Editor’s letter: how you spent it… at home

Soundscapes, tablescapes and our readers’ take on life during lockdown

How To Spend It editor Jo Ellison
How To Spend It editor Jo Ellison | Image: Marili Andre

Like thousands of other people, I was captivated by Christian Marclay’s moving-image installation The Clock when it first appeared in 2010. A 24-hour montage of film clips all spliced together to tell the real time, it united a film nerd’s history of cinema, exhaustive research and an unforgiving format to deliver an artwork that was near euphoric to behold. 

How To Spend It reader Emli Bendixen’s photograph of what home means to her
How To Spend It reader Emli Bendixen’s photograph of what home means to her | Image: Emli Bendixen

I remember The Clock for being a dazzling visual accomplishment, but also for the subtle soundscape that underscores the piece: ominous bells, tickety timepieces, the metronomic beat of a pendulum clock on the wall. All the mystery and drama of time is caught up in its soundtrack. Hence when, in a meeting late last year, the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre mentioned a new project it was launching based on the art of sound, she had my full attention. The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer was founded in 1833 as a maker of exquisite music boxes, and its most iconic timepieces are still designed to play a tiny tune. In “Tick Tock: the Music of Time”, Sam Leith looks at the history of the “tick-tock”, and asks why, in the age of taptic alerts and silent notifications, we are still bewitched by things that chime.


Another type of bewitchment is to be found in “The Noble Art of Tablescaping”, where Clare Coulson examines the renaissance of the fancy dining spread. Currently being embraced with a passion not seen since the era of society hostess Pauline de Rothschild, who dazzled guests with her banquet dinners back in the ’50s, the new tablescape is a flawless composition of linen, flatware, cutlery and florals, arranged with the precision of a gallery curator and invariably shared on Instagram. But while going to tremendous lengths with a placement to dress one’s table may seem a little silly, laying a table, especially when one is eating on one’s own in isolation, as Clare points out, can also be empowering: a declaration of self-worth. 

Dennis Okwera models in our fashion shoot
Dennis Okwera models in our fashion shoot | Image: Lara Angelil

Tablescapes, deskscapes and pondscapes were some of the most popular subjects submitted by readers in response to our #howtospendittogether issue of 2 May. We asked you to send an interpretation of things that encapsulate “home”, and received images from all over the world. The final edit (“How To Spend It Together: the Readers’ Pics”) reveals our reader spending it in all sorts of ways: peeping at neighbours through binoculars, baking, baking, baking, and lying in the sun. I was particularly struck by the tenderness of the pictures, but my favourite is Imogen Forte’s image of a stove top that shows coffee brewing in a moka pot and a couple of fried eggs on the go. I also have that coffee-maker and cherish it so dearly I wear a mini moka pendant, by Anissa Kermiche, around my neck. Had I been asked to capture something that said home to me, I would have shot the same. 


The comforts of home should never be taken for granted. I was reminded of this when speaking to this week’s cover model, Dennis Okwera, as he readied for our maritime-themed shoot (“Current Affairs: Menswear with a Nautical Twist”) and shared his extraordinary story. Born in Lumule, Uganda, near the border of South Sudan, he spent his early childhood fleeing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which abducted young boys to augment its rebel force. “We would sleep in bushes and any hideout till the morning before we would come home,” he told me. “I had two cousins who were abducted during school-time in 2002 who never returned home, and from whom we’ve not heard since.” Moving first to a displaced person’s refugee camp and then to Jinji District, where he lived with his aunt, Dennis arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker in 2000 to be reunited with his father. It was just as tough. As they awaited news of their immigration status, Dennis was often homeless, living in temporary accommodation and surviving on food stamps. Despite this, he went on to study biochemistry at East London University. He also signed up with a model agency and started doing jobs like this one. “Modelling has been life-changing,” he told me. As well as being a means of supporting himself when he was studying, his fees have helped to put three of his cousins through school. “Two have now graduated, and with just one left, I can actually start saving for a house,” he told me. As a lesson on how to spend it wisely, Dennis is an inspiration to us all.