Saturday 20 August 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 20/8/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Happy returns

This week we size up the Indonesian president’s signature trainers, soak in the glamour of a new Helmut Newton exhibition in Monaco and hear about the Italian itinerary of London-based journalist Laura Jackson. We are also spoilt for unusual choices at a Portland ice-cream shop and check in with the Monocle Concierge for more wise travel advice. But first, a word from our editor in chief, Andrew Tuck.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

No offence

And we’re back. If you have been reading this column over the past two weeks, you will be delighted to know that the return drive from Mallorca to London (with a ferry and the Channel Tunnel in the mix) has been completed. I admit that, as adventures go, it’s not quite Amundsen-in-the-South-Pole territory but not taking a plane really did make it feel special. And, despite the fact that I actually drove sometimes, no divorce papers have been filed (although when I clipped the kerb leaving a service station just past Narbonne there was a moment when all bets were off). And on that – service stations, not whether I should have had an ejector seat added when ordering the car – thank you to reader Michel-Pierre, who emailed detailed and welcome instructions on which services to stop at. His recommendation was to only use Total stations. We tried following his advice but on a Saturday in August, when half of France seemed to be going to or returning from a beach, gite or camping site, even Total’s stops looked like Glastonbury Festival on the final day. But let’s move on.

Petri Burtsoff, our Helsinki correspondent, was in London this week and came to spend a day working at Midori House. At lunchtime, our editor Josh Fehnert, Monocle 24 host and producer Markus Hippi (who is also a Finn) and I took Petri to lunch. All three of them are gentlemen of scale – tall, broad-shouldered; you would want them on your rugby team, though perhaps less so in your interpretive dance troupe. (Meanwhile, with my diminutive stature, I’d be lucky to get a job as club mascot.) When we arrived I said hello to the maître d’, who scanned my guests and said to me, “We’ll be needing a bigger table today, sir.” Some people might have taken offence but I thought that he had made a very wise call and that this was highly amusing. But if he had brought me a booster seat, perhaps my glee would have been diminished.

We have also had James Chambers, our Asia editor who is normally based in Hong Kong, in the office all week. It’s his first trip to the UK since coronavirus emerged and he has brought his wife and son, who was born in lockdown, with him to see his parents in Wales. In Europe we just forget how parts of Asia are still gripped by draconian – and politically expedient – pandemic restrictions. Anyway, all of that unbroken time in HK has had an effect on James. First, he’s invested in a lot of all-weather technical-fibre clothing; he sounded like a giant crisp packet as he wandered around the office. Second, he’s gone a bit HK on video phone calls at top pitch. So James was affronted this week when he was on a call in the street, saying goodnight to his son, and a woman crossed the road and scolded, “You’re a very rude man.” Well, we think that she was objecting to the call – it might have been his crunching attire that was ruining her peaceful stroll.

We are working on our business annual, The Entrepreneurs. One of the stories that we are researching is about people who run two very different businesses – the-builder-who-is-also-a-biscuit-baron kind of vibe. We’re not just talking side hustles but people with the kind of brain that allows them to do very different things or perhaps means that they need to do very different things. And this week a potential writer came to see me who made me think even more about whether it’s best to do one thing well or do lots of things well. He has run branding agencies and been the MD but now, shy of 50, spends part of the week working freelance on big projects that he likes, a day a week volunteering for a celebrated gardener (ahead of starting a gardening course) and, on Saturdays, works as a shop assistant in a place connected to gardening. He said that he wanted to make his work life “plural”, a term that I had never heard used in that context. It’s an accurate description of what many people are wondering about and edging around. It’s not about an unwillingness to work hard, far from it – just a sense that perhaps people want to use all of their skills and passions.

And on getting out into the world, even at Monocle we still have not been able to connect in the ways that we used to but finally I am returning to the US. I completed my ESTA form this week and saw for the first time the section where you can list all of your social media accounts. It’s optional. But for how long? Although if it gets some more likes for pictures of my dog…

The Look / Jokowi’s trainers

Best foot forward

I recently followed Joko “Jokowi” Widodo around for a profile in Monocle’s September issue, which has just hit newsstands (writes James Chambers). My first challenge was keeping up with the energetic Indonesian president (pictured). The sprightly 61-year-old zips around his nation’s sprawling archipelago wearing a pair of signature black trainers – or, actually, two pairs: his bagman always carries a spare set.

Image: Muhammad Fadli

Is shoe size a state secret? If you really want to know, he’s a 43 (that’s a 9 in the UK and 9½ in the US) and keeps his kicks – black with a knitted upper and a white midsole – in good order. They look like All Birds or APLs but are actually by Indonesian brand Nah Project and made in Bandung, retailing at about €28 a pair. According to Jokowi, Nah Project has gone from selling 400 a month to more than 10,000 since he started wearing them – a compact case study for what the president has been trying to achieve during his eight years in office.

Jokowi is no slouch; he wears comfortable shoes because he is constantly on the move. Nor is he a scruffbag: the president pairs his trainers with a well-fitted white shirt or colourful batik and trousers. He will need to be on his toes in November when hosting Joe Biden, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Bali. A pair of nifty Nahs might be just the diplomatic gift to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Monocle concierge / Your questions answered

Great escape

The Monocle concierge exists to answer all your travel-related questions. This week saw another smorgasbord of delectable enquiries. If you have one, please click here and we’ll do our best to answer it.

Dear concierge,

I’m planning to escape to the Dolomites on Thanksgiving. The idea is to fly to Milan and drive up towards the mountains. Which cities do you recommend checking out and, obviously, which hotels should I consider?

Camila Simas, Chicago

Image: Alamy, Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Alamy, Andrea Pugiotto

Dear Camila,

The Dolomites are an excellent choice and around Thanksgiving you might even experience the first dustings of snow – so make sure you pack appropriate clothing and footwear. We’re particular fans of Alto Adige (pictured, top), as it’s known in Italian, or Südtirol to give it the German name. We would recommend heading to that region.

As it’s a three- to four-hour car journey from Milan airport you should consider a short detour to the stunning city of Verona. Wander around its compact historical centre where you can see the Roman Arena (although you’ll be too late for the summertime open-air opera) and the beautiful old city gate of Porta Borsari. Check out tiny concept store Sempre and eat at the fun, wine-focused Bottega del Vino (pictured, bottom).

Heading up into the mountains after your Veronese pit stop, we also recommend a stop in the thriving city of Bolzano, which has excellent food, great architecture and is a stone’s throw from wonderful hiking. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention Merano, where we have a Monocle shop. You might even have time for dinner at Meteo restaurant.

There are plenty of smaller, picturesque places to lay your head, including Brixen (Bressanone). Also consider the hamlet of Nova Levante, with its pretty church spire, nearby Lake Carezza and in the foothills of the Catinaccio mountains. Stern B&B is the place to stay here. If you want to go really secluded – and are game for decent hikes – then go for Hotel Briol. It’s simple and stylish, although the shared bathrooms may not be for everyone.

How we live / Guernica mugs

Macabre mementos

I have a “Guernica” coffee mug (writes Andrew Mueller). I bought it the other week after seeing Picasso’s painting of that title in the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid. The questions I’m asking myself, as I sip from it while writing this, is whether I should have a “Guernica” coffee mug or indeed should have had the opportunity to purchase such an artefact. I find that similar dilemmas attend another memento purchased later that same day at the Prado: a fridge magnet bearing a reproduction of Goya’s “The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid”, otherwise known as “The Executions”.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

These paintings are – obviously – far from the only great artworks that have been commodified, even tchotchkefied, in this manner. But these two in particular cause me to wonder whether perhaps there shouldn’t be some sort of register, like those which protect distinguished buildings from undignified refurbishments, that renders at least some more sombre artworks off limits to the world’s souvenir hawkers. “Guernica” is Picasso’s anguished response to the 1937 razing of the Basque town of that name by the air forces of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, both allied at the time to the Francoist faction in Spain’s civil war. “The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid” is Goya’s depiction of the slaughter of Spaniards who rebelled against the rule of France.

I’m not certain where the line should be drawn. I find myself serenely indifferent, for example, to the idea of (and I’m sure they exist) a “Mona Lisa” T-shirt or a set of “Sunflowers” cocktail coasters. But I feel like “Guernica” and “The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid” should be somewhere over the other side of it. And yes, I’m aware that by buying the things as fuel for this column, I have become part of the problem. I went to Madrid and all I got were these lousy immortal expressions of furious exasperation at humankind’s cruelty and stupidity. I wonder if that would fit on a T-shirt.

Scoop of the week / Salt & Straw, Portland, Oregon

Taste sensations

This week our search for the best neighbourhood ice-cream parlours finds us in Oregon, where Gregory Scruggs takes a revivifying trip to Salt & Straw.

Summer’s bounty comes in many forms. At Portland’s Salt & Straw, the August seasonal menu is called The Veggies You Crave. The conceit yields safe choices, such as carrot-cake batter with praline hazelnuts, but also adventurous ones, including the chlorophyll-laden green fennel and maple. Devising ice cream with savoury ingredients is par for the course at the 11-year-old creamery, now with 18 locations across California, Florida, Oregon and Washington state. Co-founder Tyler Malek makes the case for outré flavours as a recipe for culinary curiosity not mere gimmickry. “The ice-cream parlour is the only restaurant where you can taste everything before you order it,” he says.

Salt & Straw encourages patrons to try as many flavours as they wish, knowing that a generous sample will help them make the right decision when faced with odd choices. Red-chilli curry and makrut lime crispy rice? An intriguing spicy buzz but not for a whole scoop. Charred corn curd, cotija and tajin, an ice-cream version of the Mexican street-corn elote? The mayonnaise ice-cream base was the wrong kind of creamy for my palate. But the spinach cake with chocolate tahini fudge (a spin on Turkish ispanakli kek)? I went home with an armful.

What I’m Packing / Laura Jackson

Tunes and tipples

Laura Jackson is a London-based presenter and journalist. Last year she co-founded luxury homeware shop Glassette. Here she tells us about a forthcoming trip to Italy and what she likes to eat and drink on holiday.

Going anywhere nice this year?
To Puglia. I’m very excited about an Italian adventure.

What’s the first thing you pack?
My passport. The most important thing.

What will you be reading?
It’s not that easy to read when on holiday with a one and three-year-old. Sometimes in the evening I will get out a book but I love chatting to my husband while watching the sun going down. I am still reading Grit by Angela Duckworth, which I started in January.

And listening to?
My husband’s soul mix or a Glassette playlist. My business partner makes them and they are brilliant. I’m loving the Mallorca edition at the moment.

Swimwear of choice?
A black Speedo swimming costume always comes with me – an oldie but a goodie.

Favourite aperitivo?
Nothing beats an ice-cold beer in the sun; Birrificio Angelo Poretti is my favourite for holidays and non-holidays.

Mediterranean recommendation?
Any restaurant on the coast that’s serving fresh seafood.

Photo of the week / Monaco Photography Festival

Damsel in distress

Helmut Newton’s retirement to Monaco in 1981 kick-started an ironically prolific period for the photographer (writes Grace Charlton). Along the Côte d’Azur, on the beaches of Ramatuelle, Cannes and Bordighera, Newton found glamour and the grotesque. This coastline is the inspiration for Newton, Riviera, an exhibition taking place in collaboration with the Berlin-based Helmut Newton Foundation at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco’s Villa Sauber until 13 November.

Image: Helmut Newton Foundation

Nearly 300 of Newton’s works will be on display, featuring the likes of Cindy Crawford, the Monegasque royal family and the dancers of the Ballets de Monte Carlo. His cabal of glamazons is what Newton remains celebrated for but Newton, Riviera also showcases his experimental works with an emphasis on the surreal.

In this untitled photograph from 1975, a blonde Brigitte Bardot doppelganger circa Et Dieu... créa la femme finds herself strewn across Pampelonne beach – or perhaps another planet. Is she an alien or simply a poor swimmer? Her kohl-rimmed eyes gaze up at her saviours, two diminutive deep-sea divers that bring a Snow White element to this otherwise Bonjour Tristesse moment. As ever with Newton, appearances are never quite what they seem.

Wardrobe Update / Pikol shirts

Get shirty

Pikol’s pieces deserve to be flaunted in the summer sun (writes Jack Simpson). The brand’s founder, Dan Branston, sources vintage tablecloths and reimagines them as camp-collar shirts. Every one is sustainably made and celebrates old embroidery methods, with motifs including ornate floral patterns sewn in linen, stitched gun-slinging cowboy scenes and retro Guinness adverts pinched from tea towels.

Image: Pilok/Louis Gilbert

The detailing is similar to that of fellow shirt-maker Bode but the difference is that every Pikol garment is completely unique. The label’s decision to focus solely on shirting has enabled it to perfect the summer silhouette. In his east London studio, Branston tells Monocle that his next project features a 1920s Hungarian cart cloth. Giddy-up!


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