Monday. 17/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Living together

Angelenos are a hospitable bunch; just this weekend, a longstanding Monocle reader gave up his Sunday to show me around his favourite neighbourhood, the Walk Streets in Venice. Not far from Lincoln Avenue, we headed through a gap in a line of houses and entered what felt like a glade. Under a canopy of palm fronds sat two exquisite rows of craftsman bungalows, all tightly packed together with barely a metre between each other’s picket fences.

They were put there in the first decades of the 20th century by Abbot Kinney, a tobacco tycoon who also carved the canals that give the area its name. Everything in the Walk Streets feels ornamented and personalised, from the tiny community-tended gardens to artworks of coloured glass inlaid into the concrete path. The architecture is a similar hotchpotch: porch-fronted cottages sit cheek-by-jowl with postmodern chalets wrought in glass and wood.

But it’s not necessarily the houses themselves or even their proximity to the ocean that make Venice so desirable. It’s the density of neighbourhoods such as the Walk Streets – the source of their conviviality – that makes them feel so distinct. Every day, my inbox fills up with new projects in LA and most are renderings of Tetris-like monuments surrounded by insurmountable walls, perched on streets blurred with passing cars. Yet Kinney was able to foster, with just a few simple paths positioned in close quarters, a welcoming place that simply invites you to wander. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s the salutary benefits that can be derived from being able to talk to and interact with one’s neighbours. Modern developers would do well to take note: form leads function when it comes to urban planning.

Image: Alamy

Aviation / France

Eyes in the sky

The pilots of a French naval Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft (pictured) managed to identify and direct police towards a man who was shining a laser at them as they flew over Brittany. The incident took place in early January as crew were preparing to begin their descent to the Lann-Bihoué naval air base near Lorient. After aborting the landing, pilots used the Atlantique 2’s sophisticated Wescam MX-20 imaging system, which includes an inertial measurement unit for accurate target location, to identify the laser’s point of origin. By the time the crew had landed, the culprit had been apprehended by police using these co-ordinates. This isn’t the first time such an incident has taken place near a French naval air base. Newspaper Ouest-France reported that 10 aircraft were targeted in 2014. Since then it has been made illegal to own a laser that is more powerful than a class 2 in the country. Unfortunately, being an idiot has yet to be legislated against.

Image: Shutterstock

Trade / Canada

Crop priority

The humble potato has found itself at the root of a recent patch of tension between the federal government and farmers in Canada. Since November, the former has barred potato exports from Prince Edward Island (PEI) to the US, one of its largest markets. Despite being Canada’s smallest province, PEI is a potato-producing powerhouse: its growers generate more than CA$1bn (€700m) for the economy every year.

In an effort to appear proactive, exports were pre-emptively halted by authorities following the discovery of a fungus (potato wart) in two fields late last year. However, despite those fields having now been given a clean bill of health, the ban remains in place, much to the annoyance of farmers, who expressed their displeasure with the federal government by dumping 6,000 bags of surplus spuds outside the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. If the ban isn’t lifted soon, given the clout of rural farmers’ unions, local leaders can expect a creaming at the next election.

Image: Alamy

Hospitality / Norway

Hitting the bar

Norwegians have enjoyed their first boozy weekend in a month after their government lifted a ban on alcohol sales in bars and restaurants, which was introduced before Christmas to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant. Despite sub-zero temperatures, residents of Oslo (pictured) flooded the city centre to celebrate, mindful of getting the drinks in early: the ban has been replaced by mandatory “last orders” at 23.00. Norway severely tightened restrictions in mid-December as the highly transmissible variant drove a rapid rise in coronavirus cases. However, while infections have continued to surge to record levels over the past week, there has been a sustained decline in hospitalisations. Such is its small population, Norway’s outbreak can be traced back to a single “super-spreader” event in November: a corporate Christmas party at a central Oslo restaurant. Organisers of said soirée have had to endure a month-long hangover; perhaps it’s time for a drink.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / USA

Weak links

Joe Biden’s huge infrastructure bill, which was passed last year by the House of Representatives, is finally beginning to pay off. The White House has announced that it will spend more than $27bn (€23.6bn) to repair and rebuild thousands of bridges across the country. This funding represents the largest ever federal investment in the nation’s more than 47,000 bridges, most of which are poorly maintained and which carry more than 170 million people every day across America’s rivers, lakes and bays. For years, experts and civil-society groups have been warning the government of the risks of poorly funded bridges to public safety and this weekend have welcomed the move to repair them. “Bridges can be expensive infrastructure assets for municipalities to replace on their own,” Clarence E Anthony, CEO and executive director of urban advocacy group the National League of Cities, told the Monocle Minute. “We are grateful that Congress and the president stepped up to make the bipartisan deal happen, to rebuild the infrastructure that keeps Americans moving.”

M24 / MEET THE WRITERS

Monocle Reads: Andrew Maunder

Georgina Godwin speaks to Andrew Maunder about his latest book, Enid Blyton: A Literary Life. It tells the story of one of England’s most prolific writers, whose reputation has faced a reckoning since her death in 1968. The book covers the entirety of Blyton’s writing career and how her work has lived on afterwards.

Monocle Films / Global

The future of Japanese craftsmanship

For the release of our book about Japan, we produced a film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.

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