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Points of contact

Face the facts Why do younger colleagues love a video-conference call? Simple: when they get out of bed in the morning their faces don’t resemble an elephant’s backside. A very old elephant’s backside. And their tousled bed-hair at worst risks making them look a little goofy, while yours conjures up more of an image of a dog with mange. It is for this simple reason that I have spent recent years insisting that a simple phone call would suffice, thank you very much.But along with many other certainties in life, this has all crumbled. Now every day starts with a video-conference call with the magazine team – we had 16 people beaming in yesterday. Followed by more for the bureaux in Asia and then the Americas. And, as a temporary patch to office culture, it’s pretty good. Plus there are lots of things about it that are amusing too.Firstly, without anyone suggesting the protocol, it’s funny how everyone reverts back to the school classroom by putting their hands up to get attention. Although, I am pleased to say, everyone is punctual and no detentions have been issued just yet for fighting or throwing things at the teacher.Then there’s the fact that everyone has been careful to choose their backgrounds – the idea seems to be to pick something that reinforces some design or art passion without letting anyone see your laundry. But nothing too contrived, mind. In short, there are a lot of framed posters for obscure architectural shows (hello Will Kitchens in Toronto), gallery exhibitions (managing editor Tom Reynolds sticks with a Hockney poster all week) and paintings bought on reporting trips (Ed Stocker in NYC) to be admired.And pity Jamie, our fashion editor, who needs to make a dashing appearance every day to keep his reputation intact. Or Tom Edwards, our genius head of radio – and a nicely private man – who has taken a small group of us on a tour of his kitchen (he even received advice on how to perk up his ferns from our executive and pot-plant editor Josh Fehnert). But this is a patch: I miss the speed and efficiency of office life.Oh, and the other reason I have succumbed is that I have just found a setting that lets you “touch up your appearance” for the call. I am definitely going to give that a go, although on a trial run I looked as though I’d got some dodgy botox doctor to do a home visit.Up on the roof The sun has been out all week in London, evaporating the melancholia of last week a little. And people are claiming abandoned bits of public space. I drive into the office one day for Monocle 24 and on the normally busy pavement outside our offices a dad has spread out a picnic blanket for his toddler to eat her lunch on, while around the corner someone is soaking up the winter sun on the street. And in my mews there’s lots of perfectly socially distanced life breaking out: a neighbour’s daughter climbs through a skylight to do her home learning on the roof. Another does yoga in the road. The empty city has been OK this week – even the vapour trail from a rare plane flying overhead is a thing that makes you stop and stare. Its strike across the sky is beautiful.Clap stars On Thursday at 20.00, as in many countries across Europe, people in the UK have been asked to come to their windows and clap to show appreciation for all that their healthcare workers are doing and enduring (see How We Live 02, below). We go up on to the roof terrace. And from every corner we hear a thunderous rumble – there’s even someone nearby blowing a trumpet. Not long ago we had Manchester University students claiming that clapping was discriminatory against deaf people and that it should be banned – “jazz hands”, they insisted, was the only solution. They’re wrong. Clapping is inclusive and glorious. This simple sound breaking the silence becomes a rallying call for the worried, the locked down and those on the frontline.

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