What Have I Been Reading? June 29, 2021

Near the gates and within two cities there will be scourges the like of which was never seen: famine within plague, people put out by steel, crying to the great immortal God for relief.


The Coronavirus Cruise: On Board the Diamond Princess

Joshua Hunt, The Economist’s 1843 Magazine, Sunday, June 20, 2021

I have never understood the attraction of “cruising”. Throughout history, ships have been floating Petri dishes. Ships carried the plague, cholera, the Spanish Flu, and all kinds of other communicable diseases. At sea, these illnesses would spread quickly between passengers and crew. Quarantine, derived from the Venetian for the forty days that ships would have to remain at anchor when infectious disease was suspected. And, long before COVID-19 there have been numerous Norovirus outbreaks on the most luxurious cruise ships. Seven days at sea with three days in the head? Not my idea of a holiday.

Those that can afford outdoor cabins with windows may claim that their travel conditions will protect them from illness. Really? When crew members who prepare and serve meals are stacked three-high in bunks that are but an arm’s length away? Excerpts:

Perils of Cruising

The party came to an abrupt halt on the evening of February 4th: “I’ve just received instructions from the Japanese quarantine inspectors,” the captain announced over the ship’s intercom, in a monotone that gave little reassurance to passengers. “At this time, all our guests must remain in their cabins and wait for further instructions.” Another announcement followed later on. The ship had been quarantined and passengers were confined to their cabins for at least the next 14 days. The corridors of the ship were soon flooded with people whose first instinct was to commiserate, face-to-face, with their neighbours. “Bummer!” was the judgment of one.…..

……Aun Na Tan’s interior double was on Deck 10, one floor below the Baja boys. She slept on a single bunk beneath Kaitlyn, her 16-year-old daughter. On another bunk an arm’s length away, her husband Jeff Soh slept beneath Xander, their 19-year-old son. The entire cabin, which was windowless and without mobile-phone reception, measured 15 square metres. Nonetheless, as with all the other cabins, cruise staff always referred to it as a “stateroom”.

Women with Influence

Politics / Global – The Monocle Minute, June 21,2021

Gladys Waters at work circa 1960.

My father died in a car accident when I was six. I was raised by a strong, independent woman who had success in a man’s world. Her employer – an iron ore mining company in Northern Québec in the 1950s and 60’s. I have never questioned the natural leadership capacity of women.

Leaders from Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern to Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan have garnered plenty of positive attention in the past year: a study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in the summer of 2020 found that countries led by women reacted “systematically and significantly better” to the early stages of the pandemic than their male counterparts. Today’s Women Political Leaders summit, an annual gathering that started in 2013 in Brussels, will focus on lessons from the pandemic and what women leaders bring to policy-making in its aftermath. Attitudes among the public remain surprisingly sceptical: an annual survey released last week of citizens in G7 nations, known as the Reykjavík Index, has been almost unchanged for the past three years; on balance, men are still favoured over women in leadership roles.

For more on the summit from organiser Silvana Koch-Mehrin, listen to the June 21 edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Reviving retail streets will require hard work

More in Store

Retail / Europe – The Monocle Minute, June 28,2021

Post-pandemic retail revival will require effort regardless of shop location.

Reviving retail establishments that sit away from the high street will take some doing after a challenging year. But in the long term, those fashion shops that manage to embed themselves in smaller neighbourhood communities will have the best chance to survive and thrive. Take the Centre Commercial on Paris’s Rue de Marseille, which has turned its fashion outpost for international labels into a community hub.

A regular schedule of events includes book launches and cocktail parties, which have attracted new people to this once-dreary part of the French capital. “We knew that to promote it we had to give it life because very few people walked past,” owner Sébastien Kopp tells Monocle. “I like having a shop that you can visit and not buy anything. That’s a good sign. People need a place to gather and meet different people. We believe very strongly in this.”

The Plague Doctor

Spread of delta coronavirus variant exposes poorly vaccinated regions to renewed danger

Ariana Eunjung ChaKarla AdamBen Guarino and Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post, June 23,2021

This article came to my attention in the New York Times newsletter of June 28. The NYT newsletter underlines an emerging Covid-19 pattern in the US. High rates of vaccination equate to low infection rates. Low vaccination rates drives infection rates much higher. Urban areas and blue states have high vaccination rates. Rural areas and red states have low vaccination rates and the Delta variant is taking advantage.


The rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus is poised to divide the United States again, with highly vaccinated areas continuing toward post-pandemic freedom and poorly vaccinated regions threatened by greater caseloads and hospitalizations, health officials warned this week.

The highly transmissible variant is taxing hospitals in a rural, lightly vaccinated part of Missouri, and caseloads and hospitalizations are on the rise in states such as Arkansas, Nevada and Utah, where less than 50 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

Lisbon – A City on the Rise?

March 7, 2023

Lisbon’s seven hills and waterfront make it visually spectacular. The second oldest capital in Europe, the city has energy. Busy streets and squares, full restaurants, and vibrant night life – the city pulsates. And, the population seems young. All signs of a city on the rise? Earthquake A 1755 earthquake destroyed 85% of the city […]

Cities and Towns, The Affordable Housing Problem

February 8, 2023

People living on the street have come to symbolize the global housing crisis but they are only the tip of the iceberg. While the examples of Finland and Houston demonstrate a focussed plan pursued diligently can resolve the housing situation for the chronically homeless, addressing the affordable housing problem is much more complex.  Defining Affordability […]

I Love to Dance

January 29, 2023

I love to dance. This is not something new for me. I can’t remember when I didn’t like to move to the music. My first memories of watching others dance come from my childhood in Cape Breton where I would watch the adults square dance. Then, there were the step dancers who would often accompany […]

Cities and Towns 8, A City is About People

January 19, 2023

Kings Cross, once a thriving industrial and transport centre in London, was effectively closed  off  to the public by the end of the 20th century.   Then in 1996, the decision was made to move the British terminus for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link from Waterloo to St-Pancras. The landowner saw a re-development opportunity for […]

NEOM - the Wall

Cities and Towns 7, Cities and Towns Evolve

January 8, 2023

I have postulated that cities and towns evolve. That towns and villages first grow in areas where the basics to support life were plentiful. Typically, that means good agricultural land and good access to water. Other valuable considerations include safety, and resilience. The bonus – access to trade routes.  Walt Disney and the Fully Formed […]

Christmas Poem 2022

December 22, 2022

A Visit from Saint Nicholas A Poem by Jonathan Potter – December 2022 ‘Twas the first mask-free Christmas, when all through the stores  The vaccinated children were spewing their spores;The shoppers were eagerly starting to riotAs the introverts longed for some quarantine quiet. The public healthcare workers were tracing the pathOf the flu and RSV, […]