Saturday 8 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 8/10/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

The name game

What’s in a name? And is yours too popular or not popular enough? Mr Tuck opens up on ‘Andrew’ falling from grace. Elsewhere, we put our foot in it by jogging beside a canal, pontificate on the colour – and indeed existence – of lanyards and put some top artistic and photographic works in the frame. Plus: the rugged beauty of the Amalfi Coast.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Major Toms

It seems that I am now so unpopular that I might soon face extinction. Well, not me, exactly; my name. This week the Office for National Statistics published lists of the most popular names given to boys and girls last year in England and Wales. Noah, Oliver and George took the top three spots for boys and Olivia, Amelia and Isla the same for girls. But Andrew? It didn’t even make the top 100. The name is at risk of dying out but you only have to go back to the 1990s for a time when Andrew was in the top 10. Sadly, I don’t see much hope of a bounce-back, with the UK’s shamed and shunned Prince Andrew being the best-known person to fly the flag for the name (well, he hasn’t got much else to do). Things used to be so different when Andy Warhol was alive. Just as there are organisations in the UK that fight to revive the popularity of dog breeds that are no longer considered cool (the bearded collie and the dandie dinmont terrier, for example), we need campaigners to help ensure that Andrew, Christopher (another sorry loser) and Norman (almost dodo status) don’t vanish entirely. Perhaps pay a small fee to parents who are willing to give their child a name that’s at risk of eradication?

I will tell you another thing that has died a death in the UK. Conkers. When you walk through Regent’s Park at this time of year, there are two things that let you know that autumn has arrived: the erection of the marquees for the Frieze London art fair (the glorious jamboree starts this Wednesday and will be covered in The Monocle Minute and on Monocle 24) and the foliage on the trees turning red and copper. This is also when the seed pods of the park’s giant horse chestnut trees deposit conkers on the ground. As kids, we used to skewer these with string and play, well, conkers: basically, taking turns to smash your opponent’s nuts – and usually their hands. How did parents ever get away with persuading British youth that this would be an amusing way to while away an afternoon? And on top of that they called their kids daft names such as Nigel (given to fewer than 10 boys in the UK since 2018 and one that we might have to pay extra to find a parent willing to lumber their offspring with).

Over the years, Monocle has had pairs of Sarahs or Hollys who have found themselves reading lots of emails intended for the other’s eyes but one name has dominated: Tom. Some have been Tomos, Tommy or Tomasz but it’s all the same thing really. Toms seem to breed faster on the magazine’s masthead than a bevy of horny deer. Indeed, just this week we have been joined by a new café manager in London called Tom Hayes. And a few weeks ago, we welcomed a new deputy head of radio called Tom Webb, who now works alongside Tom Edwards. Personally, I feel that we have now done our duty to the Toms of the world (and they are not even endangered – both Thomas and Tommy chart in the top 100).

On our books team we have a Sarah, a Joe, an Amy and a Molly. This week we received a package containing the first copy of a new title called Portugal: The Monocle Handbook. It’s a guide to everything that you need to know about the nation, whether you are heading there for a fun weekend or to start a new life, from hotels and restaurants to where to find a home (and how to furnish it with creations by local brands). It’s officially out on 28 October but will be available from our online shop in the next few days. And we are already working on the next Handbooks in this series, produced in conjunction with Thames & Hudson.

I am filing this column this week from Ireland, where I have travelled with the aforementioned Tom Edwards and an ex-Monocle staffer, Tom Reynolds, for the wedding of our colleague Josh, Monocle’s editor. While he has exciting honeymoon plans with his wife, Clarissa, he will also be packing his suitcase in the coming weeks to join Tyler, Sophie Grove, Christopher Lord and me in Dallas for The Chiefs summit – a day of conversations and debates about leadership and looking ahead, with lots of good hospitality and a chance to share ideas. It takes place on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 November and we would love to see you there. For tickets, click here. It will also be a chance for name twitchers to spy a lesser-spotted Andrew and Christopher in action. And, I promise, no Toms.

The Look / Lanyards

Pain on the neck

As I write this, I am wearing a lanyard (writes Andrew – they’re not all extinct yet – Mueller). I am also wearing, and I cannot stress this enough, clothes, and so on. The particular lanyard I am wearing is purple – as modelled by Hanno Pevkur, Estonia’s minister of defence (pictured) – and is emblazoned with the logo of the Warsaw Security Forum, which I am attending with Emma Searle and Christy Evans, my colleagues from Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk. Their laminated IDs are hung from their necks by yellow lanyards.

Image: Getty Images

We have spent much of our little downtime here speculating on what the various colours of lanyard denote. With conferences and conventions of all kinds now properly back up and running, many people will presently be perplexed by concerns of this sort. This correspondent has long experience of lanyards, having come up through rock journalism. Backstage areas and after-show parties are rigidly delineated by laminated passes stuck ostentatiously on the outside of your jacket under the assumption that it will make you a magnet for the glamorous, attractive and easily impressed – but which instead damn you to the persistent company of some spotty Herbert toting a greasy plastic bag full of fanzines (I learnt that one the hard way).

What I also learnt is the irony underpinning all this status anguish: the real power move at any lanyard-stratified gathering is not wearing one – or, more precisely, not needing to wear one, such is your renown, authority and brute charisma. At last weekend’s Conservative Party conference in the UK, secretary of state for business and Walter the Softy impersonator Jacob Rees-Mogg made a brave stab at sidestepping lanyard angst by wearing his ID on a string attached to one lapel. Being Jacob Rees-Mogg, however, he ended up resembling a dummy in a charity shop modelling an antique suit with the price tag hanging off.

How we live / Canal jogging

Running the gauntlet

Regent’s Canal is known as a place for quiet contemplation and serenity away from the hubbub and frenzy of London’s streets (writes Maja Renfer). As someone who grew up in a small Swiss village, I was looking forward to exploring this urban oasis after moving to the city. But I was clearly feeling a little too relaxed as I took a weekend walk along the canal the other day. “Out of the way, you selfish cow!” bellowed a Lycra-clad runner racing towards me.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

I soon realised that the canal is not an off-grid oasis, nor the perfect place for a Sunday stroll with grandma. Instead, it is the locus for a daily 21st-century remake of Ben-Hur with the cast clad in athleisure. Stretching from the river Thames at Limehouse in east London to Paddington in the west, the canal’s narrow towpath has become a highway for cyclists and joggers deranged by their need for speed.

Having to think fast about where to seek shelter in the five metres between murky water and thorny bush led to some quickfire introspection. Which side of the towpath should walkers walk on? Do people on rollerblades have right of way underneath bridges? And what about dogs? While wracking my brain for answers, I was nearly sliced in two by an e-scooter and so retreated to the relative calm of the road above. Next time I’ll go somewhere more peaceful for my weekend stroll – perhaps Oxford Street.

The Monocle Concierge / Your Questions Answered

Southern comforts

The Monocle Concierge had a hoot imagining all of the nice places that readers are off to this autumn. If you would like some red-hot tips for your seasonal sojourn, click here. We will answer one question every Saturday.

Dear Concierge,

What would be the best alternative to the Amalfi Coast, without hordes of tourists and overpriced restaurants and hotels but with equally stunning towns?

Kind regards,

Vladimir Bodjanec,

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Dear Vladimir,

The Amalfi Coast has the kind of heart-stopping beauty that has made generations of travellers swoon. But get beyond any of Italy’s major postcard sites and you’ll realise that there is no end to this country’s heart-stopping beauty.

Even in Amalfi you can find lesser-known corners where there are fewer tourists and more fishermen. Avoid Positano and Sorrento; instead, try picturesque Cetara, famed for anchovies rather than overpriced aperitivo bars. The town’s small cluster of sun-toned houses surround a sandy bay that’s perfect for swimming, with views of Amalfi’s awesome coastline. Ristorante Acqua Pazza Cetara is a favourite of top chefs and local denizens alike, with fresh seafood dishes and no Amalfi upcharge. Don’t miss plates featuring local anchovies or the colatura di alici, an anchovy concentrate descended from the Roman condiment garum.

And if you’re looking for more adventure, the landscape of steep seaside cliffs continues all the way south from Amalfi to the toe tip of Calabria. Things get generally cheaper and less tourist-charted the further you go. For more great cuisine along the coast, make a pit stop at Malabar in Pisciotta, where young chef Joar Torch is cooking up some of the most exciting and satisfying flavours in the area, with guests dining at tables in a piazza that’s as pretty as a movie set. Buon viaggio!

The interrogator / Marlon Williams

Man of culture

Marlon Williams is a singer-songwriter who was raised in the New Zealand port town of Lyttelton. Currently based in Melbourne, he has won fans around the world with his rockabilly-esque gnomic ballads. His new album, My Boy, is out now and he is touring Europe between 19 October and 12 November.

Image: Derek Henderson

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Coffee, juice, then coffee. And then more coffee.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
London Street Bookshop in my hometown, Lyttelton. They’ve been servicing my literary needs since I was a child. Tintin comics as a boy; now boring history books.

What are you currently humming in the shower?
Lately it has been choice cuts from Nelly Furtardo’s second album, Folklore.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen on TV recently?
FX’s The Americans. It’s a bit old now but it’s the best.

Any movie recommendations?
Red Rock West – a young Nicolas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dennis Hopper and a psychotic cameo from Dwight Yoakam.

What about podcasts?
I’m a Sam Harris guy. Also, the BBC’s In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg and Noiser’s A Short History Of…

And books?
Every Graham Greene book. Start with The End of the Affair and get among it.

Photo of the week / Ian Teh

Breathing space

Photographer Ian Teh made his name documenting the environmental effects of China’s rapid economic development (writes Naomi Xu Elegant). His photographs have appeared in National Geographic and The New Yorker, and he is the recipient of a Pulitzer Centre for Crisis Reporting travel grant.

Image: Ian Teh

Teh’s newest exhibition, Line of Least Resistance, is on display until tomorrow at Singapore’s Mizuma Gallery as part of the Singapore International Photography Festival. It focuses on the pockets of green space and jungle in and around Kuala Lumpur and the development projects that threaten to erase them. “I wanted to document the scale of the destruction and the processes that make it happen, show the people who are still using it in a variety of ways and celebrate what we still have,” Teh tells The Monocle Weekend Edition.

In this photograph, a man pauses to catch his breath on a forested trail. In the far background, a fragment of dense urban skyline contradicts the greenery. “The city has to be there to show that this is a path within the city,” says Teh. Since private development is barred where there are pylons, the electric towers in the picture have carved out an unofficial public park on the undeveloped sliver of land that they criss-cross. “The trail and the stairs were built by the community with makeshift materials,” says Teh. “It’s owned by the community through the sheer fact that they’re using it.”

What am I bid? / ICA & Sotheby’s

Frieze frame

As part of London Frieze Week, Sotheby’s and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) are auctioning an eclectic collection of prints, photography and sculptures (writes Claudia Jacob). British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare has contributed Modern Magic (Bangwa Queen), a striking piece that combines patchwork, appliqué and embroidery, and uses Bantik, an Indonesian-inspired fabric, originally produced by the Dutch and traded in Africa in the 19th century.

Image: Yinka Shonibare / Sotheby's

This vibrant melding of colour and texture is estimated to fetch between €45,500 and €68,200, with proceeds going to the ICA, a gallery that has championed generations of avant garde artists from its home on The Mall in London. The auction, which celebrates the ICA’s 75th anniversary, will take place at 13.00 on 15 October. “The ICA is needed now more than ever as an independent advocate and platform for the next generation of artists, whose work strives to answer the pressing challenges of our time,” says photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, who has contributed a photograph to the auction.


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