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September 13, 2013 6:31 pm
Autumn arrived with a soggy, somewhat gusty thud last weekend – at least in the southern reaches of Britain. After waking up in warm, sunny Berlin early on Friday morning, I was greeted by rolling, grey, angry clouds just as our Lufthansa Airbus approached the English Channel and started its descent towards Heathrow.
The plan was to go straight to the office and get a head start on the day, but my summery attire didn’t really feel appropriate under the weight of low, dense cloud, and with the thermometer having dropped by 11C. So halfway into town on the train, I decided I’d go via the house to throw on a layer of clothing or two and make an attempt at unpacking.
Along the way, I considered myself very, very lucky that I don’t work for a company that would force me to wear a uniform consisting of dark aubergine and Dijon mustard yellow. Who at Heathrow Express decided this particular colour pairing was acceptable? Who proposed it in the first place? How did the staff feel about wearing waistcoats made of a fabric that might otherwise be found lining a coffin?
As I made my way to the taxi rank, wondering when British branding agencies were going to lose their obsession with purple, the chilly blast of air that assaulted me at the top of the escalator announced that autumn in England was going to be just as brutal as spring. A few minutes later I was in my apartment and taking stock. Was that it for breakfasts on the terrace this year? Was it already time to tell the housekeeper to pull out a heavier duvet and blankets? Should I go for a run?
It took about 15 seconds to decide that the effects from the night before (a Monocle book launch in Berlin) had not worn off; that a nap would be much more effective than a lap of the park and that one or two meetings could be pushed back until later in the day. An hour and a half later I woke up, half-wondering how I’d managed to start my day in Berlin and make it this far.
In front of my open wardrobe I stared at the rails of navy blazers and jackets and then at my suitcase, and reckoned that the unpacking could wait until the evening. Better yet, maybe I didn’t need to unpack at all, as I was heading to tropical temperatures the following week on a book-signing tour – could Paris, Helsinki, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (in 10 days) be served by the garments stuffed into the compact carry-on? Perhaps, but a proper audit would have to wait until evening.
Out on the street it was as if summer had never happened. Kuwaiti ladies heading to a nearby clinic were bundled up like they were walking through the streets of Gstaad, while their minders in padded gilets looked like it was the first time they’d ever experienced such temperatures. The builders dismantling the scaffolding had swapped their shorts for grey, saggy-ass sweatpants. And there was no trace of the fact that only 24 hours earlier people had been dining out under sunny skies.
In the office the mood (fortunately) was still glowing, as were most of my colleagues – many bronzed and freckly from late August vacations or work assignments featuring outdoor photo shoots and possibly a bit of time around the pool.
Still, colleagues who had been in shorts and sundresses were now in more purposeful attire. And the grey weather, combined with an earlier sunset, gave the office the feeling of an environment already hunkering down for the last quarter of the year – which is no bad thing.
Up on my floor, the atmosphere was further reinforced by two dates in the diary dedicated to discussing the company Christmas party plans and corporate gifts. On my desk were illustration suggestions for the company Christmas card and there was a mock-up for a Christmas catalogue that required my comments. For a moment I tried to block it all out and focus on more tempting things elsewhere on my desk – but after a few minutes of thinking about who should DJ at the party and how we were going to style the catalogue, I felt the seasonal funk starting to lift, and started getting into the idea of putting on some proper socks and trading up to a chunkier brogue.
The following morning I met up with my friend/adviser/chief schemer Judy for a catch-up and planning session. Having just returned from North America’s west coast, Judy was buzzing about being back to work and her plans for expansion, new clients and special projects. Three flat whites later and I was right there with her, laying out our plans for the last quarter of the year and discussing collaborations. At that moment the sun made a halfhearted attempt to warm us up, but amid all the autumn planning it felt like a bit of an unwelcome intruder. Or perhaps I had the luxury of feeling that way, knowing I’d be in Tokyo’s 30C heat a week later.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
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