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Whatever happened to courtesy? 11 April 2013

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I am astonished with the vitriolic outpouring that I have seen in the news and on the streets regarding the late Margaret Thatcher.

What I do understand is that she was a polarising person. Many people hated her and what she stood for. Many people felt that their lives were ruined and that she would not budge on issues, no matter what. She was a strong, determined woman (first female Prime Minister, nicknamed the Iron Lady by the Russians, etc.) who at times was hard-nosed and unrelenting.
Yet enough people agreed with her views to vote her into office. Several times. So love her or loathe her, she was in power because the majority of the people who voted in the UK at that time put her there.

From a neutral stand-point, I can see why someone would dislike her. She made decisions that weren’t popular, and she stood her ground against the mining unions. And the Argentinians. And others who disagreed with her.

But to sum it up, she served her people. She did what she thought was right for Britain. And you are perfectly entitled to disagree with all of that, and feel like she made Britain into a worse place. But I do not believe that anyone who becomes Prime Minister of Britain and is voted back on several occasions believes they are doing the wrong thing. They make the decisions they make because they believe they are right.

And honestly, all of this can be eulogised respectfully, fiercely, and powerfully, without resorting to pettiness. Resorting to chanting ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead’ and celebrating in the streets upon the news that she had passed away is low-brow and detestible. Bob Carr, the Foreign Minister of Australia, decided that her death was the perfect time to point out that she was also racist.

So I return to my headline – whatever happened to courtesy?

And no, I don’t want anyone to start waxing lyrical about the virtues of Margret Thatcher if they fundamentally and visciously disagreed with her throughout her life. If everything she stood for was repugnant to you, there is no need for crocodile tears.

I am not claiming that no bad things should be said about the dead or that ‘if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all’.

What I am saying is twofold. Firstly, the dead can no longer defend themselves, so your perfect opportunity to speak has come and gone.

Secondly, say what you want to say about the woman, say that you were (and still are, and always will be) opposed to her politics and who/what she represented. Say that you think the world would have been a better place if she had not come to power. But don’t dismiss that she had a profound impact on the world, on Britain, on Europe.

Don’t lower your opportunity to change the world into a better place by resorting to petty children songs. If you don’t agree with it, change it. Make your views heard. Talk with people. Listen to people. Get into politics to implement policy if you believe strongly enough.

At least she did.

Buenos Aires 18 May 2012

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Today, I had a chance to discover some of the city that is Buenos Aires. I’ll just leave the pictures I took.









Iguazu 17 May 2012

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Iguazu national park, with the amazing waterfalls spanning the border of Argentina and Brazil, was well worth the visit.

Crossing over to Brazil especially to do the helicopter ride, but then getting motion sickness so badly that I missed all the vistas and thought my guts would literally come out through my nose, not so much. But at least my brother enjoyed his birthday present.

No pictures of the latter are included, as I obviously could not take any…









Cemeteries in BsAs 17 May 2012

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Buenos Aires is a hustling and bustling city, with people everywhere. There’s also a healthy fascination with death here, which means cemeteries are a centra part of the city.

I thought I would visit the most famous one, the Ricoleta cemetery on my first day out and about. It is a tiny city within the city, the place where the rich and the noble bury their dead. The tombs are elaborate with statues and ornate glass windows, sometimes covered in cobwebs or in states of disrepair.

Apparently, the per square metre prices for a plot of land in this cemetery far outstrips the real estate prices elsewhere in this most expensive suburb.

The rich and the famous have been laid to rest here, which sadly showed my lack of knowledge on the subject of the rich and famous of Argentina. I found the final resting place of Evita, which was the only name I recognized.

But the walk through the streets lined with death was fascinating and even slightly creepy. I’m just not used to this much death in one place, and after a while I felt I had seen more than enough coffins and memorials for the day.

That did not, however, stop me from walking to the far larger cemetery in Chacarita the next day. This one had been established when yellow fever swept the city, and was less crowded (the streets between graves had car traffic going through it) but far, far larger.

One part almost matched Ricoleta in opulence, with tombs the size of houses. But then there were the far larger areas with simple wooden crosses, and the ‘pigeon hole’ graves along the back wall. Underneath the cemetery was also a type of catacombs, sometimes up to four stories down. On the surface, all you could see were the air vents servicing the graves below.

Much of the fascination with death escapes me. But it was very clear that to have such a large population in one area, which seems to favour some sort of monument in the afterlife, does create a very lovely area in the middle of cities.

If you plan a trip to Argentina, swing by some of the cemeteries to see them for yourself.












Argentine staples 12 May 2012

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Before arriving, I knew Argentina was famous for beef. So my first night here, I was taken to a regular restaurant, where the pride of the country was grilled and served.

And it truly is amazing; succulent and flavorsome. And getting the right cut is (apparently) quite important, with restaurants serving pretty much every part of the cow you might like. Argentina certainly is not the place to be for staunch vegetarians who can’t even stomach other people eating meat!

The next night, we went on a wine tasting adventure at a local wine merchant in Palermo. Absolutely wonderful wine from Mendoza (a region in west Argentina) including the famous Malbec wine, which is expensive, but heavenly. It was absolutely worth it, and a most cordial of evenings.

I also discovered I understand quite a lot more Spanish than I had expected. Bonus!

After wine, we ordered delivery of Empanadas (hot pockets of meat in pastry) which is another Argentina must-have.

I am so far loving the cuisine, and am dying to try more. I think brorsan’s fiancée said it best when describing the local cuisine as an enormous kids’ menu: everything is grilled and fried, delicious and unchallenging (so far)! But perhaps not exactly the healthiest.

But I am sure I will have a chance to find something more challenging soon (like vegetables?) so we’ll see. But good holiday so far.