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.