Marcel Duchamp knew time was more important that money. I think lockdown might make us all a bit more like him. After he had revolutionised our ideas about art, he spent the last 40 years of his life playing chess. He had the same lunch of spaghetti and red wine every day. The owner of the little restaurant he went to eventually asked him why he was sitting around doing nothing but playing chess and eating pasta, and why he hadn’t capitalised on his status in the art world. Duchamp told him, well, my capital is time not money.
When the restrictions start to ease, we'll notice the small stuff. Meeting a friend or just going out by yourself for a coffee with a newspaper in the morning is going to feel like an exotic journey. Where I live in London, there are some Portuguese cafés I’ll be going to for exactly this experience – the simple things again! I’m also going to spend lots of time at a wonderful place called the Chelsea Arts Club and it’ll be great to get back to the London Library.
Travel, to me, isn't the 'small stuff'. It doesn’t broaden the mind, it narrows it. When someone says to me, you must go to Kazakhstan, I say I haven’t been to Rome often enough yet – can I just go back there? It’d be worth the trip for the Schostal menswear shop.
However, I love Greece, Italy and Spain for simple pleasures. Madrid is a great city – seek out the Bodega de la Ardosa – but the real place for me is where my friends are, close to Girona in Catalonia. It’s completely untouched by tourism, just rolling hills, medieval buildings, a terrific butcher’s and a wonderful food culture. I’d rather like to see the inside of the American Bar in Vienna soon too. The place I hope to spend a bit of time this year is my sister-in-law’s house. It’s on a Greek island that’s not so much unspoilt as never improved in the first place. Nothing has ever happened there in the whole of human history – there’s not even a single shard of pottery in the local museum. It’s just the quintessence of Greece. You could say it’s perfectly designed.
I hope my book helps everyone appreciate the simple things. It came about after a meeting with my publisher and each chapter is supposed to be a bit like a conversation over lunch. There are about 30 chapters and they add up to something like a secular sermon about life and how to enjoy it. Though they’re much more mischievous than that sounds! Books should be interesting and thought provoking, which is why I’ve never written anything I expect everyone to agree with. This one, I genuinely believe, has an interesting idea on every page. I hope I haven't made it sound like a hippy-dippy mindfulness book. It’s not! It’s about how you can enjoy simple things and get maximum pleasure from everyday stuff.
Value – What Money Can’t Buy by Stephen Bayley is published by Constable in hardback on 11th March. Pre-order it here. For more about Stephen, check out StephenBayley.com.