Saturday 10 December 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 10/12/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

There with bells on

With little more than a fortnight to go until Christmas, we ponder a Polish colleague’s seasonal traditions, while our fashion editor brooches the subject of pinning a splash of colour onto your lapel for your festive party. Plus: we find a perfect gift in Terence Conran’s walnut Eames chair that’s up for auction and assess the ominous development of a global Santa shortage. But first, Andrew Tuck on securing the services of the real Saint Nick for Monocle’s Christmas Market…

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Voice of reason

Monocle’s offices are divided into banks of desks and I sit on one right in the centre of all the action. I perch opposite our editorial assistant, Jack, and alongside me are Lex, our foreign editor, Tom, head of radio, Josh, the editor, and, of course, Sophie, the editor of Konfekt. They’re a clever, amusing bunch and throughout the day eddies of debate on all manner of topics, serious or daft, swirl back and forth.

This week, however, I have noticed just how Konfekt Sophie has become. Every day she has been serving us a wonderful mix of glamorous looks and displays of on-point rhetorical decisiveness on any topic that comes her way. Her debating approach is to keep her counsel for a while before diving in with some rather Nero-esque judgement that stops you dead. Just this week she has declared Puffa-style coats as unbecoming (the gist of it seems to be that clothes that make scratchy sounds have no place in modern society); deemed all Whatsapp groups to be tiresome; sent to her mental dungeon anyone who contemplates buying a fake Christmas tree; defended the right of children to use glitter; railed against advocates of a cashless society; and given her backing to striking nurses. Meanwhile, I can barely decide what I want for lunch.

I am happy to concur with some of her pronouncements but today and tomorrow we have The Monocle Christmas Market at Midori House in London and much of it takes place outdoors. What’s more, the event coincides with a weather front arriving in Britain that’s been named “the Troll of Trondheim” (though, in this era of sensitivity, I imagine that the Norwegian ambassador is frantically dispatching missives to various UN organisations insisting on a name change because of the frosty image that this title paints of his people). Anyway, I think that a thermal layer, a hat and some puffy delight (I am referring to the coat, not myself at this juncture) would be wise to sport. Because, as Tom, that man of words on our bank of desks, so finely said yesterday as we stepped outside, “Wow, it’s a bit chilly around the old turntables.”

Some other Monocle Christmas Market enticements include the attendance of real reindeer that are rather charming and, of course, Santa, who is flying in all the way from Rovaniemi to chat to the children – even if he comes by Finnair, not on a sleigh. Our Santa has a multitude of wonderful attributes: he speaks several languages, drinks through a straw to avoid soiling his whiskers and can sit in the cold with endless children (and a few tipsy adults) bouncing on his knee and, as far as I can tell, never needs to go to the loo. How is that possible?

What’s more, if you push through all of our lovely – real – Christmas trees, you will also discover numerous stalls, including The Monocle Shop’s, selling lovely gifts. Many of these fine stands will be staffed by the Monocle crew, including yours truly and Mr Brûlé (another person who eschews downy coats, opting instead for layers of Tyrolean loden). Plus, rumour (also known as DHL) has it that the first copies of our winter newspaper, aka The Alpino Edition, should be landing at the market too.

So if you are in London this weekend, do come to see us. I believe that I might be on the gluhwein stand on Sunday afternoon and will be generous with my ladling if you say hello – no matter what coat you have chosen.

The Look / Brooches

Once more unto the brooch

Unless you are among those who receive regular invites to Buckingham Palace, brooches haven’t been part of the modern dressing vocabulary for years (writes Natalie Theodosi). But judging from the lapels at recent fashion shows, it looks as though these old-school accessories will be firmly affixed to 2023’s tastemakers.

During a recent round of shows in London, I noticed a black rose, made from layers of delicate chiffon, pinned onto the lapel of Victoria Beckham’s tailored jacket, while the following morning a fellow show-goer posed for a picture in an acid-green blazer, accessorised with large eyewear and an even larger fuchsia floral brooch. Shortly afterwards, in Milan, Miuccia Prada presented an austere collection of all-black looks and strict tailoring; the only flashes of colour came from the satin rose brooches pinned onto classic cardigans, sometimes three at a time (not advisable when making your way through airport security).

Others quickly followed suit. Perhaps people are pining for the days when women wore more tailored suiting, especially in winter. Indeed, pinning a chic satin brooch on your lapel is a wonderful way to add a bit of glamour to a sharp-shouldered woollen blazer or camel coat. And dressing like a sciura (glamorous Milanese elderly lady) is an excellent look for a Christmas party.

How we live / Santa shortage

Claus for concern

It is, on the face of it, a decent gig (writes Andrew Mueller). The position endows the successful applicant with a high profile yet requires no qualifications beyond a clean criminal record and the ability to sit in a chair for longish periods. It bestows considerable decision-making authority, though with little in the way of performance standards or follow-up scrutiny. It is regular work – indeed, you could set your calendar by it. And an eye-catching uniform is provided. Sleigh licence is an advantage but not essential.

Yet various jurisdictions are reporting a woeful shortage of Santa Clauses this Christmas. One American Santa agency, HireSanta, estimates a nationwide shortfall of more than 2,000. Scottish academy Santa School has solemnly reported that its 2022 intake consisted of just one budding Saint Nick. And just as supply is low, demand is booming: HireSanta has told US media that its booking requests are up 30 per cent from 2021 and 120 per cent from the last Christmas before the pandemic.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The spike in clamour for Santa is not difficult to understand. After two constrained Christmases, the world’s avaricious hellions have wish lists that are three times the usual length – and, doubtless, a yearning to have Christmas as they once knew it returned to them. The dwindling of Santa numbers, rather sadly, has a similar explanation. Santas tend to be older and larger gentlemen: a cohort disproportionately affected by coronavirus and therefore fearful of catching it.

There might, therefore, be an opportunity here for a new generation of Santa Clauses – or is it Santas Claus? – to step up. Importuning infants might just have to get used to sleeker Santas with less silver in their beards. A reminder, however, that at The Monocle Christmas Market in London this weekend, the real Santa Claus will be in attendance – all the way from Finland.

The Concierge / Your Questions Answered

In time for Christmas

The Concierge exists to furnish you with top tips and delectable recommendations for your forays into the wide world. As it’s the The Monocle Christmas Market at Midori House this weekend, we thought that we’d stay a little closer to home. If you would like some food, drink or accommodation advice, click here – we will answer one question every week.

Dear Concierge,

I’m visiting London for The Monocle Christmas Market and plan to stay overnight. What hotels, bars and restaurants would you recommend within walking distance of Midori House?

Kind regards,
Eddie Barbour

Image: Alamy

Dear Eddie,

The area around Midori House contains many delights, especially at this time of year. If you’re yet to arrange accommodation, might we suggest our illustrious neighbour the Chiltern Firehouse (pictured)? Housed in a beautiful old fire station, it has an excellent restaurant and bar but only a few rooms, so you might have to hotfoot it down there. Also good is The Grazing Goat, a nearby pub with a number of comfortable beds on New Quebec Street.

If your retail tooth is not sated by our Christmas Market, Chiltern Street is a horizontal inventory of the commercially interesting. There’s a wonderfully curated selection of men’s clothing at Trunk Clothiers, Japanese garden- and kitchenware mavens Niwaki and hip tailors Casely-Hayford, to name but a few. (See our Retail Update below for tips slightly further afield.)

For food, two new openings represent mastery of meat and vegetables, respectively. Following two hugely successful restaurants in Clerkenwell and Shoreditch, modern British star St John has opened its first west London outpost on Marylebone Lane. It offers a changing selection of dishes that usually includes one or two delicious pies. On the same street, Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s eponymous deli contains a cornucopia of vegetarian options inspired by Levantine cuisine.

If you’re after a post-prandial tipple, Clarette on Blandford Street has a French-focused wine list and cosy leather banquettes. For a taste of old Marylebone, head to the Barley Mow, an 18th-century pub that still has wooden booths in which punters would once buy and sell goods. It’s also, conveniently, within staggering distance of Midori House. We look forward to raising a cup or two of gluhwein with you today or tomorrow.

Culture cuts / Nordic pop

Ready for the dancefloor

The Nordic nations are world leaders when it comes to catchy pop tunes and there’s no better season than winter to enjoy the fruit of their stars’ labour (writes Gabriele Dellisanti). Each week until New Year we’ll present a chart-topping act whose cheerful hits will keep Aquavit-fuelled Christmas parties going well into the night.

Denmark / Tobias Rahim
Tobias Rahim has enjoyed a meteoric rise to Danish pop stardom. Following the 2021 release of 1980s-tinged single “Stor Mand”, a dance-ready hit and instant number one, the Danish-Kurdish artist has played to packed festival crowds and sold-out arenas while consistently topping the national charts. Given that he has just been announced as the headliner for next year’s edition of Denmark’s biggest festival, Roskilde, those audiences are only set to grow. Mixing upbeat sounds with Middle Eastern riffs and the occasional rapped verse, his recently released third studio album Når sjælen kaster op will keep Danes dancing this season. Rahim also just debuted as a poet. His new collection of short poems, already a nationwide bestseller, sheds light on the artist grappling with the complexities of fame – words that, as he puts it, “couldn’t fit into songs”.

Baby alpaca blanket

Meet the Monocle family
Hannah Grundy,
Head of Brand, Communications & Events

Handwoven in the Peruvian Andes using 100% finest Baby Alpaca, the name given to the fibre sheared from the softest area of an adult Alpaca camelid, this blanket is lightweight but warm, perfect to tuck up with on a cold day. Fairtrade and eco-friendly, this fleecy throw is woven with pedal-looms.

Shop now

Christmas Traditions / Polish Christmas Eve

Big fish in a small tub

Every Saturday until the New Year, we’ll be sharing Christmas traditions from one of our colleague’s home countries. This week, Monocle’s junior photography editor, Kamila Lozinska, walks us through a traditional Polish Christmas Eve.

Image: Alamy

I’ve already started to practise my Christmas wishes in front of the mirror as these will need to be exchanged awkwardly with each member of my family over a wafer on 24 December. This tradition, hated by all Polish youth and loved by every over-attached uncle, happens just before dinner on Christmas Eve. As the first star appears in the night sky, Poles gather around a table filled with 12 traditional dishes. Among many treats such as borscht (barszcz), dumplings, herring and Olivier salad (my personal favourite), the centrepiece is a huge freshwater carp, bought alive a few days prior and kept swimming around in people’s bathtubs until it’s almost time to eat.

When you’re looking around for more things to fill your plate with, you might notice an empty seat and table setting. Poles leave these for an unexpected guest – a lone traveller or flaky family member who might have just remembered what day it is. There is one official/unofficial tradition with which we end Christmas Eve. After dinner, families make their way down to church for carol singing and midnight Mass, each with their own flask of vodka to surreptitiously sip between psalms.

What am I bid? / Terence Conran’s collection

Historical seat

Terence Conran, who passed away at the age of 88 in September 2020, arguably had more influence on postwar UK taste than any other person. In the 1950s he opened a restaurant just off London’s the Strand, the Soup Kitchen, that made rustic French cooking stylish and accessible. By the 1980s his design shops, Habitat and The Conran Shop, were leading a revolution in British domestic aesthetics.

Image: Bonhams

His Berkshire country estate, Barton Court, was the fulcrum of this revolution. It was here that Conran worked on prototypes for his furniture and kitchenware designs that have since become classics. On 14 December, Bonhams will be offering 394 lots from Barton Court for auction, including this white leather and walnut Eames chair made by Vitra for The Conran Shop. The great designer described the Eames chair as “the perfect example of design, innovation and beauty all coming together in one package”. This one has the added aura of having made it into Conran’s inner sanctum.

Retail News / Burlington Arcade

Soft and the inside

If you’re in London for The Monocle Christmas Market, a walk through the nearby Burlington Arcade, the city’s oldest shopping arcade, is almost mandatory. Mayfair’s historic shopping gallery is home to some choice artisanal brands and is currently beautifully decked out in garlands, gargantuan gold stars and wreaths.

Image: Alamy

This season several new brands have set up shop there, including Scottish cashmere specialists Begg X Co, whose new space features its winter 2022 collection of super-soft wares. Designed by Storey Studio, it features a mix of industrial materials and warmer, wooden furniture to reflect the brand’s home in Ayr. A few doors down, The Royal Mint, one of the UK’s oldest companies and the official maker of the country’s coins, has opened a new shop for its 886 jewellery line, designed by Dominic Jones and featuring silver designs made from discarded medical X-rays, as part of ongoing sustainability efforts.


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