Friday. 23/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Genevieve Bates

Close encounters

I moved to London from Canada 20 years ago but until the pandemic made travel to Europe difficult, I had seen precious little of the rest of the UK. This year I joined the staycation bandwagon: my family spent our main summer break in a down-at-heel seaside town called Walton-on-the-Naze (pictured) in Essex. We dined at a cheery fish-and-chip stand on the beach and – no joke – a biker tea bar called Revved Up that draws owners of customised Harleys from across the country.

Wandering east along the remote Naze peninsula one morning, introducing our city-reared shiba inu puppy to the delights of sand and sea, we stumbled across a beach inhabited by haunted-looking figures: The Sea People, made from natural materials such as willow, hessian, wax, processed clay and terracotta pipe. Artist Nabil Ali was on hand to explain how he made all 15 life-size sculptures – even his paints – from things found on the beach. The tide was already lapping at their feet and they would be gone in a day; Ali’s goal was to draw attention to “the eroding coastline and to represent the forgotten ancestors and lost communities that lie beneath the sea”. Indeed, the remains of a once-coastal village are submerged 14km off the shore here and seaside Walton itself was formerly an inland farming town.

As pandemic restrictions begin to fade from memory and we look forward to going abroad again, I’ll remain a fond convert to the staycation. All the benefits of foreign travel – experiencing other cultures and histories, meeting people from different backgrounds and detaching from familiar routines – we achieved on the East Anglian coast, a 90-minute train journey from home. However far-flung your next destination, it’s worth remembering that the horizon-broadening benefits of travel can also be reaped in your own back garden.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / North Korea

Triple threat

A diplomatic meeting between US, Japanese and South Korean envoys was held in Tokyo this week, the first such meeting in more than four years. Launched in 2015, the previously annual trilateral meeting was halted during the Trump presidency, bringing co-operation between the allies to a standstill. The envoys discussed climate change and the pandemic but the primary topic of Wednesday’s meeting, inevitably, was coordinating a fresh push for the denuclearisation of North Korea. “That close co-ordination sends a very critical message to North Korea in that we are together and shoulder to shoulder in our approach to this policy,” US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman said in a press conference following Wednesday’s meeting. This revival of the trilateral partnership will hopefully reignite a stalled dialogue with Pyongyang, which has so far rebuffed offers from the Biden administration. And beyond that, the talks offer another signal that the US is determined to reassert its influence in Asia.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Italy

Unusual suspects

The facts in the killing of 39-year-old Youns El Bossettaoui aren’t fully clear but media and political narratives are already circulating. The central characters are the so-called sheriff of Voghera – a town of 39,000 in Lombardy, northern Italy – who has a reputation for always carrying a loaded gun; and the illegal immigrant from Morocco with a string of run-ins with police and who harassed bar clients.

We know that he was killed on Tuesday evening and that Massimo Adriatici, a former policeman and current councillor in charge of security for the far-right Lega party, is under house arrest pending an investigation. Adriatici claims that he fired an accidental shot after being pushed to the ground. His party and its leader, Matteo Salvini (pictured), have unwisely jumped into the fray by claiming legitimate self-defence (though El Bossettaoui was unarmed), while other parties have likened it to “Far West” DIY justice. The sooner that a full picture emerges the better. What’s clear already is that the killing is not a good advert for Italy and its sharply divisive politics.

Image: Shutterstock

Sports / Global

Game on

The Olympics is a massive global affair – but that doesn’t mean that the little nations should miss out. In honour of the opening ceremony today we’ve taken a look at the teams joining from three of the world’s smallest countries.

Monaco. This wealthy enclave in southern France has been sending contenders to the Games since 1920 but has yet to pick up a medal, making it the most regular participating nation never to join the podium. That’s not stopping it: six athletes are in Tokyo for events including ping pong, swimming and judo.

Nauru. For this Pacific island nation of 12,500, a woman will weightlift in the 76kg category and a male athlete will run the 100m. The latter was invited as a “universality place”, which are offered to ensure that every nation is represented by two athletes of differing genders. Yes, it still counts.

Vatican City: Though the Holy See is not actually sending any contenders to this year’s Games, a team of nuns, priests and professors have been training since 2019 to represent this city-state of fewer than 1,000 – and the Olympics are firmly in their sights. Godspeed for 2024.

F&B / UK

Slow food

What’s your motivation like these days? British top chef Marcus Wareing (pictured) says that he’s seen a change in staff mentality ever since restaurants opened their doors to the public again. “Many employees feel like they don’t have the old energy anymore and are finding it hard to get back up to speed at work,” says Wareing, who spoke to Monocle from his restaurant, the Michelin-starred Marcus at The Berkeley in London. “We all need to be more careful about how we look after our teams and our friends.” On the positive side, he says that kitchen culture has become more relaxed over the years thanks to new technology and workspaces becoming more open and visible to customers. “Kitchens were loud and noisy and aggressive,” he adds. “Now the volume has come down in them. They have become slower, calmer and quieter, and the food has become more finicky and precise.” Hopefully, finding the right balance between the adrenalin rush of working in a professional kitchen and taking your creative time will help to attract younger talents to the industry.

Listen to our interview with Marcus Wareing on today’s edition of ‘The Menu’, at 20:00 London time.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Saint Ogun and Tickr

Nic Akinnibosun and Rico Oyejobi are the co-founders of Saint Ogun, a rum blended with spirits from five noted distilleries which celebrates the pair’s shared heritage and passions. Plus: we look at investment app Tickr with co-founder Tom McGillycuddy. The Certified B company has created a platform that allows people to invest in companies that are having a positive impact on our world and the environment.

Monocle Films / Czech Republic

Speciality retail: Prague

Prague butcher Naše maso has married traditional know-how with contemporary design to create a culinary destination in the Czech capital. This month’s specialist retailer tells us about his special cuts and meaty passions.

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