Listen to this article
It’s useful having a bit of altitude when reflecting on the past year and considering what 2014 might have in store. As 2013 draws to a close, I’ve ventured over the Ofenpass from St Moritz and have settled down at a small table at the Stadt Hotel Città’s café in the centre of Bolzano. I’m surrounded by elegant ladies in furs, young gentlemen in Loden gilets and hefty hiking boots and smartly dressed children in fine weave jumpers, who have those curiously floppy haircuts that seem to stay with Italian males all the way to the grave.
There are groups of middle-aged women in Moncler parkas and knee-high boots, while half of the tables are occupied by men in their fifties, sitting alone to read newspapers – paper ones, with mastheads – including the Dolomiten, Alto Adige, NZZ and Il Messaggero.
I should be joining them and catching up with the world on paper but instead I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules and feeling very guilty about it: I have my laptop open and I’m tapping out this column. Normally I would never, ever do such a thing and should be hiding around a corner somewhere but it’s too cold to sit outside.
As a result, I’m typing as fast as I can and it doesn’t seem like too many of my neighbours are paying much attention. In keeping with tradition, the approach of 2014 means it’s time for the annual Fast Lane New Year Wish List.
As ever, this column wishes for all the basics to be addressed (no bloody conflicts, positive regime change in North Korea, cures for major diseases) – but it has also picked out a few others that might get overlooked but will, I hope, come true.
A return to silence
While I sit in a café filled with the sounds of German and Italian bouncing off the walls, there are just as many people watching the world going by without feeling the need to chip in. The men with their newspapers are not on their mobiles: they don’t feel the need to be “capturing” what’s going on around them and nor do they feel like “sharing” what they’re doing.
Bravo! The silence of the Finns, the extended contemplation practised by the Japanese and the art of just letting the world flow by in a grand café should be enjoyed by all. Not every action deserves a report, not every article or incident deserves comment and the world doesn’t need to know where you are at all times.
Sticking with the “lower-profile” theme, shouldn’t 2014 be about creating a bit of mystery around yourself and even your business? All the digital chatter is not only exhausting, it makes everyone (and everything) less interesting.
Isn’t the whole point of embarking on a relationship (personal and otherwise) about peeling back the layers, being pleasantly surprised, finding yourself charmed by the unknown, and working hard to unravel the complexities of a person, place or product? Making your personal brand – along with the one you might work for or own – a bit more mysterious will not only add a layer of intrigue but will also create a greater degree of desire.
Make some prints
It sounds very basic but when was the last time you shuffled through a stack of photographic prints? It’s perfectly fine living in the cloud but it’s also worth downloading some of those images and committing them to glossy (or matte) photographic paper and sharing them with friends.
A colleague recently came into the office with a stack of 35mm prints. In an instant, the value of images on paper was apparent: rather than sharing them on a screen, the deck was passed around and it created a totally different level of interaction as there was the possibility to linger and cross-reference, with everyone participating. The truly radical might pick up a second-hand 35mm camera or buy one of Fujifilm’s new, very Germanic-looking models.
More runways and more gates
Achtung Boris Johnson and David Cameron! Stop messing around with fantasies of islands in the Thames estuary and just add a new runway at Heathrow. No one wants to take a train halfway to France to get on a flight, and all those people who have fancy houses down in the West Country and who help keep the economy ticking over will not be voting for you if you add an extra two hours’ travel for future flights to New York or Hong Kong. While you’re at it, you might encourage airport operators to stop trimming costs by building single gates for aircraft that deserve two.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
More columns at ft.com/brule
Letters in response to this column:
Get alerts on Life & Arts when a new story is published