Saturday 19 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 19/11/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Come out on top

If you’re wondering how to add a Stetson to your winter wardrobe, why politicians want to be celebrities or the best place to ski within an hour of Vienna, then you’ve come to the right place. Elsewhere, we power up to bid on a piece of Antarctic history and take a weekend trip to A Coruña. But first, Andrew Tuck puts his ornithologist’s suit on.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Culture vulture

Shall we do some diary stuff first? This Tuesday night we are having a Portuguese-style knees-up in Lisbon to celebrate the launch of our new title, Portugal: The Monocle Handbook. And you – yes, you – are invited. To register, you just need to go to or, if you prefer contacting a real person – who doesn’t – you can message our events chief extraordinaire, Hannah Grundy at to get your name on the door. Of course, we are hoping that you’ll be up for purchasing a book or 10, alongside a lovely Monocle subscription for someone in need of better reading material in their life. I’ll be there. Tyler too. It will be a hoot.

And then it’s the famous Monocle Christmas Market in Zürich on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December, and at Midori House in London on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 December. Wonderfully, I have already been contacted by many readers who are coming to London just for this full-on dose of festive cheer (reindeer, Santa Claus, booze, family fights – I jest). And, of course, our lovely owl mascot Monochan will be perched in position.

Ah, Monochan. I am hoping that no children are reading at this point as I hate to break any magic in the air. And perhaps even you, dear reader, may not have guessed but, keep it quiet, it’s a real live person inside Monochan – and a member of the Monocle crew at that.

Every year Hannah – her again, this time with a giant clipboard – wanders around Monocle asking who might be up for running the tombola, being greeters or, yes, dressing up as a big fat owl with a monocle eyeglass dangling on its chest. Hannah only has to enter the room at this point of the month and grown men are seen diving under desks, trying to hide in the wardrobe. But the truth is that you have to be a bit short of leg to sport the owl look. You see, there is a sort of bootie attachment, with big fluffy feet, that will only stretch so far up one’s leg and so the more amply limbed end up showing their denim-covered knees. So not only is Hannah after “volunteers”, she is also after squat ones. Now that could definitely include yours truly but, apparently, I might get carried away and go all Hitchcock’s The Birds.

During a dull moment this week I told Alexis Self, our foreign editor, that because nobody had put a talon forward, Hannah had simply nominated people for owl duties and that he was down for a two-hour lunchtime slot. Now, this is a man who takes part in an annual pantomime (I don’t mean working with me; a real panto) and who should have realised that, unless Monocle’s mascot resembled Big Bird, there was no way that he would ever be asked to go owl. But I knew I had done a convincing job when I caught a glimpse of him looking for the spreadsheet that lists Christmas Market duties. “Where is it? Someone’s moved it,” he muttered with a whiff of panic.

Perhaps a fairer way forward would be to commission a whole aviary of birds, of every scale, so that we could all strut our stuff. I see our editor, Josh Fehnert, as a broad-shouldered American eagle (I mentioned a turkey and he gave me a back-off-now look). Alexis is definitely emu material; Sophie Grove, Konfekt’s editor, is more snowy owl at this time of year; our design editor Nic Monisse perhaps a fancy chicken; Tom Edwards a crested canary. Someone suggested that I could be a great tit. Well, I think they were talking about the same thing as me.

But I hope that this gives you some insight into the qualities you need to work at Monocle. And if that is too daunting to imagine, we also have the role of Monochan minder to cast. This is a vital job as it’s rather hard to see anything once you have been inserted into Monochan (the process is a bit like when they shove, say, a chicken inside a turkey or a wood pigeon up a duck – for culinary purposes, not one’s amusement). And then there was the unfortunate incident. A few years ago a child managed to get underneath Monochan and insert an enquiring hand up its nether parts, giving the person inside a jolting surprise. Indeed, Monochan was seen wobbling off, wings flapping frantically and definitely uttering something that did not sound like “too-wit too-woo” to me. So please go gently when you introduce any offspring to Monochan. Hence the security.

I’m not sure how we started with a cheeky pastel de nata this coming Tuesday and ended up with the inner workings of an owl but it’s just to say, come see us, buy the gift of good journalism this Christmas and discover the inner workings of Monocle.

Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Lay of the land

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – especially in all your questions, which have arrived this week on the Concierge’s desk wrapped up in a festive bundle. If you’re travelling anywhere nice over the season and would like some recommendations, please ring our bell. We will answer one question every week.

Dear Concierge,

We moved with our family from Ukraine to Vienna this year. Since arriving in the city we have made a number of weekend trips to the surrounding countryside, mostly staying around Wachau, Baden and Neusiedlersee. These trips are almost like therapy for us and are an important part of finding a new home here in this region. What would be your less obvious recommendations for places not more than an hour and a half’s drive from the city?

Kind regards, Taras Komisaruk, Vienna

Image: Steiermark Tourismus

Dear Taras,

Vienna is one of Europe’s most verdant metropolises and a short trip on public transport will bring you to the city’s leafy suburbs, where you can either take one of the many Stadtwanderwege, “hiking routes”, or just wander around dozens of vineyards (most of the vintners will have a Heuriger, or wine tavern, next to their plot). Our favourite route is the Kahlenberg, which is easily reachable by trams 38A or D. You can hike all the way up the mountain or take a bus to the top for a glass of wine and a breathtaking view of the city.

As Christmas approaches, and snow begins to fall, why not take a day trip to the slopes? An hour and a half’s drive southwest of Vienna, Stuhleck was one of Austria’s first ski resorts and remains one of its finest. Its well-groomed runs on the highest peak of the Alps’ eastern edge offer some of the best skiing you’ll find so close to a big city. Fröhliches Wandern!

The Look / Modern Stetsons

Sartorial souvenir

It proves impossible to set foot inside Stag Provisions, an emporium of Southern staples on Dallas’s Knox Street, without trying on a Stetson (writes Sophie Grove). After a few days in Texas, I’d glimpsed a few well-turned-out locals wearing commanding felt numbers and wanted to see whether I could carry off the look myself and take home the hat once referred to as the “boss of the plains”.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Fitting a Stetson in Texas is a process that goes beyond millinery adjustments; it’s personal and historical. “You need to feel the brim and it will mould and adjust to your head,” says the sales assistant who explains this light-cream model, the Stetson 6X Beaver Open Road Classic. It was popularised by the Democratic President Lyndon B Johnson, who hailed from the small town of Stonewall, not far from Austin. The very striking assistant has a 6X Beaver himself, matched with a Portuguese flannel shirt, jacket and pocket square. “This is your urban Stetson,” he adds, pointing out the sleek, flat brim and smooth hand-pressed cattleman crown. This particular hat isn’t destined for the ranch but for a distinguished frontier man (or woman).

LBJ proudly wore his symbol of southwestern identity to and from the White House as he pursued his vision for a “Great Society”. I’ve donned mine in chilly east London with a black woollen trench and desert boots. With its soft leather band, satin lining and sculptural crown, it already sits easy on my London hatstand. Even off the head, it’s a hat with considerable presence. It’s a memento of a trip but also a certain smart, confident and gregarious sartorial spirit – a nuanced reinvention of Southern identity – that I encountered in Texas during Monocle’s recent conference in Dallas. It will certainly see me through many blustering British winters to come.

How we live / Sympathy for the devils

Hancock’s daft hour

It sounds like something out of Greek mythology (writes Alexis Self). A former politician who ran the nation’s health service during a deadly pandemic must atone for his sins by being sent to a faraway jungle and made to eat kangaroo testicles on live TV. And yet the UK’s former health secretary Matt Hancock’s appearance on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is in fact emblematic of our times.

Image: Shutterstock

In this case, the clue’s in the title. High-ranking politicians in the UK are celebrities and low-ranking politicians in the UK often want to achieve that status. A lot of this is due to a political culture that conflates ambition with competence, meaning that those most determined to rise to the top are perceived as those most suitable to do so. This fallacy was revealed when Liz Truss was compelled to resign as prime minister after just 44 days in the job when she was found to be spectacularly unqualified. But it also massively influenced the nation’s view of Hancock.

In June 2021, Hancock (pictured) resigned as health secretary after images showing him in an extra-marital clinch with an aide were leaked. Even before then he had been accused of venality and callousness in his handling of the pandemic. Now that he’s on reality TV being punished by the public – and other contestants – commentators are beginning to jump to his defence. Look, they say, he’s not such a bad guy; he’s taking it all in good spirits. But Hancock’s deficiency was never malice, it was ineptitude. To be an evil genius, you have to be intelligent.

House news / ‘The Forecast’

Future focus

The Forecast, which hit shelves this week, is Monocle’s annual look ahead to what the next year will bring. Contained within its covers are expert voices from the worlds of international affairs, the arts, design, fashion and business sharing their wisdom of how 2023 will play out.

Image: Alex Cretey Systermans

In this year’s issue, we meet the New Yorkers determined to turn their city around after a few tough years; find out what film producers and book editors will be commissioning; and survey the best small cities to move to next year, including Toulon (pictured). Enter the new year prepared, pick up a copy of The Forecast now.

Culture / Watch / Listen / Read

Search for authenticity

‘Utama’, Alejandro Loayza Grisi. This slow-burning Bolivian feature follows an old indigenous couple who must decide whether to leave their lifelong home in parched highlands. An elegy for the threat posed by modernity on old ways of living, the film is a contemplative, unassuming affair. It is enriched by striking visuals captured by the aesthetic eye of first-time director and photographer Alejandro Loayza Grisi and the authentic performances by its cast of non-professional actors.

‘La Marfée’, Yannick Noah. French former professional tennis player Yannick Noah is among the few sportspeople who have managed to forge a meaningful music career. La Marfée is a chance to celebrate his 30 years in the industry and is a joyful testament to his success. The album’s title is a reference to a school in Yaoundé; Noah relocated to the city to succeed his father as the chief of a village of 5,000 people on its outskirts. Songs such as the emotional “Back to Africa” suggest that the move has influenced his music, while single “La vie c’est maintenant” is a hit of pure optimism.

‘Con/Artist: The Life and Crimes of the World’s Greatest Art Forger’, Tony Tetro and Giampiero Ambrosi. First, a warning: after reading this book, you might find yourself inspecting the pictures hanging in museums and galleries a little more closely. Tony Tetro became fascinated by Old Master and Renaissance artists at high school and later, while working six-day weeks to support his young family, he would unwind in the evenings by recreating Rembrandts, Picassos and Renoirs. This mind-boggling and absorbing memoir charts the rise and fall of the American forger, who made headlines when some of his Monets were discovered in the collection of King Charles III. Expect art history, big money, sex and corruption.

The Interrogator / Emma Talbot

Life on canvas

Emma Talbot is an English artist whose work encompasses drawing, painting, animation and sculpture. Following its premiere at the Whitechapel Gallery this summer, her new exhibition, L’Age/L’Età, is on show at Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia until 19 February 2023. Here she tells us about Europe’s longest market and her favourite Italian films.

Image: Bruno Cattani

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Always black coffee; an americano.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
Walthamstow, where I live in London, is supposed to have the longest market in Europe. It has been a great place to get unusual materials for my work.

And bookshop?
I like books that spark ideas. I always find something interesting in London’s ICA Bookstore.

Which radio station do you listen to?
At the moment I’m in Italy and I listen to RAI 3 all day. It’s a station that concentrates on culture and news, and it helps me to improve my Italian.

Do you enjoy podcasts?
Yes, I listen to them when I’m in the studio. I like A Brush With by Ben Luke, In Our Time, Intersections: The Art Basel Podcast and Sherds Podcast, which looks in detail at non-mainstream fiction.

What are you currently humming in the shower?
Simply Beautiful by Al Green.

Any movie recommendations?
Because I’ve been in Italy, I’ve watched loads of Italian films, such as The Automobile with Anna Magnani, L’avventura by Antonioni, De Sica’s Two Women and Matrimonio all'Italiana with Sophia Loren.

What about books?
I keep returning to Truth or Dare by Starhawk and In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism by Isabelle Stengers.

Fashion Update / Steven Meisel

Cover story

A new exhibition dedicated to the fashion photographer Steven Meisel opens in A Coruña, Spain, today (writes Natalie Theodosi). Steven Meisel 1993 A Year in Photographs looks at Meisel’s work during 1993, a period that he describes as a “phenomenal twelve-month burst of creativity”.

Image: Steven Meisel

During this time, Meisel shot 28 Vogue covers (in multiple territories) and 100 editorials, including the Anglo-Saxon story, one of his most-recognised works, which features British icons from Stella Tennant to Bella Freud. Many of those images now grace the walls of the Muelle de la Batería, a cultural venue inside A Coruña’s harbour, such as classic black-and-white portraits featuring supermodels such as Linda Evangelista (pictured) and Twiggy, fashion editor Isabella Blow and musician Barbra Streisand, among others.

The exhibition is organised by Marta Ortega, chair of Zara-owner Inditex, as part of her ongoing work to bring internationally known artists to the region and promote Galicia’s own cultural heritage. “It’s a privilege to bring this rare exhibition to A Coruña,” says Ortega, who has recently worked with Meisel on campaigns for Zara. “This will be an important addition to the rich tapestry of cultural life in Galicia.”

What Am I Bid? / Scott of the Antarctic

Get the message

A letter from British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, leader of the ill-fated 1910 Antarctic expedition, to his treasurer Edgar Speyer goes on auction at Bonhams on 22 November (writes Jack Simpson). Scott’s team reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, beaten by five weeks by a Norwegian team, and died on their return journey.

Image: Alamy

Since then the expedition has become a symbol of heroic failure and self-sacrifice. The letter features an account of the death of Laurence Oates (pictured, standing on left, with Scott, standing in front of Union Jack flag on pole) including his famous quote as he left the team’s tent in a minus 40C blizzard: “I am just going outside and may be some time.” In it Scott stresses that “the spirit of pluck and the power to endure has not passed” and asks that Speyer ensure that their dependents are looked after.

The letter is dated 16 March 1912, the explorer and his team are estimated to have died about two weeks later. It was recovered by a rescue team sent to find Scott in November 1912 and is estimated to sell for up to £600,000 (€690,000).


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