There’s a certain delight in returning to base on a holiday weekend when all is relatively quiet and calm and you can spend a few hours sifting through the small desktop mountain range that has developed in your absence.
Some time before Christmas I started a new pre-departure, clear-my-desk exercise with my assistants Tommy and Isabel. With 30 minutes blocked out in the diary and bags and Post-it notes at the ready, we mount a joint exercise that involves clearing all magazines (some are binned, some are archived, many get a note scribbled across the front and are forwarded to other colleagues, others go into a quick-reference stack just beyond my desk and the really, really good titles get to stay in a special pile beside my phone), correspondence is dealt with in triage fashion (some things I answer, others are for Tommy and Isabel to deal with and there’s always a special dossier created for responses that demand handwritten notes) and then there are all the generally off-base press releases and gifts that accumulate at an alarming speed.
This is always the fun part of the clean-up. “Would I like to go on a tour of South African lodges for two weeks and learn how to make local crafts?” asks Tommy, reading from a sheet of paper that looks like it’s been made from pressed oryx dung.
“Ummmmmm, not in this decade,” I respond. “See if we can defer.”
“What about these shoes that came for you? Should I send them to your house?” asks Tommy with a massive grin.
“Yes, but perhaps they can spend some time visiting the Oxfam on the high street first,” I counter.
Three weeks ago I departed Midori House (our London HQ) and headed off on a tour that took in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Berlin, Stuttgart, Zürich, Geneva, Lucerne, St Moritz, Como, Bolzano and Merano. When I said goodbye to Tommy and Isabel my desk was so clean you could have landed a small aircraft on it and I felt so on top of things that I was confident there was little chance of it getting too out of control.
When I returned on Sunday morning the long slab of oak had sprouted a jagged array of paper that was truly alpine in proportions. All alone, I settled into my chair and selected what looked like the best bits from various piles – new copies of my favourite magazines from New Zealand had arrived, a tower of spring releases from Berlin-based publishers Gestalten were dominating the middle of the desk and there was the very tempting cover of Brutus magazine’s special spring fashion edition peeking out from the weekly shipment of titles that come from our Tokyo bureau.
As usual, I do a very quick scan of all the magazines I’m dying to dive into (but don’t dare spend extra time with them as I’d get nothing done), and then tuck them into a tote bag for proper enjoyment later on. As I looked around figuring out what bag I should put them in (at last count there were at least four or five dozen various types of totes, satchels and duffels dotted around my office) I spotted a lovely olive bag with a red logo I’d never seen before. Then I noticed it was hanging alongside a jacket that vaguely matched.
Pushing my chair back, I lost interest in the bag and mags and pulled the jacket off the back of the chair. Made of a cotton twill with sturdy snaps, good pockets and featuring a leather patch from a well-known Nordic brand on the sleeve, I pulled it on and felt as if it had been placed there in anticipation of the extended European winter that was marking Easter Sunday. It wasn’t until I tried to get a view of the back that I noticed two red embroidered logos – “Borgen” at shoulder level and “DR” just above the hem at the bottom. Tucked into the pocket was a card with the same typography and a lovely note from one of the show’s producers.
If you’re living under a very large rock in a remote part of New Zealand’s south island then you may not be aware that Borgen is the wonderfully crafted political thriller from Denmark’s state broadcaster. As I decided whether I should jot a note to the lovely Pernille who sent the jacket, or venture outside to try it out in the gently falling snow, or continue with tidying up my desk, I pulled out a notecard and moved on to the next pile of paper that was about to cascade off the far end of my desk.
A rapid scan of the letters (lots of wonderful paper stock and fine printing with addresses involving whimsically named cottages and country houses) revealed this was one part of my FT mail stack that has been accumulating over the past few weeks.
I was hoping to get around to answering this column’s most frequently asked questions this week but you’ll have to tune in next Saturday. In the meantime, I have to watch the finale of Borgen – season two.
Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine
More columns at www.ft.com/brule