Saturday 25 June 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 25/6/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Conversation starter

What’s that you say? You’re all settled in for a restful start to the weekend? Great, because Andrew Tuck is in the mood for giving. Elsewhere, we evoke the spirit of the riviera by sporting a breezy knitted polo shirt and putting in a bid for some sunny photographs by a muse of Picasso. Plus: culture picks for summer. Let’s begin.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Talking points

We have a garage that barely has space for a bike, let alone a car. Last Saturday, I was rummaging in there for some suddenly needed papers when a large tube of bathroom sealant fell from a shelf and bashed me on my bonce. It was breaking point. That afternoon I registered on a website called Freegle that allows you to donate stuff to anyone in your neighbourhood who is interested – and they then come to collect the freebies. I started with the easy stuff – things that don’t belong to me. The lots offered up to the digital gods included various neglected gadgets, an inherited side table, some metal under-desk storage and a pair of running shoes that the other half had never even worn (a little too Day-Glo for comfort – planes flying overhead could easily mistake him for Heathrow’s landing lights).

An hour later, I checked to see whether there had been any bites; there were dozens. Appointments were made and the next day the doorbell rang every few minutes and I would get to meet another nice person eager to help with my decluttering mission. I chatted to the woman who had come to collect the storage – arriving with a foldable trolley and determined to get it home on the bus – and the young man after the table.

Handing over the shoes was slightly more complicated. The man got the address muddled and went to a nearby road with a similar name. We were messaging and I told him to stay put; I would come and find him. I ran to meet him in my Birkenstocks. It only took seconds to spot him. He was tall, lean, neat, perhaps Iraqi? Iranian? I gave him the shoes and he said, oddly passionately, that he was very grateful, that this was a wonderful thing. “Great,” I said. As I nipped home, I quickly felt as though I had misjudged a moment. Back at my desk, I logged on to the website and there was a message from him saying that I was “a very kind man”. I dropped him a note – I was sorry, “We should have spoken”, I said. He messaged back to say that he had not been in the UK long and had, so far, not been able to find work; things were difficult, so the shoes meant a lot. And he told me not to worry about being in a hurry – “I can tell you are a very busy man.” I really wasn’t.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Why am I telling you this? Partly because it doesn’t make sense: I was simply clearing out a pair of shoes and I’d done someone a favour – but I ended the day feeling a bit sad about the encounter; that I had somehow failed him. I had the sense that the offer of a coffee and a few words of conversation might have been more valuable than the shoes. But it’s added some zeal to the garage clearout – the forgotten, the unused, the dust-gatherers have better places to be than here. This is no longer about decluttering my life but realising that it’s not great to hold on to things that other people need.

Starting conversations is often tricky. On Monday I was invited to a “Midsummer Reception” at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in Portland Place. It’s a mansion – glistening chandeliers, ceilings painted duck-egg blue, royal portraits, sofas covered in Svenskt Tenn fabrics. I arrived on my bicycle and outside the residence was a long line of chauffeured Mercs and BMWs with diplomatic plates.

Inside I chatted briefly with the ambassador, Mikaela Kumlin Granit, and then headed into the reception; it was a chattering cloud of dark suits. I knew nobody but it would be tricky to sneak out – and, anyway, the canapés looked delicious. I scanned the faces looking for a way in. I saw a man dressed in a grey suit – but a deconstructed fashion number – talking to a woman who was laughing. I strode over. “Hello, I don’t know anyone here and you two look like the most fun people,” I said, as I proffered a hand. One of my new friends worked at the embassy, the other – Mr Funky Suit – at the Finnish Institute. They were a hoot. Soon a well-known TV presenter asked whether he could join our circle, then Nolan, our executive editor, pitched up with his partner, Hyo. We accepted the offer of schnapps. It was such a fun night and I am not saying that we outstayed our welcome but we only decided to leave when the ambassador reappeared in her nightgown. The TV presenter and I are having lunch in the coming week and Jaakko Nousiainen, who turns out to be the director of the Finnish Institute, has invited me to the opening next week of The Finnish Sauna, which has been designed for the London Festival of Architecture.

Look what magic happens when someone lets you join the conversation. Sometimes the result of not making people feel comfortable to talk has few consequences but other times, well, we miss a trick, miss the chance to do good.

The Look / Riviera wear

Tender is the knit

The polo shirt is having a moment back in the sunshine. But it’s a particular retro style that’s winning through – think knitted, think Jude Law in The Talented Mr Ripley (pictured); think of the 1960s pool lizards in the photography of Slim Aarons.

Image: Alamy

Originating in India, where the British Empire set wore them while playing polo in the heat (which is why they were also known as chukka shirts), they then travelled back to the UK and beyond, becoming a suitcase essential in the 1920s for anyone off to Antibes or Saint-Tropez. In America they were a preppy staple in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, Ralph Lauren had jumped in the saddle, marketing his own version of the polo with the tagline, “It gets better with age”.

Half a century later and old Ralph’s been proved right again: the knitted polo shirt is that rare garment, hopping in and out of fashion like a skittish colt. This year designers such as JW Anderson, Gucci and Prada have taken their cue from those styles worn on the French Riviera during the 1920s. They are playful, sometimes even patterned. Those aiming for the true F Scott Fitzgerald look can pair their knitted polo with a case of dipsomania and a few ill-advised extra-marital affairs. Well, it is summer after all.

Interrogator / Felix Krämer

Strong brew

In a diverse career, Felix Krämer has edited and written several art histories, directed the modern art collection at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt and is now the general and artistic director of the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf. Here he tells us about Deutschlandfunk and the perfect cup of tea.

Image: Andreas Endermann

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Always tea with milk in a royal mug: preferably Typhoo or Yorkshire Gold. The darker, the better. It’s not easy to get in Germany but it’s essential to me.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify?
On weekdays I listen to news programmes on German radio station Deutschlandfunk or BBC Radio 4. During the weekend my family listens to music, usually a playlist on Spotify. A current favourite song is “Düsseldorf” by the London indie-pop group Teleman. It’s a great melancholic hymn to my hometown.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
I’m a news and art addict so the perfect weekend includes Die Zeit and Der Spiegel, as well as a selection of art magazines such as Artforum, The Burlington Magazine, Weltkunst and The Art Newspaper.

What’s your movie genre of choice?
At the moment we are preparing an exhibition on the fascination with horror in the arts. It will also include movies. I am intrigued by the fact that people enjoy being scared. I like Matthew Vaughn’s films. A personal highlight is Kick-Ass, a film that beautifully plays with expectations and stereotypes.

Any TV recommendations?
I am binge-watching Ozark on Netflix – a great plot with great actors. Truth be told, it is quite demanding and exhausting but it has still got me hooked.

Culture / Read / watch / Visit

Summer selection

‘A Theatre for Dreamers’, Polly Samson. Summers are a time for adventure and first times, so it makes sense that the Bildungsroman should be a classic of seasonal reading. Here, English writer (and author of some of Pink Floyd’s lyrics) Polly Samson takes us to Hydra in the midst of a suitably rock’n’roll milieu: Axel Jensen, Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen are sauntering on the island as protagonist Erica arrives to observe their antics, imbibe in the scorching hot atmosphere and question the role – and point – of being a muse.

‘Noi e La Giulia (The Legendary Giulia and Other Miracles)’, Edoardo Leo. Italian actor Luca Argentero, who international audiences will remember mostly for his role as Julia Roberts’ platonic ideal of a Roman man in Eat Pray Love, leads a team of his country’s most accomplished colleagues in this light-touch comedy. Three disillusioned, down-on-their-luck men decide to leave the city behind and come together to open a farmstead B&B in Campania. But soon the mafia comes to interrupt their rural idyll, demanding il pizzo – the protection payment. The group’s resolution not to give in turns surreal and brings a light-hearted approach to an important topic, making this film a tale about the courage to back one’s own ambitions and efforts.

‘Regards du Grand Paris’, Magasins Généraux. Founded by Paris-based advertising agency BETC, Magasins Généraux is a cultural centre inside the company’s impressive riverside offices, in the northern district of Pantin. This summer, the venue is presenting the best work from 38 French creatives who, over the course of five years, were commissioned to photograph the city of Paris in its many guises – beyond the central arrondissements and into the streets, squares and parks that display its many identities and cultures. Not only will these images be shown inside the gallery but also on public spaces, transport and construction sites across the French capital, inviting passers-by to reflect on what makes their city and where it is heading.

Outpost news / The Paphos Post

Committing to legend

Paphos is an ancient city on the southwest coast of Cyprus (writes Monica Lillis). According to Greek mythology, it was the birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite and it is renowned for its beautiful beaches and mosaics. Established in 2005, The Paphos Post has a mission to spread good news among its 35,000-strong community. Here we speak to Judith K Evans, the paper’s founder, about learning to grow vegetables and the power of positivity.

Image: Alamy

Tell me about the history of the newspaper.
I set up The Paphos Post after moving to Cyprus from the UK in 2003. What I found most difficult was the language barrier. Most advertisers weren’t keen to help fund the newspaper until I had my first issue published but I really wanted it to be a free community newspaper. I never thought I’d be able to get enough advertising to pay for the first issue, let alone still be running the paper 17 years later.

What has been your favourite story published in the paper?
We have excitedly published many good news headlines, a notable one for me was about a local agricultural project where refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and their families can develop expertise in growing their own organic produce. The land was donated at a very low annual charge and the community has pulled together with polytunnels and irrigation, farming implements and tools.

How do you give readers a break from hard news?
The Paphos Post in and of itself is always a refreshing break from all the negative news around us. We carry short funny stories and funny cartoons – after all, laughter is the best medicine.

Retail fixes / Summer hats

Top of the range

Tucked away in the narrow, cobbled streets of Monastiraki in central Athens, Giorgio Hatter looks unassuming: stripped back interiors, long industrial shelves and neatly arranged piles of hats. But a sense of warmth envelops the place thanks to owners George and Vasiliki Polychronopoulos (pictured). The pair are always on hand to greet customers and share their passion for hat-making, passed down from their father Elias, who opened the shop in 1978, and grandfather Georgios, who used to create hats for primary school students in his village of Kalamata. Today, Giorgio Hatter remains one of the city’s best-kept secrets for summer hats, from cotton bucket styles to fedoras handmade using natural straw. Place one on your head – it will add confidence to your stride.

Image: Yiorgos Kaplandis

This piece is an extract from Monocle’s Quality of Life July/August double issue, which is on sale now.

What am I bid? / Dora Maar, Paris

In the picture

Dora Maar is best known as the muse of Pablo Picasso and the subject of two seminal cubist paintings whose titles bear her name. But her own work, particularly photography, stands alone as the oeuvre of an innovative and talented artist. Between 27 and 28 June, 750 of Maar’s photographs will go on sale at Artcurial’s Parisian auction house just off the Champs-Élysées.

Image: Artcurial

Many of these images are taken from hitherto unseen negatives released by Maar’s estate. There is plenty of fodder for the Piccasoists: candid photos of the maestro on holiday in Provence and at work in Paris, that are expected to sell for about €3,000. Other famous faces such as André Breton and Marcel Duhamel moon at the camera or are glimpsed in repose around the dinner table.

But it is Maar’s street photography that seems the more inventive – Cartier-Bresson with a cheeky wink. The photograph above, taken in London in 1934, shows two boys peering through the window of a tattoo parlour: their blank limbs seem to foreshadow the inky vandalism to come. It is estimated to fetch between €1,500 and €2,000. Will you make your mark?


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