Saturday 7 January 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 7/1/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opening salvo

Here to ease you in to the first proper weekend of the year is a rumination on the modern aversion to inconvenience, a sit-down with Spanish novelist Andrea Abreu, the Monocle Concierge’s tips for a roadtrip to Buenos Aires and plenty more besides. First, Andrew Tuck on the perils of pet names.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Paying the penalty

I have mentioned the Great Naming Disaster before but international reverberations continue. Many years ago, when we first collected our fox terrier puppy, my other half insisted on having the naming rights. This was because our previous dog, a weimaraner, had been called Bruno by me, which had proven unhelpful for instilling any sense of discipline: when you tried to sound stern by barking, “No!” he simply heard the second half of his name and carried on gnawing a hole in your nice jumper. Anyway, my partner, after limited deliberations with himself, settled on Macy (I wanted Noodle but he said that this would make us sound like food-truck owners trying to drum up business when we called her in the park).

Now, the name Macy looks unlikely to cause any confusion when you see it written down but when people enquire as to her name, perhaps 90 per cent of the time they say, “Ah, Maisie, how sweet.” I usually respond, “No, it’s Macy – M-A-C-Y.” Then they say, “Ah, like the department store – do you love that shop?” No doubt they probably think that naming your dog after one of your favourite retail outposts is just one of those things that gay men do (to be fair, we knew a couple with two vicious pomeranians called Dolce and Gabbana, so maybe they have a point). But if I was going down the retail-inspiration path, she would more likely be called Waitrose. Or, just to cause my partner total park embarrassment, I would insist on the title of the Chinese shop that’s next to our apartment block in Palma. It’s called Wan Ke Long.

Anyway, with Macy, I have got to the point where I try heading off the department-store confusion by saying, “It’s Macy, as in Macy Gray.” It sort of works but then they think that she’s your favourite musician. Hey ho.

For the Christmas break, we repeated our summer adventure and drove from London to Mallorca and back again. The first night was spent once again in the city of Bourges and we ate at a restaurant that we had been to in the summer, swapping glasses of rosé for hot spiced wine. At the next table were two rather jolly young French men who had clearly been at the syrupy concoction for some time and soon started petting the pooch.

“What’s her name?” they asked. I explained. “Wow,” said the chattier of the two to his pal, “it’s Messi – Lionel Messi!” Attempting to regain the narrative, I gave them my Macy Gray line but it was too late. “Messi! Messi!” they shouted at the tops of their voices. Everyone in the restaurant looked in our direction. For the next 90 minutes our two new friends kept asking me about my love for Lionel Messi: why had I named my dog after the striker? There was nothing to be done. “What can I say, monsieur? I just love his grace on the pitch,” I finally said.

Perhaps it was a good sign of the times, though, that they just presumed that gay men would name their dog after their favourite soccer player. (My colleague Tom said that I should have told them that she likes to play in a paw-paw-two formation. He seemed very happy with that one.)

Have you seen the second series of The White Lotus? It’s as delicious as the first and, once again, things don’t end up so well for the gay characters (in the show, your life expectancy is somewhat limited if you are that way inclined). It’s written, created and directed by Mike White, who I read is bisexual and lives with his boyfriend. One of the great things about it is that the gay characters are not doting best friends to fashionista girls or filled with angst about their sexual desires. Instead, the show spoofs the excesses of rich and entitled gay men. White’s dark comedy suggests that there’s a type of rich gay who would murder you if it meant that he could keep a nice house and its furnishings intact (seems fair to me). As Jennifer Coolidge’s character, Tanya, says, “Portia, these are some high-end gays!” Too often, as a TV drama starts, you can guess who the baddie and goody will be because its writers are trying to correct society’s prejudices. This show has the confidence to shake that up and steer clear of virtue-signalling.

During our Macy/Messi chat, Tom and I started ruminating on whether the dog should have joined our French friends for a drink. But what would she order? (Lunchtimes can take a slightly surreal turn.) We thought that she might like a “dogatini” – could that even be a new business, considering the millions that people are making from luxury pet food? It seems that others have thought of that name but we came up with a killer extra twist: we’ll serve ours in a glass shaped to look like the cones of shame that dogs sport around their necks after an operation. Perhaps my journalism career needs to continue a little longer, after all.

Monocle Concierge / Your Questions Answered

Keep boredom at bay

A new year means new holiday plans and we can’t wait to hear what you all have in store for 2023. If you would like recommendations for places to stay, shop, eat and drink for a forthcoming trip, click here. We will answer one question a week.

Image: Alamy

Dear Concierge,

I am planning a roadtrip to José Ignacio (Punta del Este, Uruguay) with my three twentysomething children. We will cross the bay and end up in Buenos Aires. Any tips for the city?

Kind regards,
Isabel Martinez-Monche, UK

Dear Isabel,

When you step off the ferry from Uruguay, head to La Biela in the Recoleta district of Buenos Aires to people-watch over a glass of something crisp and cold. This all-day café overlooks the magnificent Recoleta Cemetery and is a good place to plan your days ahead. The Argentinian capital has its own pace. Days extend well into the evening so brace yourself, particularly if you’re visiting during the southern hemisphere’s hotter months.

Keep cool in the galleries of Fundación PROA and Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo, or take refuge in the elegant Palacio Duhau for an afternoon of tea and sparkling wine at the Salones del Piano Nobile. Reserve seeing the major sights for early mornings or late afternoons; walk west to east from Plaza de Mayo (of Evita fame) along the Avenida de Mayo and Avenida 9 de Julio. For shopping, head to the leafy neighbourhoods of Colegiales and Palermo. Pick up some handmade leather goods at Nimes, followed by wine tasting at Pain et Vin – ideal for drinkable souvenirs.

A train ride to the city of Tigre further north in the Buenos Aires province is often overlooked. Rowing clubs line the Paseo Victorica riverbank; here, you can rent a boat and cruise down before a leisurely lunch. If your children are football fans, stay in the capital and drop by one of its inner-city sports-club canteens, such as Club Eros in Palermo, for a simple lunch and rowdy atmosphere. Come dusk, you’re guaranteed to impress by suggesting dinner at El Preferido de Palermo, from where the twentysomethings can bar-hop and soak in the porteño nightlife.

And while in Uruguay’s José Ignacio, don’t forget to visit the James Turrell light installation and Rizoma bookshop. A novel to read beachside – a recuerdo from your travels – will be most welcome. ¡Feliz año nuevo!

How we live / Winter of inconvenience

Against the tide

The safety-first evangelism of modern societies has been blamed for a great number of ills, from the overuse of antidepressants to slow economic growth (writes Alexis Self). Whether or not the world was a better place when unaccompanied children took day trips to Amsterdam and mouthwash contained opium, one thing that has become more prevalent in the 21st century is the fear of minor inconvenience.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The UK is currently roiling from a wave of strikes. It has become something of a cliché to compare the current climate to the 1970s, when months of industrial action led to streets piled high with uncollected rubbish and people walking 12 miles to work. But the prevailing mood during this winter of discontent seems to be one of weary acquiescence. People have become so used to staying at home whenever they’re told to do so that any official warning – of heatwaves, packed trains or even a bit of rain – leads to mass domestic immurement.

This led to my faintly comical Christmas Eve. I had left it until almost the last minute to drive the 200km from London to my mother’s house in Somerset in the west of England. My friends and family were aghast – hadn’t I heard that the AA motoring association had issued an amber warning for heavy traffic? The roads would be gridlocked; it would take three days. At about midday on Christmas Eve, I tentatively drove out of the square that I live in to find… the emptiest roads that I had ever seen. Listening to the HG Wells-esque traffic warnings emanating from my car’s radio as I reached my destination in record time, I congratulated myself for having done the most foolish thing possible. Now I just need to find a way to get the AA to issue an amber warning for crowds at my favourite restaurants.

The Look / Petwear

Flair of the dog

As you can tell from our editor-in-chief’s column, we’re more than partial to pooches but it’s hard to pinpoint when exactly dogs began to wear raincoats, fleeces and wellington boots (writes Grace Charlton). Despite their naturally warm, waterproof fur and paws, fine-tuned through centuries of selective breeding, it would seem that these animals have evolved to need shoes. The pampering of dogs is teetering towards the realm of anthropomorphism; will it soon cause those with prudish tendencies to blush if they see a pet without a waxed Barbour coat on its back?

Image: Pitti Immagine

The first 2023 instalment of über-stylish biannual menswear fest Pitti Immagine Uomo, which runs from 10 to 13 January, is tapping into the multi-billion-dollar global pet-clothing market by introducing Pitti Pets, a new section of the fair dedicated to fashion for our favourite furry friends. Next week, in a setting designed by Italian architect Ilaria Marelli at Florence’s Polveriera, 15 stylish pet brands will showcase “luxurious bibs” and sophisticated clothes for all types of weather and sizes of breed. Only the chicest petwear will make the cut, hailing a canine sartorial transition from functionality to pure fashion.

Minimalist brands such as Pescara-based Omniagioia will be presenting alongside the quirkier knitwear offerings of Spanish label The Painter’s Wife. It’s only a matter of time before great danes in clunky leather loafers and smart tailoring are strutting their stuff down Via de’ Tornabuoni.

Interrogator / Andrea Abreu

Mining the Canaries

Spanish novelist Andrea Abreu was raised in a mountain village in the rugged north of Tenerife (writes Maja Renfer). With no books to be found at home, it was university that introduced her to the world of literature. In 2020, Abreu released her debut novel, Dogs of Summer, which took Spain’s literary scene by storm. Here, she tells us about gofio, Canarian television and her favourite bookshop.

Image: Alex de la Torre

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
My mother, aunt and grandmother usually drink an average of eight coffees a day. I have a coffee problem too.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
Lately, I have been listening to a lot of cumbia because it reminds me of my childhood and parties on the island of La Gomera. Especially Ráfaga and Amar Azul.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
Muchoperro by Juseph and Cruz Cafuné.

Five magazines from your weekend sofa-side stack?
Gatopardo, El País Semanal, El Malpensante, Pikara and Salvaje.

Newspaper that you turn to?
Público, which I have the honour of writing a column for.

Favourite bookshop?
I have two: El Paso and Librería de Mujeres de Canarias. Both are in Tenerife and the owners of the two businesses are great friends of mine.

A podcast in your ear?
Ciberlocutorio. My latest obsession is the chapter they dedicate to “divorced man energy”, which would be like the energy that Gerard Piqué and I currently give off.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
The books of Selva Almada and Leila Guerriero.

Do you watch the nightly news?
Sometimes, with my family, we watch the news on Canarian television while we have hot milk with gofio [a flour made with toasted grains]. My favourite newsreader is not on Canarian television but she is Canarian: Fátima Hernández.

What Am I Bid? / The Ski Sale

White rabbits

The way that Alex Walter Diggelmann’s poster of St Moritz depicts the thick powder snow and clear blue skies of the Swiss Alps is enough to make one want to don ski goggles (writes Claudia Jacob). The lithographic design is one of 47 vintage posters from the golden age of Alpine skiing being auctioned at Lyon & Turnbull. Our pick of the bunch, which is expected to fetch between £3,000 (€3,400) and £5,000 (€5,700), features Steffani, the official mascot for the 1928 St Moritz Winter Olympics. The rabbit is named after the Hotel Steffani, where a number of athletes stayed during the games.

Image: Lyon & Turnbull Auctioneers

This poster is a 1955 homage to one commissioned by the St Moritz tourist board in 1930. It celebrates the way that the Games had attracted a wave of international skiers who had become enchanted by the beauty of the Engadine. The original logo was awarded first prize at the 1933 World’s Fair Chicago, an accolade that has led to the iconic ski-vest-clad white rabbit becoming synonymous with the Alpine resort town. Bidding closes on 12 January, just in time for the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit.

Building better / Shell yeah!

Case the joint

Shell-shaped outdoor performance venues evoke a certain nostalgia. This architectural trope gained popularity across the US in the years following the Great Depression, as live music moved outside. From Jimi Hendrix’s legendary 1969 performance at Honolulu’s Waikiki Shell to the storied stage at the Hollywood Bowl – which has been graced by The Beatles, Tina Turner and Fleetwood Mac since it opened more than a century ago – bandshells always make for striking venues. San Diego’s The Rady Shell is the latest iteration of the design.

Image: Getty Images

The full version of this story appears in the forthcoming February issue of Monocle. To pre-order your copy, click here – or to subscribe to support good journalism in 2023.

Fashion Update / Bottega Veneta

Brand extension

Bottega Veneta has opened the doors of a new Zürich flagship shop on 25 Bahnhofstrasse – the first space reflecting the brand’s new vision under creative director Matthieu Blazy (writes Natalie Theodosi). Blazy, who took the helm of the Italian label just over a year ago, has been focusing on timeless design, speaking of the power of “style over fashion” and highlighting the capabilities of Bottega Veneta’s team of artisans.

Image: Johannes Marburg
Image: Johannes Marburg

The design of the new shop has a similar ethos: a warm space filled with handcrafted pieces, natural wood accents and custom seating by Cassina, which pays homage to Mario Bellini and Italian design. You will also find sculptural door handles similar to the ones on Blazy’s popular Sardine tote bag, a nod to the works of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși. “Zürich is an extremely important city for us, being at the forefront of the art scene,” Bottega CEO Leo Rongone tells The Monocle Weekend Edition. “We wanted to pay tribute to the loyal clients in the city.”


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