Monday 30 November 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 30/11/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Christopher Fernandez

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

What dreams are made of

It was the dead of night in a country lane and I was all alone. Through the whispers of the wind a noise started creeping in the darkness: the rising, staccato chattering of monkeys. Hundreds of them, angry and on the hunt, getting louder, closer and more ferocious as they poured out of the night and into the country lane – towards me. I’ll spare you the rest of the nightmarish details but suffice to say that, at the event’s grizzly crescendo, I bellowed in horror – a shout so loud that I woke myself up, wide-eyed in the darkness of my Toronto bedroom in the small hours of the morning. This was in the early days of the pandemic.

Dreams for many of us have been vivid affairs since the outbreak began, seemingly weirder and more pronounced as the waking world has, stage by stage, been tipped on its head. The Museum of London, in collaboration with the Museum of Dreams at Canada’s Western University, has now invited Londoners to share their pandemic-era dreams for the Guardians of Sleep project. The oral-history initiative will chronicle the pandemic’s more personal impact through the prism of our sleeping adventures. Submissions are open until January and the exhibition is scheduled to open (pandemic permitting) next year.

By understanding our dreams in a time of collective upheaval, the museums say, we could get a clearer picture of not only what impacts our personal and mental wellbeing but also our resilience in the face of it, something that Ontario’s Museum of Dreams has been researching since 2015. As for me, I’m happy to report that no monkeys have stalked me since that night in early spring – it was just a bad dream after all. Here’s hoping we can all say the same about the waking world as 2020 draws to a close.

Image: Getty Images

Health / Global

Road to recovery

Many of us rejoiced over the news of successful vaccine trials in the past few weeks but fundamental questions remain about their effectiveness, affordability and distribution – particularly in developing countries. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the World Health Organization, says that the initial results have been undeniably positive: we now have “proof of concept” that coronavirus vaccines are possible but more information is needed to determine whether the myriad vaccines in development will bear fruit for all the world. “Developing an effective vaccine is only half the battle. We still have a long road ahead,” she says, citing the challenges of transporting vaccines, particularly those requiring ultra-cold storage, as one example. “This is not available in many countries on a routine basis, so we have to think of options. We have to identify solutions and put them in place before these massive vaccination campaigns can take off.” Hear our full interview with Dr Swaminathan on today’s edition of Monocle 24’s ‘[The Globalist]’(

Image: Alamy

Defence / China

Space invaders

China’s lunar probe Chang’e-5 is expected to touch down on the moon this week, the first of many missions that could ultimately see China develop an automated International Lunar Research Station on the moon’s south pole. Projected to be completed by 2030, it’s ostensibly a project of science. But is it a security risk? “There is concern that the moon will become the new strategic ‘high ground’ in warfare,” says Alexandra Stickings, research fellow in space policy and security for the Royal United Services Institute.

Though there are guidelines in the Outer Space Treaty, which outline that all lunar expeditions “will be used exclusively for peaceful purposes”, Stickings notes that anti-satellite weaponry could feasibly be placed there in future. The US in particular will be watching closely. “It’s not an outright assumption of aggression,” she says. “But if China has the capability to create a base on the moon, that is going to be a cause for security concerns.”

Image: Liz Magic Laser

Arts / USA

Frame of mind

Of the many questions that collectors legitimately ask about digital artwork, perhaps the most prosaic is: “How do you display it?” This query is set to be answered in a webinar today organised by Daata, which for the past five years has been providing a platform for the distribution and sale of digital artworks. Tonight’s talk kicks off the digital Daata Fair Miami. For founder David Gryn, it’s not a question of either digital or physical. “We’re not a replica or a superseder of things,” he tells The Monocle Minute. “We want to be a part of the art world’s jigsaw puzzle.” Digital space and tools have long offered inspiration and material to artists. Gryn hopes that Daata can show galleries and collectors that the virtual world is worth taking seriously, all the while making it clear that his goal is not to replace the traditional gallery but to build confidence in the art that exists beyond it.

Image: Berkeley Homes

Design / UK

Natural selection

Our appreciation of natural environments in urban areas, both public and private, has undeniably grown this year as more of us have been confined to our own cities. It’s a reality that was celebrated by the Landscape Institute, the UK’s leading professional body of landscape architects, at its annual awards last week. Its choice of winner for the coveted President’s award was HTA’s redesign of Cator Park (pictured) in southeast London. Part of a brownfield development, the project restored the space’s waterways and replaced an ecologically barren field with wild plants. It’s a worthy recognition for the design team and a reminder of the benefits of investing in green space. “Before the lockdown, too many people saw these spaces as a luxury; as something nice to have but not essential,” says Daniel Cook, the Landscape Institute’s CEO. “But now more than ever we all realise their importance for health and wellbeing.”

Image: Alamy

M24 / The Menu

The true origins

We look at where some of the most common ingredients that we use in cooking really come from. Plus: Donna Hay’s quick and easy recipes and a visit to one of Portugal’s most interesting wineries.

Film / Kenya

Nairobi: building better cities

Kenya’s Karura Forest offers not only respite from the bustling capital but also a sense of pride for its citizens.


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