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.

Cities are in Crisis

March 7, 2024

Anastasia Mourogova Millin, March 5, 2024 Earth’s urban population will grow by 2.5 billion people over the next 30 years. Over the same time period, urban land expansion put at risk the survival of 855 different species and will threaten the homes of over 30,000 animal and plant species. Add in the impact of climate […]

The Co-working Concept, Issue 80

January 22, 2024

Co-working space came to mean the notorious We Work model. When I had been asked to opine on co-working I tried to steer the conversation away from the Adam Neumann / Softbank  flimflam growth model. Instead, I suggested that property owners look at usage and users. While I doubted We Work’s ability to survive I […]

The Affordable Housing Conundrum

October 3, 2023

Before I fall completely into the trap of opposition politics, I have decided to take a break from never-ending criticism and to start suggesting solutions to the affordable housing conundrum. Do I have a plan? No, more a collection of ideas To start with, I think there are three key issues: Home ownership is not […]

We Should Know Better

August 26, 2023

I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]

Not in My Back Yard

August 4, 2023

Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor  in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]

Glasgow – That Dear Green Place

July 31, 2023

We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie  and Norry Wilson.  So,  we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]