Wednesday. 12/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Aussie rules

Australia’s handling of coronavirus is due considerable credit. By taking advantage of its status as a natural fortress and closing itself off, the country kept cases below 30,000 and deaths below 1,000. And as a result normal life has more or less resumed. But it seems weirdly willing to pay the cost of this success – isolation – indefinitely. Australia’s treasurer Josh Frydenberg says that he does not anticipate borders to fully reopen sooner than late 2022. Best guesses around the sluggish national vaccine programme do not anticipate the adult population being fully protected until the year after that.

Australians who live overseas (like this London-based correspondent) normally take comfort that however far or wide we’ve roamed, should we want or need to go home, with efficient transfers and a helpful tailwind we’re maybe 24 hours away. It has now been a year and counting and judging by these most recent estimates, we expats could have at least that long again to wait. My personal unhappiness at this is not, in the grand scheme of things, significant. I was sorry to miss my annual Christmastime dousing of Australian sunshine last year and I’ll be sorrier if it doesn’t happen this year. But it could be worse, as indeed it is for many thousands of my compatriots who actually live in Australia but have been stranded overseas, some for many months.

What is significant – and bewildering – is that Canberra is yet to propose a coherent route to re-emergence. In all the ways Australia has changed in my lifetime, the change I’ve liked the most is the transformation from insular, awkward, lonely post-colonial outpost to gregarious, confident and worldly nation. When I can return, whenever that is, I know which one I’d prefer to go back to.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Turkey & Saudi Arabia

United front

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s (pictured) visit to Saudi Arabia this week marks the first formal meeting between the two countries since the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. After Ankara accused Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the killing, Saudi Arabia retaliated by placing an unofficial trade boycott on Turkish goods, exacerbating Turkey’s economic woes. This week’s talks are aimed at repairing ties and strengthening opposition towards their shared regional foe, Iran. Cavusoglu also plans to discuss the sale of Turkish drones to Saudi Arabia and the worsening situation in Jerusalem, where Israeli security forces have clashed with Palestinians outside the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. Despite their differences, the region’s many hotspots make it worthwhile to give renewed diplomacy a go.

Hear more on the meeting from Saudi journalist Ahmed Al Omran on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Andrew Taylor

Transport / Finland

Third past the post

Helsinki has a (kind of) ambitious plan: to become the world’s third-best city for urban cycling. The top two spots inevitably go to Amsterdam and Copenhagen (the main indicator for bike-friendly cities is even called the Copenhagenize Index) but can you name a third? In the past few years, the Finnish capital (pictured) has scaled up its bike-sharing programme and converted a former railway crossing in the heart of the city into a pedestrian and cycling path – enough to climb eight spots in two years to 10th place on the Copenhagenize Index.

Now the city is embarking on a campaign that includes new cycling-themed murals (for all the good they’ll do) and installing angled bins in which to easily dispose of trash while riding a bike. Considering that Copenhagen and Amsterdam (and current third-place entrant Utrecht) rarely need to deal with the snow and ice that Finland’s capital sees almost every winter, going for bronze is ambitious.

Media / Hong Kong

Drawing the line

Hong Kong’s political protests and parliamentary opposition might have dried up but the right to poke fun at the government still persists – at least for now. And this freedom is exercised in a book (pictured) published this week featuring works by Harry Harrison, daily cartoonist for the South China Morning Post. The British illustrator has spent the past 20 years lampooning establishment figures in print, from chief executive Carrie Lam to fat cat property tycoons and dimwitted police. Add Ink: Cartoon Chronicles of Life in Hong Kong flips through the past years of street protests and the new national security regime. While Harrison has had to become a bit more “circumspect” and “clever” with his cartoons, the 59-year-old has no plans to put down his pencil just yet. “We are allowed to draw our leaders and we are allowed to take the mickey out of the government,” he tells The Monocle Minute. “Despite what’s going on, that still seems to be the norm.”

Image: Fiona Cunningham-Reid

Culture / UK

Trunk show

Next week sees UK galleries and museums reopen to visitors as the country forges ahead with the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. There will be a host of new exhibitions for culture-starved Brits to enjoy but limited numbers mean that visiting slots for many have already been snapped up weeks in advance. So it’s lucky that one of the most anticipated works is outside the Tate Modern for all to enjoy. An installation by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey (pictured) of 100 oak saplings is on the terrace of the former power station and represents an homage to 20th-century German artist and environmentalist Joseph Beuys. The duo grew the trees from acorns collected from the oaks that Beuys planted in Kassel. The result is a kind of living sculpture that allows visitors to reflect on their relationship to nature in a year where it has provided great solace and comfort to many.

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 234: Recipe edition, Mitshel Ibrahim

An easy and tasty Milanese recipe from the head chef of London’s Ombra restaurant.

Monocle Films / Global

Privacy alerts

From social media to mass surveillance, we know that we are losing the ability to be private, to have lives for us and our children that are off-grid. But we can regain some control. This is how.

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