Monday. 13/12/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Injured party

People call death the great leveller but in the UK there’s another thing that cuts through class and creed: partying. Many societies flirt with temperance or at least consider public drunkenness as evidence of immorality – but not here. One need only look at the reverence with which William Hogarth’s depictions of Georgian debauchery are held today to understand that the nation’s view of inebriation contains more than a little affection.

Indeed, when choosing a prime minister, the unspoken (well, not always) question in many voters’ minds is, “Which one would I most like to share a pint with?” This is undoubtedly a contributing factor in Boris Johnson’s (pictured) popularity; he at least seems like he knows how to have a good time. And that’s how the British like to see themselves too.

The Christmas period is known here as “party season”. Though religious observance is mostly a thing of the past, every Brit goes to a string of Christmas parties, whether at work, with neighbours, friends, family or just down the pub. Except for last year. Probably for the first time in British history (they even partied in the London Underground during the Blitz) there was no rocking around the Christmas tree. Well, for most of us.

For even as he was encouraging the nation to stay at home, the prime minister was turning a blind eye to festivities (at which Johnson still maintains that no rules were broken) that took place in the very building in which he lives. Of course, the nation’s righteous indignation is mostly due to the hypocrisy of all this – particularly after their opportunity to see loved ones, especially those who are old, was denied. But I think a punchbowl-sized portion of their fury is due to being denied their right to party. As if to save himself the headache, this year the prime minister is advising us to work from home – but to still attend parties. He’ll be hoping that the sounds of revelry drown out the opprobrium.

Borders / Croatia

Join the club

Schengen has another member: EU governments last week signed off on Croatia becoming part of the passport-free travel zone. The country became an EU member in 2013 but has had to convince Brussels that it is able to manage its borders, which will now by default become part of the external frontier of the 27-nation bloc. Though it remains unclear when Croatia will officially join, the country hopes above all that the move will boost tourism numbers to towns such as Baška Voda (pictured). It’s a momentous step for Croatia but also puts the spotlight on other EU and Balkan nations that aspire to follow suit. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007 but their own attempts to join Schengen have been thwarted by vetoes from the other states. With even France’s pro-EU president Emmanuel Macron calling for a reworking of the rules governing movement in the bloc, there’s a real question about just how many other nations will be allowed to join after Croatia.

For more news from the region, listen to Monocle’s Balkans correspondent Guy De Launey on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Health / Australia

Injection of youth

Children under 12 account for about one fifth of active coronavirus cases in Australia and those between the ages of five and 11 will be eligible to receive a vaccine from 10 January. Last week the government approved the Pfizer jab for the age group at one third of the regular dosage. This means that more than two million children will have the opportunity to be inoculated before school returns at the end of January.

When Australia’s vaccine rollout began in February, delays sparked criticism and national embarrassment, and reports of supply shortages were circulating as recently as October. But a surge in recent months means that Australia is now among the world’s most vaccinated countries: 75 per cent of its population have received two doses. The latest approval, in addition to the current booster programme, should put Australia in a good position to combat the Omicron variant and shows that even countries that were slow out of the gate can still finish strong.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Poland

Unsteady foundations

Poland’s ministry of culture and heritage has announced that it will not be renewing the contract of Jaroslaw Suchan, director of the Łódź Museum of Art (pictured). Suchan, who encouraged the museum to build partnerships with institutions such as the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid and Paris’s Centre Pompidou, tells The Monocle Minute that he sees “no reason” for the change in leadership. “The museum is in good condition and on a path of constant development,” he says. Though the ministry is within its rights, Suchan’s sacking follows the departures of several directors from high-profile Polish museums, including Warsaw’s Zacheta National Gallery of Art. Critics accuse the right-wing Law and Justice party of removing those whom they consider to be left-leaning museum officials. “Each case is specific,” says Suchan. “In my case, it was the local government that didn’t want to renew my term.” Whatever its motivations, Poland should avoid letting politics get in the way of a well-run museum.

Image: Alamy

Aviation / Canada

Flight direction

Billy Bishop Airport (pictured), Toronto’s downtown passenger hub, looks set to welcome a new airline in the new year. Connect Airlines, a start-up launched by Massachusetts-based charter-flight operator Waltzing Matilda Aviation this year, will begin flying from Toronto early in 2022 thanks to a planned code-sharing deal with American Airlines. It will connect Canada’s largest city with airports in the US midwest and northeast, boosting the number of routes that Billy Bishop currently serves. The firm has already set an ambitious goal of becoming the first zero-emissions airline in the US, having announced a partnership with Universal Hydrogen to convert its fleet of Montréal-made Q400 turboprop aircraft to hydrogen-based fuels. With passengers becoming more discerning and airlines around the world facing increasing pressure to cut emissions, they’re likely to be watching closely as Connect Airlines’ lofty ambitions begin to take flight from Toronto next year.

Image: Alamy

M24 / The Urbanist

On the radar

We review a few stories that have caught our eye over the past few months: Auckland’s inaugural Climate Festival, Nordic Citymaking Week and a new collection that explores New York in haiku form.

Monocle Films / Global

The Monocle Book of Homes

Allow us to introduce you to The Monocle Book of Homes. A guide to exceptional residences, the title is packed with beautiful photography, inspiring stories ­and few tips on making the most of your living space. So what are you waiting for? Come on in. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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