Friday. 1/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Unwanted reality

“If you hold your keys like this you can use them as a weapon.” I was about 12 years old when my mother had the talk with me. “If you think you’re being followed, use a building’s windows as mirrors to see how close they are to you.” It seems ridiculous that these and other protective actions – and going through life in a state of high alert – have become subconscious norms in my life as a woman living in London.

Yesterday the murderer of Sarah Everard, a young woman who was walking home when she was abducted near Clapham Common, south London, in March, was sentenced to a “whole life” in prison. Everard’s murder shocked the UK and the world. As the horrific details of her final hours were revealed in an Old Bailey courtroom, we learnt how a police officer used his position of power to commit this heinous crime.

It made me think of my mother’s advice, which has led to a lifetime of being constantly aware of my surroundings. I thought of my friends and how normal it is for us to say, “Text me when you’ve made it home,” after a nice dinner out. It reminded me of the longer routes I take to get places, how I often end up walking an extra 10 minutes to avoid a particularly dark street near my home in Hackney and of work trips, when I memorise shop signs and monuments on the way to and from the hotel to be able later to ensure a taxi driver is sticking to the right route. And ultimately of just how utterly exhausting it is to be a woman in a city, never able to relax until you lock the door behind you, even when you’re just walking home.

Image: Getty Images

Society / China

Break with tradition

Today is China’s national day. For government officials in Beijing that means pomp and circumstance in televised ceremonies; for everyone else it’s the kick-off to a week-long public holiday dubbed the “Golden Week” of travel. Before the pandemic, China accounted for nearly a fifth of international tourism spending but, since coronavirus hit, those travellers have turned inwards, boosting domestic tourism. The country’s ongoing zero-tolerance policy to the virus, whereby any place that reports cases will go into lockdown, could discourage some tourists. However, an estimated 650 million trips are still expected during the October holiday, which is about 80 per cent of 2019 levels. One place that the mainlanders won’t be rushing to is Hong Kong, which normally welcomes tens of millions of arrivals, as Beijing still mandates a two-week hotel quarantine on return. Hong Kong’s residents, meanwhile, only have today as a holiday rather than the whole week, and security around any planned protests will be extremely tight. The city is dutifully dotted with Chinese and Hong Kong flags side-by-side – the former slightly larger than the latter.

Image: Shutterstock

Retail / UK

Hole in the wall

UK bank Virgin Money has announced that it will close 31 of its branches in Scotland and northern England. The news comes after a year in which many of the country’s largest banks, including HSBC, Lloyds TSB and The Co-operative Bank, have sought to decrease their bricks-and-mortar presence. In common with other recently announced closures, Virgin Money claims that the pandemic has driven more people to use mobile apps for their banking needs.

Besides the attendant job losses – in this case, 112 employees – the news also portends a future in which the UK high street becomes entirely bereft of banks. During the pandemic there were concerns that such a scenario might lead to a cash shortage, as well as difficulties for older customers who are less au fait with the new transaction methods. Given these issues, we hope that other institutions recognise the value of maintaining a physical retail presence and running their business for the good of the communities they serve, as well as the bottom line.

Image: Estelle Hanania

Photography / Afghanistan

Flash point

There have been plenty of harrowing stories recently about Afghans who haven’t been able to leave Afghanistan but one organisation is hoping that the arts might be able to provide a lifeline. ERE, a France-based philanthropic organisation founded last year, is hoping to raise funds to get eight promising photography students – including six women, all minority Hazara and at risk of persecution – out of the country.

“Over the last years they have developed a lot,” German photographer Stefan Dotter, who taught the photographers through the UNHCR, tells The Monocle Minute. “They have a strong sense of community and the more talented and experienced ones are helping the others to catch up. We are close to getting them out, finally.” The organisation’s sale of printed photographs includes images by everyone from US Midwestern snapper Alec Soth to British fashion shutterbug Jamie Hawkesworth. They are proof that photography has always been a deft way to tell a story – and make a difference. Prints through ERE cost €80 and the fundraiser runs until 5 October.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Switzerland

Climate of uncertainty

Direct democracy is a cornerstone of Swiss politics but referenda can make effective lawmaking tricky. A law that could have dictated the future of Swiss climate policy until 2030 was rejected by the public last June, much to the surprise of experts and politicians. Now the parliament is struggling to construct a new version that can pass muster with the public and still meet the moment. This week the Swiss parliament passed a transitional agreement for three years (a previous statute expires at the end of this year) but the level of ambition is limited. Fear of a possible second referendum is evident: the bill includes a surcharge on fuel and a target for the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions but politicians avoided delicate subjects such as taxes on air travel, one of the issues that brought down the original CO2 law. At its best, direct democracy is great for engagement but here’s hoping that a failure to agree won’t leave the Swiss with a statute that no one is happy with.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Sunday and Lidya

Victor Lugger, co-founder of hospitality payment app Sunday, on why the platform makes splitting the bill a seamless experience for diners while also being great for a restaurant’s bottom line. We also meet Tunde Kehinde, co-founder and CEO of Nigeria-based investment platform Lidya, to hear how the African SME lender is helping to close a credit gap globally.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle Preview: October issue, 2021

Monocle’s October issue has all the insights and inspiration you need to get going this autumn, from a sit-down with Estonia’s prime minister to a design special on rebuilding Beirut. Get your copy at The Monocle Shop now.

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