Saturday, June 29, 2013

What was it with Maggie?

Ever since Maggie died in April I have been wondering why Britain’s first female Prime Minister polarised people so much. You either love her or you hate her!

Dressed up as Maggie at a the Street Party fancy dress comp  
I grew up in Thatcher’s Britain. I lived in her shadow not knowing anything else until her demise in the nineties and her recent death has inspired me to find out more of the leader that ruled the country of my childhood.

I must admit that my older sisters hated her with an absolute passion but as I grew up I couldn't really understand why they found her so abhorrent while she continued to win election after election.

Depending on who you talked to, Thatcher’s rampage though Britain’s manufacturing sector either destroyed the country for good for or gave it the clean out (read “modernisation”) that it had to have.

Thatcher’s closing of the collieries in the north of England, an act that that many people say that the area never really recovered from. Without a proper plan to transition from an area that dug things out of the ground to a region was a part of the innovation revolution, it has become a place left behind from the modern day knowledge economy. Rates of chronic employment remain high in the north east due to low economic growth in areas such as construction as well as the decline in apprenticeships and other modes of capacity building.

Another big criticism of Thatcher’s selling off of public housing.

While allowing people to own their own homes is a great policy, encouraging people to buy overvalued properties isn’t such a wise move and according to an investigation by The Daily Mirror 80% of these council flats have ended up being rented out by private landlords.

What also happened was that the properties that were sold in the North of the country were worth much less than the houses in the more prosperous south.  

It seems that the policy of making property ownership more accessible has not really benefited subsequent generations in Britain and we are seeing that the rich continue to be in control of the property market and cheaper social housing has become harder to find as they've been sold off.  But I guess this policy was developed to help the aspirational working class at the expense of those who don’t have the means to own their own home. 

But Thatcher’s changes weren’t just limited to the housing market.

Like any good Conservative, Thatcher believed in small government and this included reducing the number of rules and regulations that the financial sector had to follow. For example, this meant that building societies were given greater freedom for to provide mortgage services and banks were now also allowed more freedom to merge and acquire new businesses that provided financial services such as stockbroking and insurance. The market was also opened up to foreign investors and businesses.  

While it meant that the sector was allowed to grow and develop, it also meant that the financial industry saw phenomenal growth as the same time as being more susceptible downturns in the market as we saw with the Global Financial Crisis.    

She was also an amazing political tactician. In a conversation with Radio National Broadcaster and ex Liberal Senator Amanda Vanstone, David Burchell describes her as an essay in hatred in politics and how to present your opponents with a set of issues that they don’t know how to handle. She had the ability to not only bring great strength to her own cause but to also weaken the cause of her political opponents.

In 1979, Britain Labour was in a state of flux – wedged between the traditional values of the Union Movement and the need to move with the times. But when Thatcher came to power, it gave them someone to hate and having such a clear enemy to focus on seemed to lead them down a path of self destruction.  
Struggling with issues such as immigration, defence and what it meant to be British, the party imploded and proceeded to take 20 years to regroup.

Burchell argues that Thatcher didn’t set out to destroy the Labour Party but by developing a set of “modernising” policies that the Labour Party couldn’t create viable alternatives for, they were soon driven in to a corner to be perceived as the bastions of “anti – modernisation”.

Thatcher showed how easy it was to divide her opponents by pursing a set of clear set of ideas and how to use political hatred to her advantage. Labour was so hell bent on hating Thatcher that they became irrational and unable to develop policy alternatives. 

I could go on about her record divided Britain and making it country that focuses on the individual pursuit of wealth at all costs. In her death I hope she may rest in peace and that we may learn from her mistakes and continue to work for the common good so that no one may be left behind.    

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Coffee Coffee

A visit to Sydney wouldn’t be complete without a stroll along Newtown’s coffee strip, would it?    

So when I got to visit Sydney recently, I had to visit some of the cafés along King Street but as there were so many to choose from so I decided to go to two that I remembered that was especially good.

If you’ve been to Dendy Cinema, you would know that there is a café at the entrance. It used to be called Cinque but it seems to have had a makeover and with an expanded front window, MilkBar (as it is now called) is light and breezy and seemed a bit bigger than I had remembered.  
Since it was lunch time I thought I might stop here for lunch. Since it was the last day of my stay I thought I would go for the all day breakfast menu.  My order poached eggs with salmon was quickly taken and came out.

It wasn’t bad, as you can it was well presented and tasted nice which are the main things but I just found the aprox $14 a little expensive and would have expected something a little more memorable for the price. The coffee wasn’t bad!

MilkBar on Urbanspoon

Next café to try was Compos Café off the main drag on Missenden Street. Up through a short flight of stairs, the first thing to hit you is the purposeful noise and bustle of a busy and successful café. From the moment you enter, you can sense that the staff takes coffee seriously and you are guaranteed a great coffee.        

When my beautiful flat white arrived, it tasted creamy and of good coffee without be too strong or overbearing, ideal for a mid afternoon pick-me-up.

If you feel overwhelmed by the number of cafes in Newtown, make sure you make a bee line for Campos because this is coffee at its best.

Campos Coffee on Urbanspoon    

So Pho, so good

Most cool suburbs have cafes, bars and restaurants that are so part of the local culture and traditions that they are considered institutions and phd - Sup’herb Pho in Marrickville is a great example.

When I lived in Marrickville I was introduced to what was its previous incarnation of Pho Bac by my nieces and nephew, whose Friday night visits date back to when they were tiny. Since then it has a face lift and a name change but the great tasting honest food remains the same.
So in a recent visit to Sydney for the Writers’Festival, I squeezed in a dinner out with the much loved Family at this old haunt.

First we ordered Vietnamese Fresh Spring rolls which came out super fast and were well presented and tasted great. They were good that they disappeared almost instantly!!

Next we ordered Vermicelli with Shredded Pork and Salad whose complex flavours were nice but not overpowering and the same goes for the Thai Style Braised Noodles.

We were tossing up whether to order the fried rice or not because it can be a little boring but we weren't too disappointed and as it complimented the other dishes we were quite glad that we did.

We could go out for Vietnamese without ordering a bowel of Pho and it was just what wanted. I don’t know if it was authentically Vietnamese or what but it was hot, well cooked and brought back memories of visiting that lovely country.  

What was my favourite dish?

I don’t know! I can’t decide between the Vermicelli and the Thai Noodles. The Thai Noodles, with its green vegetables, looked so green and vibrant that I could have ordered another portion but both dishes were perfect and I would totally recommend them.                  


If you are in Marrickville, give this place a go. It’s not super flash or could be considered fine dining but the food hits the spot when it’s Friday and you've had a big week and you’re exhausted or when it is Sunday night and you want some where chilled to take a bunch of hungry kids.  

PHD Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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