Tuesday. 19/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Mary Fitzgerald

Left foot forward

If Emmanuel Macron is to secure another term in the Élysée Palace, he’ll need to charm left-wing voters in particular by Sunday’s run-off ballot for the French presidency. These are the voters who brought hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon close to knocking out Macron’s far-right challenger Marine Le Pen in the first round on 10 April. Macron remains the favourite but by a narrow margin, which means that Le Pen could prevail if enough of Mélenchon’s supporters abstain or vote blanc (spoil their ballot). And so Macron chose Marseille, the southern port city where Mélenchon topped the first round, for a weekend speech (pictured) that the former investment banker hopes will ease their concerns.

Macron’s relationship with France’s second city is one of unrequited love. Last year he pledged billions of euros in investment for what he has dubbed his “city of the heart” and on Saturday he compared Marseille to a “laboratory for the republic”. But such charm offensives have not translated into votes. Left-wingers here, as elsewhere in France, accuse Macron of pursuing economic liberalism at the expense of social benefits. Others bristle over his rightward tilt on immigration and security.

Speaking with the port of Marseille as a backdrop, Macron accused Le Pen of being a climate sceptic – a key concern for left-wing voters – while promising that he would prioritise decarbonisation. He also walked back a controversial proposal (in France, at least) to raise the retirement age to 65. Macron warned of an extreme-right that would widen inequalities and endanger cherished freedoms. “Don’t believe that the candidate you don’t like is the same as the far-right,” he said, later adding, “Choose your enemies.” Going for the “lesser of two evils” line is arguably a sign of desperation but it just might pull him over the line.

Image: Getty Images

Conflict / Ukraine

Coming home

As Russia conducted heavy assaults on major Ukrainian cities, from Kharkiv in the northeast to Lviv in the west, Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service reported a more positive development yesterday: more than a million people have returned to the country since the invasion began. Saturday also marked the first day since 24 February on which more people entered Ukraine than left it. While Moscow seeks to break the country’s spirit, Ukrainians are coming back to places where Russian troops have vacated, particularly around the capital, Kyiv. Yet the trend could be fleeting: there is a risk that such determination from Ukraine’s military and civilians will only encourage Russia to double down and commit further atrocities. On Sunday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said that the besieged southeastern city of Mariupul had been bombed so severely that it “does not exist any more”. The most recent wave of attacks on other cities suggests that Ukrainians will need even deeper resolve – and Western aid – to withstand the coming barrage.

Tune in to Monocle 24’s news programmes throughout the day for more on Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.

Image: Getty Images

Transport / Finland

Sea change

It’s not only airlines that need to find alternative routes as a result of the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Moscow. Rail freight operators are struggling with the same issues. One Finnish company, Nurminen Logistics, has announced that it will launch services that bypass Russia; it has found a new route from China, via Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, then eventually reaching Central Europe.

The first services are expected to be launched as soon as next month. On the new route, containers will be transported not only by rail but also by ship, as they cross over the Caspian and Black Seas. Though it sounds complicated and the journey will take about a week longer than before, that might be acceptable for companies that rely on supplies from China. Last year alone, some 21,000 freight trains travelled between Europe and China. There’s an urgent need for such regular services to resume.

Image: Hugo Glendinning/Serpentine

Arts / UK

Close encounters

Good art should transport you, drawing you out of yourself and introducing you to new ideas. A new exhibition in London takes this idea one step further as it attempts to transport visitors out of this world. French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s new show at the Serpentine South Gallery, Alienarium 5, uses various multisensory media to evoke encounters with extraterrestrials. Exhibition attendees are invited to explore a 360-degree panorama (pictured), engage with an outdoor sculpture and use virtual reality to experience interactions with alien beings – including, perhaps most gruesomely, by inhabiting their bodies. Gonzalez-Foerster tells The Monocle Minute that she hopes that the show will offer a new vision of what it means to be human and how we relate to non-human beings. While Alienarium 5 is both unconventional and unearthly, at its heart is a simple and positive vision. “Art is an experiment,” says Gonzalez-Foerster.

serpentinegalleries.org

Image: Matthew Scott

Hospitality / Los Angeles

Club rules

The pandemic stifled city centres and the hospitality trade for a while but many projects are finally coming to fruition – and the new Downtown LA Proper looks well placed to tempt people back into the thick of things. The 1920s building was once a private members’ club, frequented by the likes of golden-age film director Cecil B DeMille and Harry Warner (of Warner Bros fame). It took three years to update, with interiors adorned by designer Kelly Wearstler and the work of local artists.

For the overnight crowd there are 147 guest rooms and charmingly idiosyncratic suites: one suite occupies a former basketball court, another a generously sized indoor pool. To whet your appetite, the James Beard Award-winning team of restaurateur Caroline Styne and chef Suzanne Goin have rustled up two restaurants to choose from: Cara Cara, an open-air affair with rooftop views, and Caldo Verde, the place to go for Spanish and Portuguese-inspired dishes.

For the full story and the pick of top hotel and restaurant openings pick up a copy of Monocle’s upcoming May issue or subscribe today.

Image: Béla Adler

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 290: Judy Sanderson

South Africa native Judy Sanderson initially had a career selling consumer goods for US multinational Procter & Gamble. But after deciding to pursue her dream of designing clothes, she founded her namesake fashion label in Porto in 2019. The brand draws inspiration from Africa and manufactures clothes using the sustainable techniques of a network of Portugal-based producers.

Monocle Films / Germany

Inside the airship industry

Airships, once tipped to be the future of flight, are now largely used as costly billboards that drift across cities or over major sporting events. We travelled to Friedrichshafen in Germany to take a peek inside one of the world’s few commercial operations and explore this niche area of aviation. Read more on the story in the November issue of Monocle magazine.

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