price of a given commodity is related to its relative scarcity: the less there is of something, the more it costs (writes Andrew Mueller). The inverse appears to apply to fame and its debased mutant cousin, celebrity. More people are more famous for more reasons than at any previous point in human history, producing infinite quantities of fame-related memorabilia. Yet much of this dubious detritus remains fabulously expensive.

Image: Sothebys

The current Modern Collectibles auction at Sotheby’s, which runs until 5 April, illustrates this conundrum. These 37 lots could, from a distance, be mistaken for a yard sale: old trainers, a bicycle, skateboard decks and tradable cards. It all, however, has some association with pop culture, which is why it is being sold by Sotheby’s and not by the exasperated relatives of the hoarder at number 37 recently found buried beneath piles of National Geographic. The bicycle, an admittedly handsome white BMX cruiser, once belonged to Eric Clapton; bids start at $50,000 (€45,000). The green Converse sneakers are signed by former basketball player Larry Bird, once of the Boston Celtics: bids start at $7,000 (€6,300).

One item should at least provide an indication of how subsequent events affect the stock of former owners: a T-shirt worn by Will Smith in Men In Black. Along with trousers, socks and shoes Smith might have worn in the same film (pictured), it has a current maximum estimate of $40,000 (€36,000). A price significantly either side of that will tell us much about whether winning an Oscar compensates for hitting a guy at the same ceremony.
sothebys.com

Photo of the week / Artists at Risk

Pack mentality

It’s difficult to gauge what effect, if any, art has on conflict (writes Alex Briand). Sometimes it’s as simple as acting as a catharsis for the artist in a time that’s otherwise impossible to comprehend. Sometimes, in some way, it can shift perspectives or hold a mirror up to those blinded to the effects of war – just think of the enduring power of Picasso’s Guernica 85 years on. In response to the effects of the invasion of Ukraine, about 70 artists have gone one step further and donated an artwork each to the non-profit organisation, Artists at Risk. Proceeds from the sale of these works will help the foundation to “facilitate emergency travel, shelter and financial support to help our peers gain safety”.

Image: MATTHEW BARNEY

This photograph by American contemporary artist and film director Matthew Barney depicts five wolves tracking prey through the frozen wilderness of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. And maybe the sale of this and the impressive range of prints on offer will help, in a small way, in Ukrainian artists’ efforts to keep the metaphorical wolf from the door.
solidarityprints.org

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