HTSI editor’s letter: welcome back to the real world...
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Anyone who has been in the middle of a city lately can vouch for the surge of new energy all around. Last weekend, walking through London’s Soho and Covent Garden, I felt an unfamiliar rush of human traffic, of people meeting, drinking and shopping, crowding into restaurants as the urban centre filled out with folk again. The sight of so many friends being reunited, the sense of occasion, the swarms of teenagers and throngs of fans coming together to share their match-day pints felt extraordinarily festive – if slightly overwhelming. Was this the resumption of pre-pandemic weekend behaviour when people simply spent their free time casually carousing? Or was it even more exhilarating: a renouncement of lockdown and all its tedious confinement as people launched themselves into a turbo-boosted bacchanal?
Whatever it was, I liked it. It was revitalising to be around so many people having fun. It was cheering to see so many people looking happy, especially when the prevailing media narrative has been to paint the world so grim. At home throughout this long period of isolation, it has been tempting to read the outside world as hostile: a place of violent opinion, argument and angst. But while that might be a more accurate reflection of the virtual planet, it turns out the “real” world is a quite lovely place to be. It’s something Laurence Ellis wanted to capture in his joyful fashion story, which focuses on groups of families, friends and different social tribes. Each unit, captured on their way out to a party, celebrates the brilliant idiosyncrasies and intimacies that help to shape our personal lives.
The party theme remains a constant in this week’s How To Spend It – from bespoke stationery to help set the right tone to the accessories with which to dazzle or the best champagnes to serve. The American musician and bandleader Jon Batiste offers his guide to the great jazz and music spots of his hometown New Orleans, while food writer Ajesh Patalay tries out the new wave of dining options where the meal comes with a show. It’s perhaps not everybody’s idea of entertainment but, hell, it’s Christmas. Even fun refuseniks are required to tap their tiny toes.
We’ve also used this issue to ask a range of FT journalists to nominate their favourite hotel bars. Although Martin Wolf declined our invitation (he finds them “too depressing”), I have always found hotel bars a very special place to be. Something about them seems so wilfully indulgent, what with the large quantities of alcohol and the low lighting suggestive of seductive intrigue. A bit of magic – and mischief – hangs about the atmosphere and gets me in a celebratory mood. The best hotel bars combine propriety and licentiousness in equal measure – and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s what this season is all about.
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