Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Few Thoughts On Mrs T

I was thirteen when Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister and twenty four when she was ousted by her own party. As a teenager, I became actively involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and fervently anti-Thatcher, much to the bemusement of my true blue parents. I have to report I WAS that earnest young woman in the John Lennon specs, wearing my badges to school and scribbling "CRUISE FREE 83" on my school bag. Whilst all my classmates in their O level English talk, gave presentations on their Spanish holiday or five-a-side football, I lectured on the CND equipped with handouts AND slides. I was so utterly convinced I was RIGHT ( still do!) with that self-righteous conviction of teenhood!
I had great times travelling the country, Greenham Common, Aldermaston, London and Barrow-in-Furness. I was a bit of a rubbish demonstrator though. I collapsed into fits of giggles when a bloke in Barrow told me to "Gerrup ya daft bugger" when I part of a "die-in" against trident missiles and at Greenham Common my symbolic red balloon did not soar away but landed, sadly in a field and was stamped on by a BLOODY FASCIST ( whom I now realise was probably a fed-up farmer!)
After rattling a few buckets for the miners, I started work in an NHS already in the midst of the disastrous reforms that have wreaked such havoc since. I joined a union, but slowly my days of political activism died away. So my hey-day of political awareness coincided with Mrs Thatcher's premiership. This was not a coincidence and I am grateful to her for politicising me, admittedly in opposition. I will always be a Labour supporter and to the left of the political spectrum, so how do I feel about the death of my nemesis of my youth?
My eighteen year old self would probably have said "good" but even then I would have winced at the terms "bitch" and "witch" that are being bandied around. There is a strong undercurrent of misogyny in these insults, which is utterly abhorrent.
My forty seven year old self also feels it is wrong to gloat over the death of an elderly woman, who died alone and in the grip of dementia. She died with only her doctor and paid help to keep her company. Both her children, knowing their mother must be close to the end, chose to be on holiday. Could they not have arranged for at least one of them to be with her?
I had a very fractious relationship with my father, whose behaviour over the years had alienated us all. Yet, in his last weeks he was never alone, I moved into his flat until he was admitted to a hospice. At the end, he died clutching the hands of myself and my brother. Mrs Thatcher would forget her husband had died, when reminded she would say, "oh, were we there?". Well, no one was there for her.
So, whilst I can understand those who lives and communities were irrevocably wrecked by her premiership raising a glass to her passing, I do think a bit of compassion is also called for. Maybe I'm getting soft, maybe I'm also recognising a major figure of my youth has gone. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, over and out.

The photos are of me and my friends at Greenham Common in 1983. I'm the short one with a red balloon.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

My March Reads

Well, spring is taking its time springing but I became more mobile this month. I'm back behind the wheel, which feels fab, and I've been increasing the lengths of my daily walks. Luckily the weather has been dry and the woods are on my doorstep, so I have no excuses not to get out in the fresh air and build up my strength.
I read four good books in March. "You Had Me At Hello" is the debut novel by Mhairi McFarlane.It is set in Manchester and tells the story of Rachel, a court reporter, who breaks up from her long-term boyfriend, only to have an old university flame arrive back in town. I enjoyed the story and thought the characters were very well written. Maybe I liked it so much as I live in Manchester and my other half knows the courts very well indeed! I did tweet the author to tell her I liked the book although I didn't think any northern bloke would say he was cooking "dinner" at "tea time". She gamely replied I was right, (of course!) I do like authors who take the time to reply to you on twitter. I've had interactions with JoJo Moyes, India Knight, Judith O'Reilly, Mary Beard, Amanda Foreman, Emma Kennedy and others. I never expect a reply but it's always nice when people take time to engage with their readers.
I read Judith O'Reilly's book on doing an act of kindness every day at the beginning of the year and enjoyed it so much I bought her earlier book, "Wife in the North". The author was pregnant with two young children when her husband persuades her to move from her beloved London, to a small village in Northumbria. Judith does write so vividly, she is very funny but can also move you to tears. The reader does feel part of this chaotic but loving family, I love the parts about her aged parents. She writes an excellent blog also called Wife in the North, well worth a read.
"Sleep With Me" by Joanna Briscoe started off really well. Richard and Leila are expecting their first child when a mysterious woman enters their lives, Sylvie ingratiates herself subtly with the couple and their friends, with disastrous consequences. I did think it lost its way, from being quite eerie and unsettling, the plot became a little too preposterous. I thought it was well written though, quite poetic and the air of unease caused by such a seemingly benign presence as Sylvie is very effecting.
My vintage read this month was "The Last of the Wine" by Mary Renault. Published in 1956, this is a novel set in Athens during the thirty year Peloponnesian war. It tells the story of Alexias and his love for Lysis. The story of his blossoming from a youth to young manhood is beautifully described and real historical figures such as Socrates, Plato and Xenophon are included in the action. I sometimes find historical fiction quite badly written and a tad "dumbed down" but this is good stuff. The prose can be quite dense at times, but it paints a very vivd picture of the golden age of ancient Athens

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Tales From The Tearooms

It's been a while since I have scribbled about an afternoon tea. It was a great treat to get out over the Easter weekend and even better to go out for tea somewhere I hadn't been before.
The Edwardian in Manchester used to be The Free Trade Hall, a beautiful Victorian building built on the site of the infamous Peterloo Massacre. Until recent years it was Manchester's premier concert venue; the Halle orchestra had their home there, Bob Dylan was called a "Judas" for playing the electric guitar there and the Sex Pistols kicked off punk there.
In many ways it is sad to think a building that was such an iconic symbol of civic pride, is now a Radisson hotel, but better that than falling into decay and disrepair.
Afternoon tea is served in the Opus restaurant at the front of the building and if you are having champagne ( goes without saying) you can sit in the atrium area directly overlooking Peter Street. This is great for people-watching and on Easter Saturday hordes of hopefuls were auditioning to be extras in The Rocky Horror Show at The Opera House. Needless to say we had fun waving to the fabulously attired crowd.
The tea was utterly delicious. For £26, I had the traditional tea with champagne. This consisted of four delicious finger sandwiches, two scones with jam, an elderflower jelly, a mini lemon meringue tart, a blueberry tart and a white chocolate tart. Pots of tea were topped up on request at no extra charge. The cakes were exquisite and even I had to admit defeat and leave one scone.
My friend had the Gentleman's Tea, this included sandwiches, a mini pork pie, a mini Yorkshire pudding, mini fish, chips and mushy peas plus scones. It looked fabulous and I will order that next time. The waiters and waitresses were very friendly and attentive.
I think it is advisable to book at weekends, and I can thoroughly recommend The Edwardian for an afternoon treat that will not disappoint.