It’s Friday night and I’m sat in my dining room. I’ve just finished a bowl of homemade spicy parsnip soup, the kitchen still looks like a grenade has hit it, and my blood pressure is steadily returning to normal after a too-hectic week; soothed by the prospect of the food and friend filled weekend ahead.
But this isn’t an ordinary Friday night. In fact, something pretty exciting has happened, which is making this night an entirely satisfying and wholly atypical evening. Yes, this is the Friday night that from this day forth will be remembered as the night that I discovered the Monocle 24 Radio app.
Right now, I am listening to its long, languishing documentary on the Toronto brunch scene. While the scratchy audio sounds like a dispatch from an intrepid journo reporting war-torn insights from across the barricades; the story being told – of bearded /scraggly-fringed media-types gathering together over eggs and bloody marys in cafes decorated in street art and playing The XX – is as familiar as my own Sunday plans in London most weekends.
Next, we cut into a steady, relaxed conversation between a British journo and a Québécois cheese affineur on what makes a good comte. And now some designer is explaining how he turned his studio into a pop-up restaurant selling Mexican street food, where customers are treated to limited edition designed t-shirts once they finish their meal.
I can’t tell you how happy this is making me. As anyone whose perused this blog will know, one of my great loves is travelling somewhere totally new, exploring the city, and then scouring its neighbourhoods for the kind of arty-ish cafes that are in no small way dissimilar to the places where I spend too many comfortable hours not 15mins from my house near Broadway market.
Now, you may think this is a little pointless, or perhaps even a little ‘affected’. “Travel the world only to find places just like those you visit at home? You’re no better than those people who don’t leave their hotel without knowing the location of the nearest McDonald’s,” you might think. And to be fair, you would have an excellent point. I am quite conscious that at times my travel preferences reflect something of a cliché – someone who with no trace of irony would happily call themselves a global citizen while also going nuts when they find a spot in the backstreets of an unlikely town that has solid wifi, indie electro music and serves soya lattes.
The thing is, I’m not sure these two things are mutually exclusive. I don’t want to stay in my London comfort cafe zone. I want to explore. I want to see how people live and work and relax and party. I want local people to have me round for dinner at their place and feed me their favourite meal; listening to their favourite music. I want those uncomfortable moments when I have virtually no idea what’s being said, or what I’m eating, or how the hell I’m going to find my way back to my Air Bnb ‘home’.
But I also want to know that wherever I am in the world; from NYC’s Lower East Side to the central drag in Ramallah, that there are people there who are just a little bit like me. Who like the things I like. Who relax the way I relax. And not because I want everything to be the same everywhere like in some anti-globalisation horror story, but because I really like being reminded that whatever country you’re in and wherever you’re from, people aren’t really all that different.
Which is why I’m loving Monocle 24. I’m over-worked and travel-starved, and London in all its cloud-covered glory is starting to feel like a bit of a fortress. I’m itching to be somewhere different on the unspoken promise that it might get me back into a more optimistic and enlightened perspective that’s seemingly full of possibility.
But it’s Friday night, I’m tired, it’s cold out, and I have to clean up my kitchen. So thank god there are radio stations like this one to plug into for a few hours – reminding me that there are a whole world of as yet unvisited places out there serving my favourite hot beverage where I’ll feel oddly at home.
Monocle 24 radio is the latest classy content production from Tyler Brûlé, whose Monocle magazine has been described as “a meeting between Foreign Policy and Vanity Fair”. Check it out here.