Thursday. 26/3/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Ben Rylan

Stepping up

A global emergency wouldn’t usually offer state leaders much of a chance to step up but, in the case of Australia, regional leaders are proving that clear messaging and a reassuring tone is what people need in times like this. Victoria’s state premier Daniel Andrews (pictured), praised for his leadership amid the pandemic (which came just weeks after the state’s bushfire crisis), says that he’s ready to enforce stricter measures should the federal response fall short.

And while national political squabbles continue, my recent experience in Australia has been that it’s full of stories of business and community leaders forging their own way ahead. For example, in the popular wine region of Mount Duneed, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne, The Dog House Pet Resort offers luxury holiday accommodation for discerning dogs. The weeks preceding Easter would usually see the “no vacancy” sign switched on. But with pet owners forced to cancel their holidays, owners Mary-Ann and Barry O’Reilly are focusing on caring for the furry friends of those whose lives have been disrupted by self-isolation or hospital stays.

Elsewhere in the town of Alvie, a two-hour drive from Melbourne, teacher Julian Shaw is planning classes to be taught remotely in the event of a total lockdown. “We’re a tiny school of about 55 kids and four teachers,” he says. “But, as some people here can’t access the internet, we’re designing classes on paper that can be picked up by parents each week.”

World leaders aren’t the only ones facing difficult decisions in the weeks ahead. As streets go quiet and social isolation sets in, many of us are being forced to re-evaluate our lifestyles. Thoughtful community actions taken today will ensure that we re-emerge into a friendlier world tomorrow.

Economy / France

Call to farms

“Join the great army of French agriculture!” was France’s rallying cry to its newly unemployed workforce this week. With its borders shutting and travel restrictions imposed, the country will be short of about 200,000 seasonal agricultural workers this year. According to Dr Mariña Fernández-Reino, researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, other European countries are following suit. “British farmers are already calling on the UK labour force to step in to fill gaps left by the sudden end of international labour mobility,” she says. But as it’s estimated that up to 99 per cent of the UK’s seasonal agricultural workers come from the EU, the country is advised to follow France’s example in framing this as humanitarian or patriotic work as opposed to a lasting employment opportunity. “Once the economy recovers, it’s unlikely that British workers will be drawn to seasonal work in large numbers,” says Fernández-Reino.

Society / Japan

Playing fast and loose

The Tokyo Olympics postponement poses a huge challenge for Japan but was met with relief from those who had questioned the lack of urgency in curbing the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Though social gatherings are not condoned by the authorities, the lack of enforcement has created a worryingly relaxed mood among the public. Last weekend saw more than 50,000 people gather in Sendai to see the Olympic torch, followed by a kickboxing tournament with 6,500 spectators in an indoor arena near Tokyo; trains were busy with picnickers heading to see cherry blossoms in the park and cafés were heaving with customers. All this prompted Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike yesterday to call on citizens not to leave home unless necessary this weekend, warning that “we are facing a critical point of infection explosion”. Nobody wants to stop people from having fun but the government must act more firmly to prevent a further spread.

Retail / Canada

Market leader

The lines snaking outside many of Toronto’s big-box supermarkets are long as the city continues to operate within the parameters of a state of emergency declared on Monday. But the organisers of one of Toronto’s biggest weekly farmers’ markets – Evergreen Brick Works, an environmental and sustainability organisation – has found a novel way to ease the queues and keep many of the region’s smaller food producers trading. Instead of hosting its regular large-scale weekend market (mass gatherings are currently banned in Toronto), it has arranged for homeowners in parts of the city to donate their driveways, where one stall is set up and shoppers are given guidance on how to sample their products at the appropriate social distance. It’s a novel way to keep smaller food producers in business as shoppers stay at home.

Culture / Italy

National character

When the Italian culture ministry announced earlier this year that it would be establishing a National Dante Day, nobody imagined that its inaugural edition – celebrated for the first time yesterday – would take place under such extraordinary restrictions. Yet festivities in honour of Italy’s most revered poet still went ahead in homes across the country. A huge part of the high-school curriculum, Dante (pictured) is also an important source of national identity and pride. Professors, writers and actors took to online streaming lectures and readings of the most moving parts of Divine Comedy, while national broadcaster RAI adapted its programming and the whole nation was invited to pick up their own copies for a mass reading at midday. Let’s hope that some readers made time to get to the end of Dante’s Inferno as they will surely take comfort in the final canto’s last line: “...and we emerged to see – once more – the stars”.

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods: The Recipe Edition: Adrian Martin

Focussing on cooking at home, we bring you recipes from some of the world’s best chefs. Today it’s time for Ireland’s rising culinary star Adrian Martin.

Monocle Films / Los Angeles

All around the table: big screen in Los Angeles

Under the starry sky in Hollywood, we meet Rooftop Cinema Club founder Gerry Cottle Jr to talk about the enduring appeal of simple get-togethers and how public spaces in busy cities can become our living rooms.

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