Monday. 24/5/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Right as rain

According to Met Office statistics, the UK has already seen more than 92 per cent of this month’s average rainfall. The country is on track for its wettest May on record; the darling buds have taken a battering this year. It has been awful – almost comically bad – and every day seems to bring unseasonably fresh insults: extreme winds, risks of flooding, heavy sleet.

All the wind and rain might be completely dispiriting if it didn’t feel so intrinsic to life in the UK. Still, the irony (there’s always an irony) is especially delicious this time around: the wettest May on record coincided with lockdown restrictions that, until last week, precluded the possibility of meeting indoors. Conversely, May 2020, when we were all but forbidden to leave our homes, was the sunniest on record. Socialising has been a bruising experience: over here, you have to fight the weather.

Foreign friends proffer that Britain’s meteorological vagaries (plans scuppered, hailstorms endured) could be behind its citizens’ famous wit – but I reckon I could still be wry in Cyprus. I sometimes imagine what it would be like to live somewhere with good weather. When I close my eyes, I see myself (sun-kissed, shades on) walking to work with a smile on my face. I eat lunch alfresco, stopping between morsels to simply breathe in the warm air. After work I stroll through streets to the sounds of echoing laughter and play to meet some friends on a sun-baked terrace. As I place a cool glass on the table, I open my mouth to speak… but I have nothing to say.

Image: Getty Images

Conflict / Middle East

Moment of truce

Celebrations broke out on the streets of Gaza following the announcement on Friday that Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas had agreed a ceasefire. Yet many analysts doubt the truce will last and question whether meaningful dialogue and a long-term resolution is possible. More than 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed in this latest round of fighting and Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza has had a devastating effect on the everyday lives of civilians. But even times of stability bring constant fear of the next conflict. “It’s a continued daily struggle that shapes how we deal with ourselves and whether we can tell the people around us that we love them or not,” Asmaa Abu Mezied, the women’s economic empowerment co-ordinator for Oxfam in Gaza, told Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk. “During escalations, it’s a quick death. When there isn’t any aggression, it’s a slow death – and that is what we are going through.”

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Germany

Vocal minority

Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP) hasn’t been in the international headlines but could play a crucial role following September’s federal elections. Current opinion polls suggest that the three most popular parties – the conservative CDU/CSU alliance, the Greens and the centre-left Social Democrats – might fall just short of the numbers required to form a two-party governing coalition. That could allow the free-market and socially liberal FDP, led by Christian Lindner (pictured), to become a kingmaker.

“The FDP holds a unique position in German politics,” Sudha David-Wilp, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund’s Berlin office, tells The Monocle Minute. Though it hasn’t been in government since 2013, the FDP has long had an outsized influence by joining a series of coalition governments since its founding in 1948. “Its stock has risen considerably during the pandemic, largely thanks to its strongly held views on individual rights and freedoms,” adds David-Wilp. “We shouldn’t be surprised if they have a considerable voice in Germany’s next government.”

For more analysis on the FDP and Germany’s federal elections, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Québec

One language for all

All eyes in Canada will be on Québec this week where a new language law is expected to be passed by the province’s parliament. Québec’s leader, François Legault, wants to affirm his province’s status as a “nation” within Canada and designate French as Québec’s sole official tongue. The goal, Legault says, is to stem a decline in the number of French speakers, particularly in its largest city, Montréal, and to protect the province’s Francophone identity. Opponents suggest that it would make Montréal less open to international business and curtail opportunities for non-French speakers (nearly 50 languages are spoken in the city). Justin Trudeau shocked many last week by seeming to side with Québec, suggesting that the province was free to implement the unilateral change within its borders – despite the fact that Canada’s federal constitution enshrines bilingualism. If the law is passed, it’s a nod to the power of provinces that could have major implications for Canada’s federal system of government.

Transport / Switzerland

Going places

Smoothly combining public and private transport options for residents is a tricky task for cities. But a pilot project in Rotkreuz, in the Swiss canton of Zug, is trying to master it. The scheme in the newly built neighbourhood of Suurstoffi hopes to reduce private car ownership and, instead, Sorglos Mobil (carefree mobility) will allow residents to rent a car or bike, or use public transport. On the accompanying app, users can choose from three monthly subscription tiers offering set periods of time on each mode of transport. The experiment will run from this month until January and is backed by a number of major national players, including the postal service and the University of Bern. “The aim is to help shape the future of mobility,” project manager Lotta Sandbu (pictured, second from left) told local media. Such innovative pilot projects, backed by experts and companies from different fields, could offer a worthwhile look into how cities transport their residents in future.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka: Jacaranda

Valerie Brandes is founder and CEO of Jacaranda, an independent UK-based publisher she launched in 2012. With the aim of bringing more diverse voices to market, Jacaranda and its writers have won multiple awards and the publisher recently secured several partnerships, including with Hachette and Audible, which will help to share those stories with a wider audience.

Monocle Films / Global

Mater: designed to last

Long before environmentalism became a popular concern, Henrik Marstrand created Mater, a Danish furniture company that prides itself on timeless pieces with sustainability at the core. Marstrand’s entrepreneurial spirit and faith in the circular economy is changing perceptions of good design.

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