ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Milk Purse

I occasionally wonder if my hate affair with milk goes back to my primary school days in the early-mid 1980s.

Every morning, at about 11, right before playtime, we’d line up outside the caretakers office and wait for our milky rations.

It would be brought in in big crates by two middle-aged ladies - I guess you’d call them ‘teaching assistants’ these days – called Mrs Lovett and Mrs Sexton, which was, naturally, a source of great amusement to primary school boys.

1925 - 2013
The milk itself came in little glass bottles – a third of a pint I believe, the dwarven cousins of the bottles delivered by the milkman.

(Yep, in those nostalgic, milky days we still had proper milkmen doing the rounds, my father worked in some capacity or other for the Milk Marketing Board at some point, and there were TV ads for the stuff - 'Gotta Lotta Bottle' and  'Nice Cold Ice Cold Milk'.)

We were also given a weedy little blue straw – two if we were lucky – and we’d puncture the foil cap and drain the milk before heading out into the playground to climb frames and play ‘it’.


 ...Of course, it didn’t actually happen like that at all, though some would have it thus and have predictably been banging on about it this week.

Thatcher's Children

Many of my generation who were schooled in the 1980s remember this milk and thus claim to remember it subsequently being taken away by the Prime Minister.

But this is a mass misrecollection. 

I hate to use phrases like 'in actual fact', but in actual fact, this overblown nonsense occurred during the 70s, when Thatcher was Secretary of State for Education in the Heath government.

Uni-gate, for want of a catchier scandal name, happened before we were even born.

And, guess what, we still had milk at school in the 80s.

Yes, there was a cost, which was nominal, about 2p I think, our parents paid it each term, and I’m pretty sure that the poor kids, the ones who got free school meals, got their school milk free too.

So, what the fuck was all the fuss about? Why are people still pique-fitted four decades after the non-event? Including people who weren’t even there?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The lefty memosphere needs its bogeywomen to rally against, and it would be a shame for them if they let facts get in the way of a good grave-dancing.

I know I'm biased because of my own views, but the sheer weight of hatred, I'm convinced, owes more than a little to the propogation of myths, miscontextualisation and lies.
For example, a lot of people don’t know that many more coal mines were closed during the Wilson/Callaghan Labour governments than under Thatcher. Again, why would they bother to research something that undermines their argument and makes their hatred look irrational.

I've even heard the Spitting Image 'Vegetables' sketch recounted, probably third- or fourth-hand as if it were a real life incident. Such is the power of mythology.
We have, of course, heard lots of good, balanced, moving, sometimes funny and occasionally even vaguely accurate tributes in the aftermath of her death on Monday. Most of them containing phrases like 'divisive figure' and 'whether you loved or hated her...'

Being a bit of a politico I listened to almost all of them, and was particularly impressed by Conor Burns and Gerald Kaufman.

But, predictably, it's also been an opportunity for some to repeat the usual bullshit about Thatcher. Her legacy will outlive her, but so will the anti-Thatcher narrative which is just as damaging as any of her policies.

The prevailing mythology of the left is that she was an aggressive, power-mad dictator, but much of what she is criticized for involved breaking down the powers of government rather than ruling with an iron hand. As many have pointed out, a Liberal revolutionary rather than a conservative, establishment figure.


It makes me laugh when self-proclaimed ‘anarchists’ take to the streets to decry Thatcher’s legacy, the single most notable feature of which is smaller, less authoritarian government. Did somebody change the definition of anarchy while my back was turned?

I can understand why some people would hate Thatcher. I can understand that those whose whole existence, livelihood and comfort zone was propped up by the state had the most to lose when we switched radically to uncompromising laissez faire that took no prisoners.

But the 'she decimated whole communities' arguments just don't stack up morally or mathematically. Partly because the decline was already happening before and after her reign and one-dimensional scapegoatism is unduly harsh.

But also because withdrawing public subsidy to save everybody else in the country money is not morally wrong. It just isn't. 

Stopping 'giving to' is not the same as 'taking away from', even though on the purely selfish level the effect on those who lose out is pretty much identical, the effect on the benefactor clearly is not. I do have some sympathy for those who lost out, though it rapidly dissipates when they go off on anti-Thatcher rants and pinpoint the blame disproportionately.

In the recent budget I cheered - as did many of us CAMRA types - at the abolition of the beer duty escalator. Our 100,000 signature petition and lobbying in Westminster had yielded a fantastic victory.

But it's not the same as George Osbourne buying us all a beer.

Subsequent Labour Governments have criticized the 'destruction' to make political capital, but none have actually tried to reverse any of it. Because it would be fucking retarded to even attempt to do so. Because the changes were necessary and, ultimately, were right.

I can understand the 'divisiveness' came from people whose fortunes differed vastly based on their experiences. I can see why working class people in Essex who bought their council houses and started used car dealerships like her a lot more than working class people in the Rhonda Valley who haven't done so well for themselves.

But I also think that a lot of the 'haters', especially those my age and younger, do so purely on the basis of long-running mythology. Hate breeds hate. They despise her without even really knowing why. Knowing it's something vaguely to do with milk or Arthur Scargill is enough for them.

EVIL!!111destroyedholecommunities11witch1 - and so on...

Personally, as a Libertarian, I’m an unashamed fan and I mourn the passing of an inspirational figure. I wouldn't necessarily agree with her on every little thing, but on the big, fundamental stuff I have no argument whatsoever.

As for the milk, my turning against the stuff coincided with elements in the Conservative Party turning against Our Lady.

By the time she resigned (that she was unilaterally ousted is another devious myth) I hated milk. Probably haven't drunk a glass of milk since about 1990.

I'm not going to have a glass of it in her honour either, but I might have a nice Whisky.

It's what she would've wanted.


  1. I chanced across your blog and I must say it is a nice, eloquent peice.

    A year and a half ago, me and a mate were out walking through Chancery Lane, and we decided to stop off at the Inns School Court of Law.

    Whilst standing in the courtyard sharing tales of Keats and Sir Christopher Wren, we chanced upon a small, crooked bouffant haired old lady watering some flowers whilst a couple of nurses looked on. The old woman seemed to take great pleasure in this activity, and smiled child-like as the water trickled over the collection of marigolds and roses.

    As you have probably gathered, this little old woman was Lady Thatcher, and we were shocked at how *old* she had become. Before this encounter, our collective memory was of the usual media narrative that is conveyed about Thatcher; a forceful, driven figure shouting across the benches whilst Labour quivered for a response, so it was hard for us to conceive that this flower-watering old dear was the same harridan figure who had once sought a conflict with the unions.

    Despite our feelings towards her policies, we realised then that all her actions, all her decisions, all the battles that she had fought, mattered of little fuck.

    This woman would soon die alone, probably surrounded by oppulance that few can dream of, but nonetheless alone.

    The biggest lie is that many people have been saying that she 'died', as if she was around one day and gone the next. In actual fact, she withered away, disappeared, became nothing. Her mind slowly decyaed and then the body followed. A frail old woman who watered the flowers and smiled.


  2. Ah Ben, I think we last rowed over politics in around 1990 but I really enjoyed reading your little piece. You're right that the left put too much emphasis on Thatcher and continue to blame her for everything from the banking crisis to the summer riots in 2011. Like you say it is naive to think that if she had never been born, northern towns would still have thriving mining and textiles industries. Times were changing and the country had to adjust. For me the thing I will never forgive Thatcher for was the viciousness by which she attacked those communities. The mines had to close, but she vilified normal working class families branding them the "enemy within". They weren't union firebrands or communists, they were good hard working folk who were fighting for their lives so that they could keep their jobs and feed their families. You're right that even without Thatcher, it is undeniable that they would have fared worse than the essex car salesman, but to lose your job and have everything you knew to be labelled as evil was devastating and is Thatcher's legacy in my eyes.

    Dave Weinstein

  3. Dave, Tooting Broadway on a Saturday morning isn't the same without your father and the faithful band of Socialist Worker activists campaigning about the issues of the day.

    I always had a grudging admiration for their mendacity and principle. Some of those arguments shaped and refined my very soul...

  4. Thatcher was shit. She destroyed this cuntry.


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