Saturday 15 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 15/7/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Out and about

If you’ve ever dreamed of a trip to Prague, we have just the itinerary for you. After visiting the Czech capital, we plan to hit the dancefloor with a selection of hot summer tracks. Plus: the Brazilian national jersey makes a flashy comeback and we chisel away at a sculpture auction in Monaco. First, Andrew Tuck kicks things off with an age-old tale

The opener / Andrew Tuck

The tall and short of it

The UK is undertaking a vast survey called Our Future Health, in partnership with the state-run National Health Service, to try to find out how to predict illness and therefore healthcare needs. Some people receive an invitation in the post (I did) but you can also volunteer (as several people in our office have). First, you have to fill in a lengthy survey online. (I never like the question about alcohol units – it sounds like I am describing how many litres of petrol it takes to fill a car.) Then you pop along to a designated centre where they do a few tests and take some blood. This was not a great start to the week.

Now, I make no claim to being a man of great stature but when the researcher made me stand against a measuring chart, he said aloud a number that was a full 5cm below the figure that I have fiercely clung to for all my adult years. Then, he measured my “medical waist”, which turns out to be the circumference just above your belly button. This time he added some 10cm to my professed trouser size. Then, when he took the blood, I had to, as always, explain that I must not see the needle otherwise I would likely keel over – and so I ended up looking over my shoulder like some affronted duchess as he came in for the kill. It was all a little humiliating.

Afterwards, I phoned my partner with the devastating height news who, being taller than me, sniggered and started gleefully quoting TS Eliot’s, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock down the line: “I grow old, I grow old... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

But, keen to know his cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings, he managed to get an appointment at the same centre the following day. And, ha, bloody, ha – the researcher also downgraded him by 5cm. Though, not wanting to be defeated, he insisted on being remeasured and managed to reclaim a centimetre or two.

“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach.” Well, the trouser bit sounds rather appealing, Mr Eliot.

President Biden was in the UK briefly this week where he met the British prime minister and the king. When US presidents are in town they stay at the American ambassador’s residence, Winfield House, in Regent’s Park and, as Monocle is close by, we can hear the choppers coming in to land. Now, the narrative that Biden is doddery and forgetful has taken hold to such a degree that the poor man can’t put a foot wrong without being declared senile. This week the British press mocked him for having cue cards when he met our prime minister – really, someone looks at notes before they have an important conversation?

A contact who works for a globally known CEO told me about the preparations that they undertake on behalf of their boss before a trip. Dossiers are compiled on every person that he will come into contact with; notes are supplied if they have met them before and on what they have previously spoken about. Then, seconds before a handshake or a sit-down with say a supplier, or minister, an assistant will whisper the key facts needed to make this encounter a success. “Hello Jim, I haven’t seen you since Paris last year. Tell me, did your daughter – Sarah isn’t it? – get into Harvard?” It’s just what happens.

And this will cheer you up, Mr President. A couple of Sundays ago I was about to do a check-in for Monocle Radio from home and I went to the cupboard where I store, along with many other things, the headphones, mic and kit needed to sit on air. I made a coffee, sat down at my desk and suddenly noticed that where the mic and headphones should be, there sat the iron.

Having said that, one skill that the Monocle team – even me – has mastered over the years is going card-free, notes-free, when interviewing our fine guests at the Monocle Quality of Life Conference. Over the coming days, all of the speakers (such as Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa) will be revealed on the conference page on the Monocle website. And we would love for you to join us too. It’s from Thursday 31 August to Saturday 2 September, with the panels on the Friday. And this year it’s in Munich. Get your ticket here. I’ll be there – hopefully minus a singed ear.

The Look / Brazilcore

Yellow streak

“Brazilcore” is back (writes Fernando Augusto Pacheco, pictured). The canary yellow shirt of the Seleção – the Brazilian football team – has always been a mainstay for national posturing but during Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, its reputation took a hit. Instead of its previous association with the joyous, carefree Brazilian spirit, the jersey came to signify something rather less pleasant about the wearer: the support of a right-wing world view.

But the kit’s comeback is enough to rival any great sporting tussle. Media outlets such as Brazilian broadsheet O Estado de São Paulo and Vogue France have noticed the pendulum swing from shady nationalism towards a more magnanimous national pride. Today, “Brazilcore” is sported by international celebrities including Rosalía and model Hailey Bieber, who took a photo of herself wearing the national jersey. The look can even be enhanced by the optional accessory of coconut water in hand and a pair of Havaianas gracing your feet. However you choose to wear it, I’m glad to have my country’s team shirt back in regular rotation.

How we live / Techy pets

Cat and mouse game

It’s 06.03 and – while I could be snoozing, considering a morning coffee or checking whether anything urgent landed in my inbox overnight – I’m instead scrutinising an app on my phone that tells me how often my cat, Alfie, has gone outside during the night (writes Josh Fehnert). Three times, I think, as I try to decode the histograms and swirling infographics. Following my handsome domestic shorthair’s capricious nocturnal jaunts has become a joyless but oddly engrossing habit.

I’m not alone in spying on my pet either. A cursory search of the sector reveals all manner of digital doohickeys, from GPS devices and automatic feeders to animal sleep trackers, water purifiers and cameras – so many cameras. Though most of what I see is cheap, plasticky tat, overall spending on our pets has risen sharply. In the US it rose 10 per cent in a year to a princely $136.8bn (€122bn) in 2022. While I haven’t invested in a “smart” bed, pet pedometer or set the poor brute any “exercise goals”, I can see that it’s a slippery slope.

Illustrations: Mathieu De Muizon

Though I’d like to think that my enthusiasm shows that I care, in truth it’s probably a symptom of the wider collective obsession with using technology to track – and to try to control – everything around us. We know our calories burned, footsteps taken and flights of stairs ascended, so why not find out Fido’s? Does knowing more make people better owners? Not really; it probably makes us fret more.

It’s now 06.05 and my phone buzzes again. “Alfie is out,” says a push notification. Funny that, I think to myself as I put down my phone and catch a glimpse of the cat’s pale-green eyes narrowing and whiskers twitching as he yawns, nestling his head down to slumber again. He has been at the foot of the bed this whole time. The app’s on the fritz again. Perhaps the pet tech isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. A bright collar and a tinkling bell – and a catnap – might have served us both better.

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Czech it out

The Monocle Concierge is our purveyor of top tips and delectable recommendations for your next trip. It’s also on hand in audio form on Monocle Radio, with reports and the latest travel news from around the world. If you’re planning to go somewhere nice and would like some advice, click here. We will answer one question a week.

Image: Alamy

Dear Concierge,

We are planning to visit Prague for a couple of days in early August and would love some recommendations for food and drink options as well as cultural hotspots. My wife and I are open to any suggestions.

Lele Buonerba

Dear Lele,

If you wish to explore Czech culture, history and food, Prague is a fantastic option. Start your trip in the Klárov district for a visit to the Kunsthalle, a welcome new entry on the local contemporary art scene at the foot of the Prague Castle complex. Here, photography, installations, and paintings occupy several stories of a converted 1930s electric substation. At Kunsthalle’s in-house bistro, you can enjoy inventive vegetarian dishes, revamped Czech classics and even Sunday brunch.

Cross the Vltava river (pictured) to the Dvorak Embankment to explore the gothic, baroque, and art nouveau façades of the Old Town’s Josefov district, before making your way toward the picturesque Rasnovka street, a frequent filming location. Nearby, St Agnes Monastery houses the National Gallery’s collection of Gothic art as well as a café that sells picnic baskets to enjoy in its modern sculpture garden.

For natural wines and craft beer, catch the no. 8 tram from the city centre to Karlín Square. Stop at Veltlin for autentisté vintages from the winemaking regions of the former Habsburg empire paired with cheeses, cured meats, and pâtés from local producers. Don’t miss the nearby brewery and taproom Dva Kohouti (Two Roosters), and Kasárna Karlín, a military barracks turned culture hub with an outdoor cinema and live performance schedule.

Finally, no trip to Prague is complete without trying its local Vietnamese food. On Prague’s left bank in Andel, go for a family-style dinner at Nhà hai hành and then hit Manifesto Market for some of the city’s best food vendors and DJs. End the night at the Jazz Dock or with a walk along the Smíchov embankment where waterfront galleries, cafés, and majestic views of the Vysehrad ramparts await.

Culture / Summer playlist

Burn up the dance floor

In the fourth instalment of the 60-track playlist featured in our July/August double issue, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, Monocle Radio’s senior culture correspondent and music curator, picks 10 groovy tracks for a hot night on the disco tiles.

‘Padam Padam’ by Kylie Minogue. Kylie delivers an infectious hit yet again.

‘Gigi in Paradisco’ by Dalida. Dalida is always welcome at Monocle’s discotheque.

‘Lyckotårar’ by Lovad. Perfect Swedish pop.

‘Make Italo Disco Great Again (Tutorial Mix)’ by Romain FX. A lesson in how to produce the perfect Italo disco.

‘Angelo (Space Ghost Remix)’ by Brijean. Dreamy, cosmic disco.

‘So Hard So Hot’ by Alison Goldfrapp. We love Goldfrapp as a band but Alison’s solo track is also a delight.

‘Give Me A Break’ by Vivien Vee. A gift to the dance floor, straight from Trieste.

‘Furore’ by Paola & Chiara. The Italian duo is back.

‘Solo’ by Blanka. A bit cheesy but what’s not to love about Poland’s Eurovision 2023 entry?

‘Miracle’ by Calvin Harris with Ellie Goulding. Trance from the 1990s is back – and we don’t mind.

To listen to the playlist, find Monocle Radio on Spotify or tune in live to Monocle Radio for more songs. The entire playlist is also featured in our July/August issue, which is on sale now.

Fashion update / Studio Nicholson

Setting the tone

British label Studio Nicholson has opened its first shop in Japan – the country that helped to shape its minimal design ethos from the get-go (writes Natalie Theodosi). Founder Nick Wakeman spent more than 20 years working and travelling around Japan before founding her own label in 2010. “When I arrived in Japan in the 1990s, everything was impeccable compared to the grime of London. I fell in love with the country’s light and tonal colours,” she tells The Monocole Weekend Edition. “Tokyo has informed all my designs since then. It’s comforting to see that the city’s retail scene hasn’t really changed. Many shops remain in the same spot for decades.”

Wakeman worked with Danish design firm Carl Hansen & Son to create a space filled with modular furniture, produced in solid oak plywood and floor-to-ceiling curtains in the neutral colours that the brand is known for. “The floor design is something new for Studio Nicholson,” she adds. Judging from the crowds that gathered to celebrate the opening in Aoyama, it seems that this sleek new flagship will become a neighbourhood favourite for locals and visitors alike.

The interrogator / Stella Jean

Elements of style

Stella Jean is a self-taught Haitian-Italian fashion designer. Her work merges classical Italian tailoring with stylistic features drawn from a range of cultures. She is a member of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion and widely considered to be Giorgio Armani’s protégée. Here, she tells us about her love of matcha, her favourite bookshop in Rome and her infatuation with Caprese sandals.

Image: Claudia Ferri

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
For about two years I have been addicted to matcha. I drink about five or six cups of it a day.

Do you have a favourite weekend market?
Porta Portese in Trastevere – it goes without saying!

Favourite bookshop?
The Libreria Cicerone bookshop on Largo Chigi, opposite the Palazzo Chigi. When I was at high school I often used my snack money to buy 19th-century classics. In this historic centre, you could pick up a book for the equivalent of €1. I could get at least five great classical texts in a day.

Your papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk?
Down to the kiosk. In Italy, it’s common for your newsagent to be a longstanding acquaintance with whom you would chat about the neighbourhood and joke around.

Do you enjoy podcasts? If so, which ones?
I like Forever Fab by the New York surgeon Shirley Madhere. She talks us through fashion, the art of living well and beauty.

What about books?
Anything by Luigi Pirandello. From Uno, nessuno e centomila [One, No One and One Hundred Thousand] to La giara, what distinguishes him is his unique ability to explore various philosophical and psychological concepts.

What’s the first thing that you will pack in your suitcase this summer?
My Caprese sandals. I have bought about 30 of them – always the same model and the same colour. They are the perfect things to wear from morning to night.

Any good restaurant recommendations?
Trattoria La Rosetta in Rome for the seafood dishes and Orlando in Forte dei Marmi for the focaccia.

What am I bid? / Monaco sculptures

As a matter of form

Yacht owners keeping watch of the Monaco streetscape through their diamond-encrusted binoculars this weekend may notice a menagerie of sculptures across the city-state (writes Andrew Mueller). This is the fourth edition of the imaginatively named Monaco Sculptures event. The good news is that you can sail away with one of them should your wallet and your vessel’s tonnage be able to stand it: certainly, Baltasar Lobo’s 1971 “Au Soleil”, a bulbous study of the female form (€120,000 to €160,000) could just about be refashioned as a superyacht figurehead.

Image: Artcurial

Other highlights include Arman’s 1986 “Music Power II” (pictured), a tower of broken cellos in bronze (€100,000 to €150,000), and Marcello Lo Giudice’s 2017 “Printemps de Botticelli”, a three-metre wall of ceramic butterflies (€30,000 to €40,000). Options at the more budget-friendly end of the range include Cesar’s 1990 “Compression”, a slab of crushed Coca-Cola cans (€15,000 to €20,000), and Vassilakis Takis’s “Signal”, a series of small lamps mounted on spindles (€5,000 to €12,000 each). Whimsical though some of these may seem, they are solid investments. A pair of François-Xavier Lalanne’s bronze-and-stone sheep are estimated to cost €280,000 to €380,000 each. His “Léopard 1” fetched €8.3m in November 2021. The hammer falls on 18 July at the Hotel Hermitage, though anyone can enjoy the lots at no cost until the beginning of September.


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