February is the perfect time to start new projects – how about that novel you’ve always meant to write? Actually, why think so small? How about a manifesto for shaking up a small nation, from overhauling the transport system to rethinking the hospitality industry? Editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé pulls up a seat at the drawing board.
Happy New Year and welcome to this final issue in our third volume. The run-up to Christmas was more compressed than ever but the holiday was most relaxing and, for this editor at least, involved three weeks free from poorly planned airports, bad European airlines and an over-reliance on four-wheeled transport. It was all the more blissful because I was knee-deep in snow, surrounded by people I love and had bunkered down with enough media (books, CDs, magazines, DVDs) to last me through the winter.
As usual I went through the usual fits of fancy that had me making all sorts of promises to myself in those lazy days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. On Boxing Day I was so frustrated by the piece of fiction I was reading that I decided it was time to finally pull up a chair in front of my desk and write a pacy thriller that would hit book shops 11 months from now. Of course I had to make a coffee first and cut a couple of pieces of my mom’s Estonian raisin bread and then switch on BBC World News for a bit of inspiration. Sometime shortly after the news headlines my head rolled back hitting the wall and I startled myself back into action, albeit temporarily, before curling up at my favourite end of the sofa and drifting off for a few hours. The next day I decided to switch genres and embarked on a work of non-fiction. I pulled out my Tombow pen, a pad of graph paper and started plotting out a manifesto for the modern nation state. I spent the better part of the day working on it and even got as far as sitting down in front of my laptop and penning (or tapping?) something that resembled an introduction.
You needn’t have been a Monocle reader for long to know we’re quite keen on challenging and rethinking what constitutes a modern, forward-thinking nation, city or even village. While I was gazing out at the clumps of snow falling off branches and breaking on the boughs below I started to consider what patch of land might make the perfect place to kick-start a whole new country and form the foundation for my book.
I’ve always thought that those feisty Corsicans should go it alone and refashion their island as the most dynamic nation in Europe. I’m not sure why I went off Corsica, but it wasn’t long before I was fixated on bizarre little Bermuda. I’ve only been there once but perhaps that says it all. I had such high hopes for the place but I was disappointed at every turn as I explored the island. The food was dreadful, the cottage I booked was over-air-conditioned and charmless, the locals were grumpy and the ex-pats grumpier. Aside from a few enjoyable tennis matches and a splash in the Atlantic, it was a forgettable experience.
It shouldn’t have been that way. With its moderate climate, close proximity to the US East Coast, British law and existing boutique financial hub, I decided that Bermuda was the nation in need of a complete overhaul. I started by rethinking the national infrastructure and building a whole new airport to support a national airline that would make it easier to connect between North and South America. The island’s tiny scale would see the whole place go completely electric for scooters and cars and there’d be a complete rethink on architecture. Out would go the too-strict planning codes and the island would become home to a new school of challenging commercial, civic and residential architecture. To re-ignite the hotel sector a national hospitality initiative would be implemented that would see all residents attend a one-month course on becoming better hosts and hostesses.
Out at sea, a new marine-focused university would perfect the tricky art of tuna farming and Japanese Brazilians would turn the country into their own version of Hawaii. I didn’t get much further with the planning, but you get the idea. By the time I take my next break my candidate nation might have changed but at some point I’m quite sure we’ll get out an easy-to-follow, illustrated volume for leaders (both thick and visionary) to follow.
In the meantime, however, we’ll be more focused on our own brand-building with a series of new surveys on the horizon and also a bigger push on entertaining (food and drink) coverage, a couple of more correspondents assigned to remote outposts and less-covered topics, a few seasonal shops (Stockholm and Hong Kong up next) and some permanent bases in key cities. As ever, feel free to drop me email@example.com or my assistant Alexander Mills a note with your comments, ideas, tips and queries. All the best for 2010.
For more from our editor in chief, read his column in the FT Weekend.