I WATCHED Margaret Thatcher's funeral live across the news channels. Interestingly CNBC didn't carry it, neither did Russia Today ~ but CCTV, the Chinese news channel had some pretty good commentary. In the end I switched off BBC World in favour of France 24 in English where the studio guests made some very insightful comments. (I did try the French version, which you can get on Hotbird but they were babbling on about Reagan's White House more than her so I switched over...)
Wasn't (granddaughter) Amanda Thatcher's Bible reading (Ephesians 6: 10-18) impressive?
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I wish I could read like that to a group of international VIPs and a television audience numbering tens or hundreds of millions and remain so composed.
So typical of me to make some ridiculous statement and not explain it. "I love a good death" doesn't mean I'm glad Mrs Thatcher is dead, but that I like it the TV and press tributes to her life. I'm still very undecided about what to think about the woman. I was seven years old when she got into power, so during my teenage years for as far back as I could remember there had been Mrs Thatcher and the Queen and it felt like it was going to be that way for always.
I do think Margaret Thatcher was a great politician ~ but more important than this she was a truly great stateswoman who defended British interests abroad. Many foreigners, who didn't have to live with the effects of her domestic policies, looked on her with admiration. She was so obviously superior to her international counterparts (especially Ronald Reagan). She DID "get Britain working" ~ but also forced millions into long-term unemployment. She started hacking into the welfare state. Suddenly you had to pay for eyetests, dentistry and prescriptions (although you pay a flat-rate prescription charge (currently £7.20 ($10.99) ~ not the retail price of the drugs)). Then there was the vastly unpopular poll tax, replaced by the even more unfair council tax (the poll tax to fund local goverment was levied per person; with the council tax you are "jointly and severally liable" meaning if you share an address with fly-by-night types you are liable to get hammered for their council tax as well!)
There are many good politicians and great ones who make lousy statesmen (and women). Example: former (Labour) health secretary Patricia Hewitt, who was so obviously oily and slippery and yet totally rivetting to watch. I remember the time the BBC were interviewing her when her only response to a sticky question was how insulted hardworking doctors would be to hear such an impertinent enquiry. I thought she made a cheap shot there and I wasn't the only one to be totally unimpressed by her interview performance (which was usually fascinatingly flawless) or her lousy performance in high office.
Then of course there's Tony Blair. Amazingly charismatic at the beginning of his reign. And still able to be (apparently) disarmingly frank at the end of it. He gave every impression of being George Bush's lapdog and leading Britain into a war with Iraq that nobody I knew (and hardly anyone across the country) actually wanted. Or a war in Afghanistan that nobody understood. As of 2010 we were supposed to have lavished £20,000,000,000 ($30,492,453,118) on these escapades. And now the government's complaining it's running out of money!
Back to Margaret Thatcher: one of her greatest and most controversial legecies was that she allowed millions of people to buy their council houses and flats. Which I think would be a brilliant idea ~ if only local authorities had been required to replace all accommodation sold with new housing stock. Now we're in a situation where demand massively outstrips supply for public housing. The new Conservative-Liberal coalition are introducing a £14 ($21.34) a week "bedroom tax" where parents of grown-up children will be forced to pay extra for the now-empty bedroom. Which will undoubtedly cause a massive population cascade from 2 and 3-bed properties into single-bedroom flats. Leaving almost nothing left for vulnerable single people who would otherwise be in emergency accommodation. Or just sleeping on the streets. (Or in squats, like I used to do.) I was in temporary accommodation for about eight years before I finally got housed (and how that happened I have no idea. There was a process called "bidding", which I was told happened automatically, though you could somehow express an interest in particular properties. Anyway I got one I really like so I'm happy.
Other news about me: I'm still learning Spanish. Amazingly. I watch a Spanish-language Iranian TV channel on Hotbird called Hispan-TV. They do some quite good (overdubbed) dramas. I also get direct feeds from South America, eg Argentian president Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner's address to the nation. If I were in power I'd refuse interviews and do presidential-style videos too.
After the Spanish Linguaphone has been done and dusted (I'm still only on lesson 18 of 30) I would like to pick up some Italian too. But I'm terrified of getting the two languages mixed up. Just about every Spanish verb form (and there are loads of very complicated ones) seems to have its parallel in Italian (essentially the same thing, just spelled differently) and I know that if I don't really force Spanish grammar to seep into my very bones and my soul I'm just going to get hopelessly confused and not actually speak anything at all. While I only get four TV channels in Spanish, I get over 150 in Italian, including Rai 1, 2 i 3 i QVC Italia etc. Which means ample opportunity to practise. In my experience, apart from the close study of grammar, the major predictor of success in foreign language acquisition is PRACTICE. If you don't use it you'll lose it. So when I'm not tuned into Ethopian folk music all night I let them babble Spanish at me while I sleep. Somehow my befuddled brains dub this over into strangely mangled English. Which means I can't speak Spanish very well (because nothing like that happens with German or French telly). You see why I wanted Hotbird now? 1300 TV channels cannot be wrong!
Well I've gotta go. Binky is languishing in the mental hospital. For the FIFTH time in less than 12 months. And I have to bring cigarettes, scented candles, hair mousse etc etc etc etc etc before she flips her lid...
SO IN SUMMARY. YES MARGARET THATCHER WAS WONDERFUL (APART FROM MOST OF HER POLITCIES...)
VIDEO: Amanda Thatcher's reading at her grandmother's funeral...
(by the way, Amanda is only 19; "we are a grandmother" was her older brother Michael...)