My family hated Maggie Thatcher. I used to think it was because she beat my then 3-yr-old sister Sausage to her aspirational position of first Lady Miter Miniter, but I think it had more to do with them being ordinary and young, and wanting to be able to fall ill and get old.
As the wife of someone who works for the Evil Empire, I am politically torn. I can never say what I really think without looking like – maybe even being – a hypocrite, because as a Stay At Home Mother I am kept and paid for by them too, especially now the government have stopped giving me money to care for my kids.
What I remember of the Thatcher years is scanty. Teachers making us draw a second, thinner margin in our exercise books so we didn’t get through too many; no more school milk; days off school as teachers went out on strike. I remember asking my mum why the bad man on the news was throwing a brick at a policeman, and her reply: that he was a miner, and not a bad man but a very, very angry one. And Mrs Thatcher herself, of course: iron hair and voice like a very loud owl, vowels corseted.
Ziggler and Pickle watched her funeral on the telly with my dad today. They were strangely transfixed by the ceremony and solemnity and, of course, the horses. Dad loves a National Occasion despite his politics. He will deny it but he had a tear in his eye as those bright-eyed soldiers shouldered the weight of the coffin.
He and Ziggler combined were entertaining commentators, too. ‘John Major really needs to wipe that grin off his face,’ said dad. ‘why are people clapping?’ Asked Ziggler. ‘Why are they going so slowly?’ she wondered, and ‘those horses look like they might bolt,’ observed he. Pickle stared for a surprising while, at the mourners congregating and the band marching, and she liked the soldiers’ red. Both girls were a bit disappointed by the queen, who wasn’t even wearing a crown. (sorry Your Maj). When the girls tired of watching dad said he just wanted to see if the coffin bearers made it up the steps all right, but when the choir started and the procession began, they were all again enchanted by the pomp.
I can see why people protested this funeral given it seems that money and advantage is, once again, coming to rest upon those already moneyed and advantaged. I think Thatcher caused damage society is still trying to repair, and she was no friend to women, despite her gender.
But I recalled watching another National Occasion with Ziggler a couple of years ago. The focus was on another woman of comparatively ‘lowly’ background who made it good. The mood was happier and the crowd was not bowing their heads in sorrow or turning their backs in protest but waving flags and cheering. And though that occasion was more joyous, and less controversial and, having more horses and beautiful ladies in silken dresses in it, more interesting, I felt that I would rather my daughters learned from Margaret Thatcher than Kate Middleton. I want them to have opinions, even if they’re controversial. I want them to be strong and powerful. I want them to be loved; but I would rather they were hated for acting upon their beliefs than beloved for how they look or how they marry.
I would, quite honestly, rather they were the Wicked Witch than the Princess. We’re all dead in the end. But the Wicked Witch – she damn well made her mark.