Wednesday. 22/5/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Maintaining the racing line

Niki Lauda, the triple Formula One world champion whose death was announced yesterday at the age of 70, was perhaps the first in a new breed of sportsmen in the 1970s who could simply be called “professional.” In motor racing, as in many sports that were the preserve of the rich, the brave amateur and the vainglorious dilettante were the norm for drivers and team owners. Lauda could easily have been either, coming as he did from a wealthy family of Austrian industrialists. But after having been disowned by his father for choosing the cockpit over the boardroom, he found himself having to draw on an engineering standard of technical knowledge and the very deepest wells of determination – for which he became world famous.

Of course, for a month in the summer of 1976, he was the only person in the world who thought he’d die in his dotage: a crash at Germany’s treacherous Nürburgring track engulfed his car – and, thus, him – in 800C flames. Later, in hospital, it was being read the last rites that incensed the lapsed Catholic into recovery, returning to racing just six weeks later and missing out on that year’s championship by a single point. The scarred Lauda would go on to win two more championships and serve as a visible reminder of the sport’s danger.

To one of the true buccaneers of an Old European sport of motorised jousting, one of a very few who knew that all of this came under that fusty title “professional” – a toast.

Politics / USA

Gagging order

Former White House legal counsel Donald McGahn’s failure to appear before US lawmakers yesterday makes him the latest in a line of figures associated with the Trump administration cited for contempt by the House of Representatives. McGahn had been ordered to testify on the Mueller Report before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday but the White House told him not to show up and he duly complied. This effective stonewalling of Congress by a US president is, by the estimations of several political observers in the US, unprecedented. So what next? “The Democrats will now have to move this battle from the courts into the court of public opinion – and towards impeachment,” Scott Lucas, editor of the website EA WorldView, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “But impeachment is unlikely: Trump’s team is playing out the clock.”

Society / Singapore

Breath of fresh air?

Outdoor smoking areas – an enclave for nicotine lovers, an eyesore for many others – have become a common site in cities around the world. However, their future is hazy. Singapore has launched a year-long trial of a so-called smoking cabin: an enclosed, air-conditioned cubicle placed in a public area where up to 10 smokers can puff away in peace. It’s part of a plan to eradicate secondhand inhalation and hide those lighting up from view. Since April it’s been an offence to hold a lit cigarette in areas in and around Orchard Road, adding to the spider’s web of rules and regulations that mean smokers are hard-pressed to find any place to light up outside their own homes. At this rate cigarettes could soon join chewing gum on the list of contraband in the buttoned-up city-state.

Design / London

Standing firm

London has changed a lot in the past decade, with gentrification pushing creatives further and further into its fringes. But one neighbourhood that has taken this change in its stride is Clerkenwell, which this week celebrates a decade of its annual Design Week. The area is home to some of the best creative companies in London and designers and furniture-makers packed into this inner-city district are opening their doors to the public for talks and creative workshops until tomorrow. Let’s hope the upbeat attitude among London’s creative community provides an antidote to the pre-Brexit anxiety, which is prompting many of the city’s most talented practitioners to consider careers on the continent.

F&B / France

Supermarkets weep

It seems that the idea of the “big shop” – a ritual runaround where everything a customer needs for the coming week can be gathered – has passed its sell-by-date. In France the increasingly common preference for buying in smaller quantities, visiting the shops daily and demanding transparency and traceability are causing consternation for the nation’s hypermarkets. Carrefour is restructuring: up to 3,000 jobs are being cut and it is considering selling its Chinese business. Fellow retailer Auchan is selling 21 loss-making shops. Both are feeling the pinch from online competitors and trying to boost their digital presence. But a simpler fix could be in order: making these vast, strip-lit and unwelcoming spaces more homely, humane and design-minded would be a first step towards tempting customers back into the aisles. If that doesn’t happen, big shops will continue to get short shrift.

M24 / On Design

Cities of the future

What will our cities look like in 2050? We ask an architect and urban planner to answer just that. Plus: a listed building comes of age in London, and part one of our series on office furniture and the changing world of the workplace.

Monocle Films / New release

The Escapist 2019

Packed with sunny reports, heated opinion and luminous photography, The Escapist is essential reading this summer. Enjoy our far-reaching Travel Top 50, go off the beaten track in Morocco, discover why Biarritz is the perfect fit and much more. Please proceed to check-in…

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