Drudge is linking to an article detailing Margaret Thatcher's condition.
When The Sage and I heard the tail-end of a news report that she had been hospitalized, we somehow got the idea that she had died. We immediately began to reminisce about our meeting with her several years ago.
One of my closest friends (I'll call him CT) is the best friend of Mark Thatcher (yes, he's a scoundrel, but my friend isn't). CT has been acting as surrogate father to Mark's children in Dallas while Mark tries to get entry into the U.S. (Inside gossip: His Dallasite wife has recently sued for divorce, but I haven't seen that reported anywhere.)
When The Sage and I spent a couple of weeks in England a few years back, CT arranged for us to have tea with Lady Thatcher in her office (which, by the way, was identical to the 10 Downing Street set in the movie Love Actually
). We spent more than an hour with her, just listening to her reminiscences about Ronald Reagan and insider tidbits about world events. It was fascinating. When talking about corruption, she threw off, "Of course, you expect that from the French." She related how she bawled out Ronnie, of whom she was obviously very fond, on the phone when he invaded Grenada, how she always checked to be sure that Sir Denis, her husband, tipped the waiters properly. She expressed bitterness about the way her protege, John Major, had ousted her.
Lady Thatcher's politics were, in most cases, completely opposed to our own, but it was her graciousness that we'll always remember. We expected a 15-minute audience, and instead had to be the ones to insist we'd taken enough of her time. Instead of saying goodbye to us at the door of her second-floor sitting room, she escorted us down the staircase and explained the context of every framed photograph along the way. When we got to the front door she remarked that The Sage is "the strong, silent type," advised us on what sights we mustn't miss, and said that the reason she had a picture of herself at 40 next to the door was "so the last impression of me people will take is when I was young and good-looking." She was altogether charming, and when she visited Dallas later that year to speak at a conference she invited us to have lunch with her, and to ask 10 of my coworkers to join us.
That lunch was also memorable. When I'd asked my friends to come, some of them apparently thought I was inviting them to one of those luncheons with 1,000 people, with Margaret Thatcher as featured speaker. When we walked into the dining room, which had been emptied by the management for this special guest, one of them said, "Where's everyone else?" When I explained that I thought they understood that this was a private luncheon just for us, they nearly fainted. They recovered quickly once they discovered, as we had, how unpretentious and warm she was.
Looking out on the Dallas skyline from the windows of Nana Grill in the Anatole Hotel, she asked, "Why do you build in such clumps?" She's right, Dallas IS a city of clumps. There's downtown/uptown Dallas, the I-35 business corridor, Las Colinas, the Telecom district, etc., with wide swaths of housing and low-lying buildings in between. My CEO promised to look into un-clumping the city. She talked about the value of citizen service and encouraged us to enter local politics.
Afterwards, she posed for pictures with us and later autographed them with a personal note. Mine hangs in my office.
Since that time I've often asked CT for updates on her. He attended her 80th birthday party, was a pallbearer at Sir Denis' funeral, and a frequent visitor to Mark's home in South Africa, where he spent one recent Christmas helping her Christmas-shop. He also taught her how to use e-mail. He's reported that her short-term memory has been deteriorating badly. For instance, after Sir Denis' funeral she threw out all Mark's clothes, thinking they were his father's. She'd forgotten which room was which. CT visited her during the time of Mark's house arrest and found that her staff was trying to keep her from leaving the house. It seems that every time she exited and was confronted by the press, it had to be explained to her that Mark was in trouble and she'd get upset all over again -- she had forgotten. He confirms that she can still converse about distant events.
Many members of my family have political sentiments directly opposed to mine. I love them anyway. So it is with Lady Thatcher. It's not every day a former head of state sits down with ordinary people and makes them feel at home.