Strong woman who stirred up some strong feelings

Kate Livingstone
Kate Livingstone

When I told my mother Margaret Thatcher had died, she said, ‘‘No she hasn’t!’’.

That was followed by, ‘‘Kate, are you kidding me on, are you joking?’’

I didn’t understand her complete shock.

“The woman was 87, mother, and wasn’t well. It’s not really like it wasn’t going that way.”

Wished I hadn’t said that to a woman in her mid-80s, but there you go.

She went quiet at that, for a wee bit too long.

Another stoic lady silenced.

News of Thatcher’s death really did stir up something different in everyone.

Depending on your age, your gender, your politics, and, dare I say, your class, your view on Thatcher and her legacy probably found new focus on Monday.

No matter what you thought of her, it was very much the end of an era, and everyone – and I mean everyone – was clamouring to come up with the phrase that best summed her up.

PM David Cameron went with “the patriot prime minister”, which instantly reminded me of the moment Tony Blair described Princess Diana as the “People’s Princess” following her death in 1997.

Other Thatcher tributes, particularly north of the border, were less flattering.

But I felt that some Scots’ initial reaction of “let’s party” didn’t last long, and soon the feeling towards her softened, if only ever so slightly.

She was, in the end, an old lady, in poor health, and battling the dreaded dementia.

She was a mother who died without her family around her and in a rented bed.

But I doubt that loneliness was new to her, I believe she must have been horrifically lonely throughout her life.

She broke the male-only prime minister mould, and some of her more risky decision were entirely her own and against her ministers’ advice.

The day Thatcher came to power, my sister gave birth to a baby girl.

It was a fantastic day for the family; a new baby, the first in 25 years for our brood.

I clearly remember May 4, 1979.

I recall hugging my baby niece, telling her that ‘Bright Eyes’ was number one in the charts and that a woman had just won the country’s top job.

My father, however, looked like he could cry, which we passed off at the time as tears of joy at becoming at grandfather.

As a foundry worker, with friends in mining and other heavy industries, he was utterly deflated at the election of Mrs T. “This is going to change everything, Kate, you mark my words,” he said in his usual listen-to-your-old-man voice.

My dad’s not with us any more, but I can guess what we would have said about Thatcher’s death, and I know I could never repeat it.

Let’s just say that my mother wasn’t the only woman he felt a strong passion for.