Margaret Hilda Thatcher is dead.
I was stunned and startled when my wife told me the news a couple of hours ago.
What did I think of Thatcher? What DO I think of Thatcher?
Well, my view of her has changed over the years.
For a start, when she first came to power in 1979, there was no major sea change in the air. Governments were in and out of power like fiddlers' elbows back then, and some people were wondering if a woman might be different. She was, after all, the UK's first female Prime Minister.
We didn't expect her to stay long.
But she formed two further governments, in 1983 and 1987.
By late 1980, many of us in my neck of the woods couldn't stick her. "The lady's not for turning," she said - "Bloody old bag!" we ranted.
The election of Ronald Reagan as US President in 1980 and inauguration in 1981 caused many changes and really set the 1980s on-track as being the decade we remember. Thatcher immediately declared "We Stand with you!"
Blueerrggh! I thought.
Maggie and husband Denis had been impressed by Ronald Reagan's political stance way back in the late 1960s. In 1981, she backed him fully at his inauguration as President of the USA.
Maggie had stated that she would concentrate on inflation rather than jobs creation, she was determined. She seemed hard and uncaring as far as I could see. She would be 'out' at the next General Election, I confidently predicted.
But 1982 had other ideas.
Maggie's stance over the Falklands War did, I'm sure, win her many more fans then detractors, and so she called an early General Election in 1983 - and got in with a landslide majority.
Maggie had her teeth straightened in 1982, but the American TIME magazine used a pre-straightened photo as the basis for their cover painting covering her second General Election victory in 1983.
Her second term in office was the most dramatic - Maggie was nearly blown up by the IRA at Brighton, the confrontation with Arthur Scargill and the miners is something none of us who were around back then will ever forget, and there was also the "yuppie" thing filtering over from America, Big Bang on the Stock Exchange, and so on. Things were changing rapidly. Maggie was at her height.
Did you love Maggie? Or chuck an egg at her? 1984 saw the PM with egg on her face - literally.
Was she trying to take over from the Queen, some wondered? Rumours abounded that her Maj was not too keen on her Mag, but I wasn't impressed by either of them so was not terribly interested.
In those days, you could go into a pub and spend the entire evening talking or arguing over politics. I miss that.
The Appallingly Disrespectful Spitting Image Book - puppet Maggie gets to grips with the jobless.
And so on to 1987 - and Mrs T won a third term. A THIRD term! How had that happened? I remember wondering. Just about everybody I knew denied voting for her. But then just about everybody I knew denied watching Crossroads. However, I suspected some of them did anyway.
The thing is, I saw - or at least thought I saw - how she'd made it in 1979 and 1983.
'79's success was down to the Winter of Discontent and perhaps the thought of giving a woman a chance. Maggie had stated on TV that she was a woman - a housewife. Had that swayed people? She was rather more windswept and everyday looking in those days as well.
Maggie's '83 success was down to the "Falklands Factor". For me, that was it - pure and simple.
But by 1987, things had changed. Since Ronald Reagan had come to power in the USA, and the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the USSR, the whole world seemed to be transforming. And things did feel far more comfortable for me as far as my living standards were concerned than they had in the 1970s and early years of the 1980s. I voted against the Tories in 1987, but I wasn't really that surprised when she got in again. And I didn't seek reasons for her success.
By 1987, years like 1980 and 1982 seemed almost like a different planet to me. There were enough people around in 1987 who were either so much better off than they had been, or who thought that the medicine was worth enduring, to ensure that Thatcher got her third Downing Street tenancy.
Maggie used the Royal "We" in 1989 - "We are a grandmother." Barking, I thought.
And so, Maggie's third and final term began in 1987, and 1987 sent a stock market crash and also a huge gale across southern England. 1988 saw the PM speaking up about Green issues, controversy over Clause 28 and the rise of acid house - and also, it seems, increasing disquiet amongst Maggie's ministers that she was doing it all herself. It seemed that she did what she wanted - regardless of them. If they didn't agree, there could always be a reshuffle.
Maggie also learned that Ronald Reagan, her close and highly powerful ally since 1981, was on the way out in '88.
By January 1989 protest groups were already mobilising, united against the coming community charge - or "Poll Tax".
Like Ronnie in '88 (he left the White House in 1989), Maggie was on the way out too. In November 1990 we saw her depart from No 10.
So, how does all this leave me feeling now?
Well, I was vehemently opposed to everything Thatcher did as the 1980s took hold and continued.
But I feel I've seen so much worse since and I can't believe everybody still blames her!
For a start, she was part of something much bigger, the arrival of Ronald Reagan in America and the general feeling of being sick of being dirt poor was what prompted much of the so-called "Greed Is Good" ethos of the mid-to-late 1980s, but it was a tremendously polarised decade, when Left fought Right fiercely. That has all gone. I have been sickened by the actions of New Labour - and I speak from first-hand experience as a former care worker in England (devolution? Don't get me started on that subject!). The care and support services I worked for were decimated by New Labour, and it all happened under the public radar. We all had comforting "whistle blowing" clauses sewn into our contracts to stop us speaking out.
From being an ardent supporter of Old Labour, I now no longer vote.
And to pretend that everything that has happened since Thatcher left Office is a direct consequence of her actions is simply a cop-out in my opinion.
People can still get steamed up over the 1980s political scene. But now? Are they raising petrol prices? No? Oh, well. Don't bother. That's how it seems to me.
People seem lazy and hypocritical and all the punch and verve of the 1980s has long since died.
But weren't the 1980s dreadful?
Oh, yes, darling. Let's have a rant about them, because they're history and require no action on our part. Now, where's my ipod?
And then there's the "I was a political activist in the '80s" types - "vote Labour, vote Labour, vote Labour!" Oh PURLEASE! Stuff that. Stop bigging yourselves up and living in a time warp. It's time for something new.
In retrospect, I can say that I respect Margaret Thatcher's honesty. And bravery. And certain things have come out that suggest she was not as unfeeling as I thought "back in the day".
I 'm so much LESS steamed up about her than I was. But then I strongly believe that modern day politicians, of whatever hue, are often a million times worse. So much more self serving and duplicitous.
I think Maggie genuinely believed she was doing her best for the UK.
I disagreed and still do.
But at least I knew where I stood with her.
RIP, Mrs T - I'll never forget you.
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