Saturday 10 September 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 10/9/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Week to remember

In an attempt to squeeze a bit more time from the summer-holiday season, we celebrate the joy of receiving a postcard and go island-hopping, stopping off in Corsica with the Monocle Concierge and Madeira to meet the head honcho of its main newspaper. We also have the heads up on a Paris auction of mid-century Finnish design and singer Zaz’s weekend routine. First, Andrew Tuck on Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Watching from afar

On Thursday, when Buckingham Palace released its statement that Queen Elizabeth II was under medical supervision and that there were concerns for her health, it was clear that her extraordinary story was coming to an end. This was underlined by images on TV screens and websites of her family making the journey in haste to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to be by her side. I saw this news while I was starting my day in New York, where I’ve been for much of the week for work. In truth, it felt a little unsettling being out of the UK – that perhaps you should really be with the rest of the country waiting to see how the day would unfold.

And the early morning coverage on US TV didn’t help. While every British media outlet has rehearsed for this day again and again, many of the US channels might have had live feeds to Scotland and Buckingham Palace set up in seconds but were then stuck with studio anchors unsure how to navigate a story that, in fairness, meant little to them. Royal experts would be asked what they thought was really happening and then the anchors would look disappointed when said expert admitted that they knew no more than the statement had revealed. One anchor suggested that it was great that their reporter was at Balmoral because they too had suffered loss and had a special take on grief, so would be well placed to offer wise counsel – did they think that King Charles III might need a shoulder to cry on at this moment? Someone to share his feelings with? Another asked their British reporter how they were feeling. I worried that some hugs might be about to happen.

The announcement of the monarch’s death came at lunchtime in New York, just as I was meeting a British writer based in the city. We both agreed that it felt jarring sitting in sunny Manhattan. The local TV channels meanwhile went on the hunt for random Brits, hopefully crying ones. Just an hour after her death, I walked to my next appointment in the West Village and outside a church saw a picture of the departed monarch had already been printed and placed on the noticeboard with the promise that, “St John’s will soon hold a suitable service in thanksgiving for her life and for the repose of her soul.” At least this little church had known the right tone to take when the news came.

But why were so many people supporters of Elizabeth II? In modern Britain, why did she still stand for so much? It’s certainly not that we are a country where nobody ever questions the role of the monarchy or even despairs at the behaviour of some members of the Royal Family. And not all our houses are festooned with royal paraphernalia. It’s just that through a complicated and special mix of character and endurance, she came to embody what people hoped the nation could be – stoical, measured, there to serve and able to crack a smile when needed. Perhaps it was also her unwillingness to endlessly share her feelings and views – to exploit her brand – that allowed us to project onto her often varied and conflicting thoughts about being British. And that’s why her death unsettles: people want to know that it will not diminish the qualities that they see in Britain at its best. It’s also why what comes next could be tricky.

The Look / Queen of style

Wearing royalty

Though she started her reign in a sculpted 1950s-era gown, over the years that followed the late Queen Elizabeth II honed a public look that in some ways became its own genre (writes Sophie Grove). Eye-catching, demure, bold; it’s said that she donned bright colours as a matter of optics: her subjects needed to spot her in the crowd.

Over 70 years at the helm of the Royal Family, her ensembles became reassuringly familiar: sherbet tailoring paired with white gloves and plumed millinery. Not many people could pull off a full puce-green outfit and matching hat but she did – countless times. A string of pearls at her neck and a “Traviata” (handbag made by British leather goods company Launer) on her arm, her sartorial continuity was as unfaltering as her public profile.

Though she appeared in myriad colours, frock coats and boxy hats were her uniform. It’s perhaps not a surprise that as head of the armed forces she wore her brooches and ancestral jewellery with military precision. In a world where female leaders were endlessly scrutinised for their wardrobes, Queen Elizabeth II’s garb was beyond analysis. Arguably, it was mimicked by the likes of Margaret Thatcher as a uniform for office.

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

Evening wear was always steeped in high glamour. In 1983, for a state dinner with US president Ronald Reagan (pictured), she wore a voluminous sleeved dress, a tiara and spectacles. Off duty it was quilted gilets, wax jackets and a silk foulard tied under the chin. Like many British aristocrats, muddy shooting weekends on country estates called for practical outdoorsy wear. Studiously planned and couched in protocol, some of her maxims ruffled the feathers of younger royals, who reportedly resisted calls to wear knee-length skirts and nude tights.

Norman Hartnell, one of the monarch’s favoured fashion designers, once spoke of her “non-sensational elegance” and ability to stay above trends. Sartorially it’s this that she will be remembered for – and that inimitable mixture of restraint, rules, maximalism and wild colour.

Sophie Grove is Monocle’s senior correspondent and the editor of ‘Konfekt’ magazine, our sister title.

How we live / Return of the Postcard

Colourful missives

After the holiday comes the deluge: hundreds of photographs shared with friends that probably won’t be looked at again (writes Alexis Self). I understand the sentiment behind these mass post-trip exchanges. But rather than enshrine happy memories they more often sequester them away – out of sight, out of mind.

This is why I found a colleague’s receipt of a postcard the other day so heartening. A friend he had been on a trip with uploaded a photo of them together to an app, Stannp, which turned it into a physical postcard and dispatched it to his address. Even now, I can remember both the image and the words because I held them in my hands. Sending postcards used to be an integral part of a holiday. They could be brief or lengthy, humorous or heartfelt, but the reaction they would elicit was universal. The sight of a postcard on your doormat is almost always a pleasant one.

In the days of instant communication, messages from friends or family abroad usually feel perfunctory – a photo of a pool or beach with some words about the weather – and are often sent to very few people. Long gone are the days when we would giddily fire off missives to great-uncles, second cousins or even mere acquaintances. It can’t be a coincidence that the decline of postcards has mirrored a general decline in the number of meaningful correspondences that people maintain. With the help of apps such as Stannp, I look forward to participating in the revival of these papery mementos. I suppose I’ll have to start going on more holidays.

Monocle Concierge / Your Questions Answered

Corsican charm

Every Saturday the Monocle Concierge answers your travel questions. If you are going somewhere this autumn and would like some discerning tips and esoteric recommendations, click here. We will answer one question a week.

Dear Concierge,

Do you have any recommendations for Corsica?

Simon Ollerenshaw, London

Image: Alex Cretey Systermans

Dear Simon,

We certainly do. Early autumn is a great time to visit Corsica: the August crowds have cleared out and the Mediterranean is still warm enough for a swim. The island’s beaches are lush and wild, with the kind of pale sand and crystalline water that is the stuff of fantasies. Our favourite is the beach of Mare e Sole.

In recent years, as visitor numbers have increased, several vibrant new ventures have opened. Nowhere is this more evident than in Cap Corse, the thumb-shaped peninsula in the north. Here the glamorous Hotel Misincu offers stylish rooms and villas amid its extensive gardens, the Libertalia restaurant proves that a beachcomber establishment can be cool and the renowned grocer Epicerie Fine Scotto offers some of Corsica’s tastiest gourmet goods.

If you have time to explore, rent a car and drive along the coast, taking in the quiet beaches, while visiting the best offerings of the cities. At Le Cabanon in Ajaccio, chef Nadine Micheli cooks with the freshest catches straight from fishermen’s boats. Le Maquis, a hotel along the coast of Porticcio, is a cosy seaside getaway. And inland, A Pignata is a farm hotel situated in a pastoral utopia. In Bonifacio, sit at the vintage-furnished bar of Chez Ange (pictured) as the owner recounts the island’s history, while the Hotel Version Maquis Citadelle offers a high-style option for the most demanding of travellers.

Outpost News / ‘Jornal JM’

Island life

Founded in 1932, the newspaper Jornal JM covers the most important goings-on in the sunny Madeiran archipelago. “We also have a radio station that broadcasts news, entertainment and music,” says director António Abreu. “In total, there are 26 people working for us.” Here, he tells us about the publication’s subscribers, the Madeiran diaspora and an exciting new sustainability initiative.

Image: Alamy

What kind of news do you cover?
We cover the region in great depth but we also like to keep an eye out for what’s going on in the rest of Portugal and the world. Our section on the Madeiran diaspora, for example, features news on people from the region who left and are now spread out across the globe.

How many subscribers do you have?
More than 1,500 people receive a physical copy delivered to their door every morning and our digital editions have more than 500 subscribers.

Can you tell us about an interesting story you published recently?
An article we did on the new electric fuel stations cropping up in Madeira’s ports. It’s part of a broader sustainability initiative aimed at decarbonising the ships stopping here.

The Interrogator / Zaz

Clean living

France has a long history of producing powerful songstresses (writes Hester Underhill). Today it’s Tours-born singer Zaz carrying the baton. Known for her heartfelt lyrics and soaring vocal range, she’s sold more than four million records worldwide. Here she tells us about giving up smoking and the best weekend market in Le Marais.

Image: Alamy

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
I stopped drinking coffee two years ago. I also stopped drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and eating meat. So I only drink herbal tea in the mornings now.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
There are loads in Paris. The Marché des Enfants Rouges in Le Marais is one I particularly like.

Which radio station do you listen to?
I really like French station Fip. There are no adverts and it broadcasts a really rich mix. You learn a lot of new things by listening to it.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen on TV recently?
I like watching shows about music and live performances. I really like NPR and its Tiny Desk concerts. I’d love to do that show one day. I also loved Peaky Blinders. The cinematography, costumes and acting were all so amazing.

Any film recommendations?
There are so many brilliant French films out there. I particularly love Elisa, with Gerard Depardieu and Vanessa Paradis.

What Am I Bid? / Dolphin chair by Ilmari Tapiovaari

Take a seat

The Piasa auction house, located in a charming hôtel particulier in Paris’s swanky 8th arrondissement, is holding a mid-century Finnish design sale on Thursday (writes Grace Charlton). Up for grabs are 20th-century Nordic icons of furniture, glassware and home furnishings by designers such as Alvar Aalto, Paavo Tynell and Björn Weckström.

Image: Annmaris

During the 216-lot auction, we will be leaping out of our seats for this Dolphin chaise longue designed by Ilmari Tapiovaara in 1955. The oak and cream delfiini, a 1997 edition by Helsinki-based furniture company Skanno, is expected to sell for between €6,000 and €9,000. Why not splash out on a friendly companion for the colder months ahead?


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