Monday 23 December 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 23/12/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

All I want for Christmas is news

I’m guessing that the person who wrote the soporific Christmas dirge Silent Night never worked in a newsroom. The shifting sands of politics and global affairs are important but far from calming. Plus, of all the words to describe a tumultuous 2019, “bright” isn’t the first I would plump for. But hark, there’s hope – and for once a little time to reflect as Santa’s sleigh careens closer. The relative serenity of the December break offers us time to consider the year and wonder what the next might hold; to assess whether your priorities have changed and what goals you’ll be setting yourself on 1 January.

The Forecast, Monocle’s optimistic take on the next 12 months, is on newsstands now. It delves into the stories shaping the world, from Indonesia to Ireland. These aren’t fanciful fables about babies in mangers either, though we did recruit some wise men (and women) to report on them. Inside, we dive into the future of packaging and how the convenience of to-the-door deliveries is fuelling the search for sustainable solutions. We question whether 2020 might yield a homecoming to a fresh house in a new, smaller city and take a trip to Hungary to see how Budapest became the European sweetheart for film-makers. We also cover the Greek revival that’s resulting in talented young souls returning to their homeland to start exciting new businesses.

So while there’s never a truly silent night for most of us – the Monocle team included – there’s plenty to mull over. Think about it this way: Christmas is about giving and that can start with giving a thought to making next year better than this one. Read on for a few nudges to get you started.

Image: Ben Roberts

Urbanism / Global

City limits

Thinking of slipping the crush of big-city life and downsizing in 2020? The year’s end is always a time for such reflections. Might that new fashion business benefit from a move to Porto (pictured) to be closer to the fine factories of northern Portugal? Could your architecture practice build a better reputation in Reykjavík? Would your health and happiness be lifted by the closeness of nature that could come with a move to Victoria in Canada’s British Colombia? The short answer to all of these questions is yes. The Forecast features our inaugural Small Cities Index, which contains musings on 25 towns of 200,000 people or fewer. The report is a prod to think about what’s important – and if a better education for your kids, a tighter community and a change of pace are on your mind for 2020, we suggest that you start thinking small.

Image: Bill Georgoussis

Business / Greece

Hellenic homecoming

Returning home – for the holidays or on a more long-term basis – can be bittersweet. But the positives of a Greek economy on the up have tempted back a new crop of businesses and entrepreneurs who honed their skills abroad. Some 400,000 people – mostly young, educated and urban – left Greece following the debt crisis in 2008 but now, after the economy finally re-entered the black earlier this year, a trickle of talented souls are returning home. “I don’t think young Greeks should stop migrating to work or study,” says Katerina Georgopoulou (pictured), who studied in London but recently returned to help open the Goulandris Museum in Athens. “Brain drain can become brain gain if all the knowledge and skills picked up abroad are redirected back into the country.” This might be just the beginning of the Greek revival.

Image: Tony Hay

Retail / Global

Boxing clever

Online shopping – of the last-minute, straight-to-the-door variety that many rely on over Christmas – packs a punch when it comes to the bottom line, with the market predicted to be worth €1trn by 2023. And the packaging industry is profiting too because the world of e-retail needs mailing solutions that are strong and look good but are also, increasingly, less wasteful. Finnish paper firm Stora Enso employs 26,000 people and its packaging business increased from 28 per cent of its sales to 40 per cent last year. Chief among its observations is that customers and companies expect the packaging in which their products arrive to reflect the brand that made them. Its experiments include packaging that can be resealed and resent (to avoid waste) as well as plans to create boxes that can monitor the temperature and even oxygen levels of their contents (useful for safeguarding perishable goods). For the packed line-up of players developing everything from compostable corn-starch jiffy bags to mushroom-mould solutions, pick up The Forecast.

Image: Gregor Hofbauer

Culture / Budapest

Starring role

Budapest is a photogenic city but what you might not realise as you saunter down Andrássy Avenue or through the Jewish Quarter is that you’ve probably seen these buildings somewhere before – perhaps when you last settled down to watch a film. The Hungarian capital is home to a growing production industry that’s seen the city’s streets stand in for places as diverse as New York, Copenhagen and Soviet Berlin. Tax breaks, skilled but inexpensive crews and widely spoken English – as well as the city’s versatile architecture – have made Budapest Europe’s answer to Hollywood, while bringing €360m a year into the nation’s coffers. As such the authorities are happy to make allowances for art. “When we were filming in 2012 we closed down a motorway for three days straight,” says Mihaly Korom, head of productions at Hungary’s largest production house, Origo Studios. “Can you imagine something like that in Paris, for example? There would be a revolt.”


Darina Allen’s food philosophy

Ireland’s best-known cook Darina Allen on how we still need to change the way we think about food. Plus: how one couple turned Portugal’s economic downturn into a gastronomic opportunity and why some of the world’s best knives come from south London.


Off-the-grid fashion retail

We walk the extra mile to meet shopkeepers who’ve gone off the beaten track to give their customers a different experience.


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