On the weekend before Christmas, we wanted to ensure that you were fully prepared for the festive season. Read on to discover the best warm jackets for the northern-hemisphere cold and begin our suggestions for productive New Year’s resolutions. Plus: there’s a Scandinavian flavour to proceedings as we brew up an alternative to Danish ‘glögg’, profile a young Swedish pop star and recommend a Norwegian skiing destination. But first, here’s Andrew Tuck.
On Wednesday afternoon I had an appointment to see my dentist in London and the quickest route on my bicycle took me through Hyde Park. Just as I reached Wellington Arch, police outriders came along the road and then behind them, in his chauffeured car, the King, head bowed reading something on his lap. The woman next to me turned and said, “Now I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen a king!” In September the very spot where we were paused was rammed with people waiting to see the Queen leave London for the final time; the hearse carrying her body heading for Windsor. And now, on an icy winter’s day, for one woman at least, the transfer of power, of loyalty, of belief in something seemingly unfathomable in this day and age, was complete.
Britain’s relationship with the Royal Family is complicated. The King and Queen are both representatives of an institution – for many the embodiment of history ancient and recent (the Queen, for example, always somehow connected to the sacrifices and service of men and women in the Second World War) – but also an all-too-regular family with all the foibles, failings, passions and rivalries that you might find in many an extended clan. And, for good or bad, it’s this interplay between history and gossip, reverence and entertainment, that for centuries has allowed them to endure.
As the King headed through Wellington Arch, on to Hyde Park corner, he had just a day to wait until the release of the final three episodes of Netflix’s documentary series Harry & Meghan. Another attempt to seize the narrative, to define the truth, by his son. Who knows what really happened during “Megxit”? We have just one, expertly put-together, version of the truth to go on. Did his brother shout at him? This would seem quite likely in a tense, painful situation. Was the Queen denied access to him? Seems unlikely. Did people wish them well when they left? I believe so.
When you make a documentary, it must be hard to know exactly how it will land, especially when the audience is so big and diverse. You clearly hope that your intentions will be clear, that the tone or some misjudged reference won’t undermine the bigger picture. But Harry & Meghan has not landed well with many people in the UK – and I don’t mean the media. The country is gripped by a cost-of-living crisis, buffeted every day by strikes over pay and working conditions, and it’s cold. So when on your screens come two people full of endless complaints about how they were treated and how beastly people were to them (while living it large in sunny luxury), it’s just a bit hard to get worked up about. And then there are the double standards – how they suffered from the media’s gaze just as they stoke a media frenzy against their own family with no apparent care about the impact that might have.
And another reason this sits badly is the timing. Many families are divided by warring brothers, divorced parents, in-laws who have failed to move with the times. But Christmas is a rare moment where perhaps you can park all that – or at least keep your mouth shut as you disappear to some remote hideaway. But this will not be the last of the warring royals; it’s a story that will rattle on and on, everyone cashing in, but somehow the institution will endure.
At Monocle many of our team are heading off this weekend to see family around the world – the magazine crew will disappear until the new year, even if the radio squad must share duties to keep Monocle 24 humming. And it’s been a big week with a flurry of projects completed and an epic Christmas party that involved a lot of dancing (and an unwise dental appointment for me the following day). I’ll check in again with you next Saturday but I hope that you have a calm, sibling rivalry-free week ahead.
In the middle of winter, a well-engineered jacket becomes indispensable (writes Shane C Kurup). Vollebak’s Waterfallproof puffer is designed to keep its wearer warm at temperatures as low as minus 40C. It’s impervious to moisture, with a shell that mimics the water-repelling abilities of a lotus leaf and a filling that incorporates aerospace-grade gel. The complexity of the manufacturing process doesn’t reflect on the aesthetics of the finished article, which features neutral tones and a sleek, mid-length silhouette. In a world of extreme weather conditions and where brands are urged to avoid using more traditional outerwear materials such as down or fur, Vollebak’s puffers might well be the future.
Also making waves on the technical front is AlphaTauri, the Austrian Formula One-endorsed fashion division of the Red Bull empire. This winter the brand debuted a new heatable collection of gilets, trenches and jackets that utilise cutting-edge materials developed with Swiss fabric wizards Schoeller Textil.
The jackets feature conductive yarns that direct heat, generated by a removable power bank, to strategic spots such as the pockets and lower back. The temperature is calibrated via your smartphone or watch, while the supporting software is engineered to keep your temperature on an even keel as you move from frosty slopes to city streets.
Loro Piana, the Italian firm renowned for supplying cloth to Savile Row ateliers, has also been developing new cold-weather essentials. Its Storm System treatment applies a membrane-like coating to its plush merino, cashmere and vicuña coats. The added protection is ideal if you want to stick to luxurious, natural materials that retain the same waterproof qualities as their more technical counterparts. From new technical solutions fit for cold-weather explorers to subtle updates on elegant classics such as the Loro Piana cashmere coat, the fashion market this winter is brimming with smart options to keep you warm and ready for adventure.
Read the full story about the world’s warmest jackets in Monocle’s winter newspaper, ‘The Alpino Edition’.
Tastes for different foods, flavours and textures develop with age (writes Michael Booth). I didn’t like blue cheese until I was 35. Now I like more blue than cheese. But in Denmark at this time of year I am confronted with a taste that is proving impossible to acquire. My problem is glögg: mulled wine, what the Germans call glühwein.
From mid-October until the dregs of January, the supermarket shelves are filled with glögg mix, glögg-flavoured chocolates and sweets. Wherever you go you’ll be bludgeoned by the aroma of cheap, hot red wine, random spirits and all manner of woody aromatics. This isn’t just Christmas markets but also restaurants, bars, pubs and almost every private social gathering. But where, please tell me, is the appeal in this throat-burningly sweet medieval concoction with its choking-hazard garnish of dusty star anise and stale split almonds? Hot wine! Are you kidding? One doesn’t want to seem like a Scrooge, however, and my wife insists that when guests come to our house in December, they will expect glögg pretty much any time of day or night. I had to find a solution.
When we moved to our current house, we inherited an orchard. For some years I’ve observed the trees grow heavy with fruit that would then fall and rot. I felt a bit guilty about it but one can only eat so many apples. That was until this summer when my son hit upon the idea of making apple juice and cider. With the enthusiasm of youth, he made more than 50 litres of the stuff. We served it with great success at our annual glögg party that we hold every year to kick off the season. The Danish guests, who tend to be deeply conservative when it comes to winter traditions, accepted their glasses with wary, sceptical frowns. They soon warmed to it and we were having to rustle up another potful: ladling out second and third pours. Finally, something warm I can glug. The desiccated undergrowth is optional, of course.
Inspired by the wonderful array of nationalities at Monocle HQ, we’ve decided to share our colleagues’ native Christmas traditions during the festive period. This week, Monocle 24’s deputy head of radio, Tom Webb, takes us to Scotland, the home of Hogmanay.
Nollaig Chridheil! That’s “Merry Christmas!” in Scottish Gaelic. Traditionally the marking of New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay) was of far greater significance in Scotland than Christmas, the celebration of which was banned by the Puritans for almost four centuries, only returning as a public holiday in 1958. Despite this long period without festivity, the Winter Solstice, otherwise known as the shortest day of the year, was celebrated in the country by druids, pagans and Vikings anytime between 20 and 23 December.
So, if you grew up in a Scottish household like mine, you may have inherited some ancient traditions that are now swallowed up by Christmas. For me, December will forever be associated with the gentle smoke from a burning rowan twig wafting fragrantly in the hallway. Peppered with bright red autumn berries, sprigs of rowan have been carried by Scots for centuries to protect them from enchantments. They are planted near doorways as deterrents to witches with the red regarded as the best colour to ward off evil spirits. Setting fire to it as a preventative measure to save Christmas from festive fights and ill-will between family, friends and neighbours is a more recent tradition. This is clearly an endeavour my mother never got quite right; we’d need a whole forest to stop my family having at least one seasonal bust-up.
Meet the Monocle family
We’ve always believed a set of good nightclothes are essential when winding down. And, it’s something pyjama brand Tom Àdam ensures can be done in style. Founded in Berlin in 2015, the family-run business creates small, limited-edition batches of unisex pyjamas, made from a soft environmentally responsible cellulose fibre that is sourced from eucalyptus trees.
Tom Àdam shares Monocle’s appreciation of good design, craftsmanship and travel. For proof, look to this collaboration: a limited-edition unisex pyjama set, perfect for those who want to tumble out of bed in style, wherever they are in the world.
This week, the Concierge donned a ski-suit and mask and headed north. If you’re after some holiday tips, whether you’re going somewhere wintry or looking for some winter sun, click here. We will answer one question each week.
I want to go skiing in January but I’m looking for somewhere a bit off-piste, perhaps in Scandinavia. Where would you recommend?
All the best,
Once the host of the Winter Olympics, the laid-back charm of the Norwegian town of Lillehammer makes it a favourite destination for cross-country skiers and culture seekers alike. Two hours north of Oslo by train, Lillehammer is a hilly town of 27,000 people that gained international renown when it hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. The town centre is full of wooden houses, sports shops and cosy cafés, while on the edges are stadiums and ski-jump sites left behind after the games. It’s also a friendly, social place: locals pull groceries on sleds and chat by the bus stop that bears skiers up to the plateau where cross-country trails await.
The town’s hospitality is reliably laid-back with small, charming cafés such as Café Sorgenfri serving cinnamon rolls and warming soups. It’s a long way from the boozy Alpine chalets of Courchevel or St Anton; cross-country skiing was never about sitting around indoors anyway. Along the trails, clusters of cottages with thick blankets of white powder on their rooftops are available to rent. These are ideal for those who want to hop on skis first thing in the morning – a good idea in winter, when the sun is only up for about five or six hours. Grab your equipment and book your accommodation at Nordseter Fjellpark service centre. This mini-lodge, with its small shop and café, is the place to rent skis or a holiday hut. If you’re after something a little more central, Stasjonen hotel and hostel is located in Lillehammer train station; rooms are charming and affordable. For food, Hvelvet restaurant is located in a former bank and offers elegant dining under a grand chandelier and dark-wood ceiling, while the excellent wine list and fish at Lyng caters to a hip, young crowd.
Three alpine-skiing areas are nearby, as is Maihaugen, Norway’s largest open-air museum, which boasts 200 historic buildings showing how people lived here centuries ago. The region places great value on preserving cultural heritage and is often touted as a sustainable destination. The bobsled run is a favourite of children who gleefully scream as they hurtle down in a sled or a rubber raft. Elsewhere, there’s an excellent art gallery whose curvy architecture houses work by luminaries including Edvard Munch. Skål!
For more festive stories, pick up a copy of Monocle’s winter newspaper, ‘The Alpino Edition’.
Every Saturday until the New Year, we’re presenting the top of the Nordic pops – pop stars from across the region whose catalogues provide ample fodder for your Christmas playlists (writes Gabrielle Dellisanti).
Sweden / Victor Leksell
The 2020 debut of Victor Leksell, Fånga mig när jag faller, reached number one and has stayed in Sweden’s album chart for more than two years. The record’s lead single, the heartfelt ballad “Svag”, played on radio stations across the Nordics and brought the Torslanda-born artist to swift fame. He has since performed for Sweden’s royal family and, in 2021, his single “Tystnar i Luren” with Finnish-Swedish singer Miriam Bryant ranked as the country’s most-streamed song of the year. The 25-year-old singer has also released a string of higher-tempo hits that keep racking up millions of streams. These include his latest single in collaboration with rapper Einár, “Din Låt”, a chilled-out track with buckets of attitude.
If you’re looking to make some resolutions in 2023 but are unsure where to begin, Monocle’s December/January issue has you covered. The magazine, available to purchase now, contains a list of beautifully illustrated New Year’s Resolutions that will improve mind, body and/or soul. We’ll be sharing one every Saturday for the next 12 weeks.
January: Start an archive
The start of the year can be a time to look forward but an ambition to get your life in order should include gazing backwards too. Starting a photo archive will allow you to gather memories rather than leave them lingering on your phone. A good archive is one that’s built slowly and added to every year. Most importantly, it has to be physical. Canon makes a neat little printer that turns phone snaps into paper while Kodak’s film scanner allows you to transform old negatives into digital duplicates. House it all in a canvas-lined box made by a specialist, such as London’s Silverprint, and start logging a visual journal of your life.
global.canon; kodak.com; silverprint.co.uk
Read the full list of 12 resolutions in Monocle’s December/January issue, which is available to purchase now.