The television set took ten minutes to warm up, once it was turned on. In the meantime, it was time for a hot, strong cup of tea; lose leaf PG Tips, sold in small boxes with collectable cards inside; I had been accumulating the cards for a few years, drinking a mug whenever I could. I sat with my back against the settee, knees brought up to my chin, occasionally taking a sip from the mug at my feet. Mother came into the lounge, with a plate of Rich Tea and Custard Creams, to dunk while watching the evening news.
Dad was stood by the lounge door; he wasn’t happy. “That bloody woman,” I heard him mutter under his breath. This was the day Margaret Thatcher won the General Election, on the 4th May 1979. Dad had been up most of last night watching the election results roll in and was feeling kind of cranky. When Dad was in one of those moods, I knew to leave well alone. I was aware that he didn’t like Mrs Thatcher, but had no idea why; I just laid there fixated on the television set. I realised early on Mrs T was going to be special; as she got out of her car and started waving at the waiting crowds, you could see the leadership qualities in her eyes. Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first woman Prime minister and I grew up with her on my television, nearly everyday. She was there throughout my childhood and teenage years; she was a big part of my life.
Dad had always been an activist, who made me understand the importance of civic duty and voting year after year. He was a candidate in local elections and canvassed tirelessly, delivering literature, come rain or shine. We lived in a predominantly Conservative area, where my fathers views were not appreciated; always a source of contention at home. Like Dad, I inherited his love of politics, though we didn’t always see eye to eye. From an early age, I would sit up until the early hours of the morning, relishing the excitement on Election night; even attending ‘the count’ with my father at the Town Hall, in Fareham where we lived.
It was April 2nd 1982, once again I was glued to the TV set, this time for a very different reason. Margaret Thatcher and her Government had declared war on Argentina, for invading the Falkland Islands. I was perched on the rug in front of the fire, unable to speak; I thought the World was coming to an end. The only war I had ever heard about was the Second World War and I mistakenly believed we were heading for another gargantuan conflict; I couldn’t believe what was happening. I could hear Mum and Dads voices in the background, but my mind was else where. Everything appeared fuzzy; I felt aloof, in a place of my own. I could see the Prime ministers face on the television, but I couldn’t understand a Word, blocking out everything she said. The occasional shout and cheer just about audible over my own dismay and worry, as I tried to comprehend just what was going on in my own head. Slouched to one side, cross legged, head bowed low, still and motionless; I periodically looked up for divine inspiration. This was it, we were all going to die and I was more scared than I ever had been before.
Of course we are all still alive; there were countless challenging times ahead and Mrs Thatcher stayed in power for another eight years. Many more evenings would be spent sat in front of the Television, listening to the other woman in my life; apart from my Mother and The Queen that is. As a child I was surrounded by independent, outspoken women and I admired Mrs Thatcher for her robust fighting spirit. I didn’t always understand her politics, especially as a young boy, but invariably looked up to her; beguiling, dazzling in a World on the brink. Margaret Thatcher was a leader like no other; her enduring quality a link to my childhood. Whenever I recall events from this time, she is the catalyst that jogs my mind; the formidable and strong, invincible, never wrong; the woman, who lived, in the Television set.
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