.by Anura Guruge
I meant to write about this a few months ago after I had watched it. The movie ‘The Iron Lady‘ is unmitigated tripe and an abysmal, pathetic representation of an indomitable soul and her exemplary husband, Denis.
Yes, given her age I kind of had in the back of my mind that this day would come. I am sorry to see her go. She chiseled and shaped my character.
Let me start with some bullet points about me and Margaret.
>> c. 1973, when I was a student at Swansea, I, accidentally as it happened, led a protest march of about 350 students, through the town center, me personally escorted by an Inspector of Police, with me wearing a Air Force surplus, WW II, double breasted gray coat — with a poster hanging from the top two buttons that showed a picture of Mrs. Thatcher with three (rather cute) exposed mammary glands and the slogan: ‘Thatcher Makes Another BOOB‘. She was the Secretary of Education and was trying to stop Student Unions contributing money to other unions, especially the Miners, to support their strike activity. She, to be fair, had a valid point. In those days about 99% of all University students in the UK got some kind of ‘grant’ from the Government to pay for their education. So her argument was that students were using Government money to fund strikes aimed at hurting the Government. I, even then, could see that. But, here was the problem. I did NOT get a grant, because I did not have enough residency (as yet) in the U.K. So the dues that I paid to the Student Union (and I was a HUGE supporter of the Union since I was a habitual attendee of all their concerts and dances) were mine — and I was not going to have Mrs. Thatcher telling me how my money could be spent. Looking back I sometimes shudder. I was also lucky that I did not end up in jail. Pictures of me leading the march appeared in papers. The funniest thing, I really had nothing to do with the march! As with so many things in my life, I was at the right place and the wrong time. Yes, they were having a rally around 3pm on a Saturday. The timing was crucial. If it had been held any earlier I would not have made it. When I was a student I never used to get out of bed much before noon — 7 days a week. I didn’t go to any morning classes — class attendance, at least in those days, not a requirement to get a degree. You just had to pass the yearly exams in the Summer. But, I would try to attend any and all student sit-ins, rallys, protests or gathering provided them were held at a civilised time. So, I am there in the crowd just as a participant. The Student Union officials and organizers are up on the steps of the Swansea Town Hall trying to address the crowds before the march. The President of the Union was an Indian guy. He was at the mike talking but the sound system was not working. So a cry goes out, can somebody fix the sound system. In those days I dabbled with amplifiers, speakers, mikes and sound systems all the time. So, I climbed the steps and fiddled around and got the sound up. I was still up on the steps when they started the march. Yes, I was already wearing my ‘3 boobs’ poster. The crowd waited for the people on the steps to lead the march. I was on the steps and I went along. The next thing I know, I am in the front row, I am in the middle, I am wearing a poster and there is no sign of the Indian guy. I guess the police were told that the march would be led by an Indian. So this Inspector of Police, wearing a cap with a checkered, black-and-white band, walks up to me and puts his hand on my shoulder. I genuinely thought he was a traffic warden since I had no prior dealings with Inspectors of Police. So I addressed him as ‘traffic warden’. He must have had a sense of humor. He never corrected me or told me off. Was quite polite, but to the point. He stops me and with that the march and says to me quite clearly: ‘There are about 3oo people behind you. Maybe more. If we get trouble from any of them I am holding you responsible‘. He really must have thought I was the Union President. I was probably 19 or 20. I was a dyed in the wool, non-inhaling hippie. I hadn’t had my hair cut in 3 years. I had been expelled from 2 schools. I was going to be a game warden in Africa. So what do I care. I tell him: ‘That is fine‘. There was no trouble NOT that I could have done anything. It was a blast. We all ended up at the Union bar and partied (and remember that the drinking age in the U.K. was somewhere around 14 or maybe 16, though I didn’t start imbibing till I was 20). So that was my 1st encounter with Margaret.
>> I voted, with pride, for her as Prime Minister (or at least to have her party elected which would make her PM) in 1979 — her 1st run as PM.
>> I voted for her without fail in every election thereafter till 1985 when I left the U.K.
>> She is the ONLY prime minister, or for that matter, ANY national leader that I have voted for (as yet).
>> She, single handedly made me into the rabid ultra-right, conservative I was, c. 1976 – 2003, until ‘The Shrub‘ forced me to think otherwise. I was so right-wing that people, especially those that worked for me, would say (usually when they were suitably inebriated): ‘Anu, come the revolution they are going to line you up to the RIGHT of Thatcher before they shoot the whole bunch of you damn conservatives‘. I would take it as a great compliment to be thought of as being to the RIGHT of Margaret. [Yes, even in the early 1980s there were folks in the U.K. that believed that there would be a social revolution!]
>> It was Mrs. Thatcher that got me into stocks. Thank YOU, Margaret. It was the famous ‘British Telecom’ (BT) privatization. I like so many in the UK caught the bug. I, within the limits of what was permitted, made multiple applications for the lottery. Yes, I got some — but maybe 1/5th of what I had asked. Suffice to say BT stocks were a huge success. I was bitten. I bought into every other privatization after that — the BEST one, again, accidentally. This was before the ‘Web’. You actually had to call a broker to buy and sell stock. My broker was my London Barclays Bank. I used to take the Manager and Assistant Manager to lunch at least every 3 months, and as such they were quite nice to me. I happened to work next door to the bank. I had bought and owned, BA — British Airways. On a dip I wanted to buy some more. So, I call up the Asst. Manager and tell him to buy me some more ‘BA’ — because I was always on the road driving around the UK in those days. It is my accent. He thought I had said ‘BAA‘ – British Airport Authority, the agency that ran the British airports. I hadn’t wanted BAA. It was considered a risky investment at the time. So a few days later when I get my statement in the mail I discover that I now own BAA, rather than more BA. I decide to hold onto BAA. A couple of years later BAA outperformed all the other ‘B’ stock: BT, BP, BA etc.
>> Denis Thatcher went to the same school as I did, Mill Hill in London.
>> I was so behind Mrs. Thatcher when it came to ‘The Falklands War’ — and the day we won, I was at one of my regular restaurant/bar haunts in North London and I bought 400 UK Sterling Pounds worth of drinks (probably about $1,200 by today’s money) and PAID for them with my personal credit card, though as Customer Support Manager for ITT (Data Systems) at the time, I had a ‘no questions’ asked, ‘no limit’ company AmEx card for entertaining ‘clients’ and per ITT lore, every person in the UK was a potential customer and it was my duty to cultivate them.
I will miss Mrs. Thatcher. Yes, another female Prime Minister, the world’s first, came before her into my life. She was ‘Aunty’. I never met Mrs. Thatcher, and in case you are wondering, she (quite deservedly) became a Baroness when I was living in NH. So I never got around to thinking of her as such. She deserved to be Baroness and Denis a Baronet — in his own right. He was a great man. His portrayal in that stupid movie was so inane. For a start, I don’t think Denis ever had an ounce of fat on his lean, wiry body. The guy that played his part was just plain fat.
Goodbye Mrs. Thatcher. Thanks for all you did for me.