The busy M.P., wife and mother keeps
TIME IN HAND FOR THOSE EMERGENCIES
There have been many definitions of an English gentleman. There have been many definitions, too—though not so widely publicised—of an English lady. The one that stays with me was given to me in the days when little girls were served: “Behave like a little lady” for breakfast, dinner and tea. By my grandmother. “A lady” , she said, “makes you feel when you speak to her that You matter more than anything.”
Margaret Thatcher does just that. Crowded though her day inevitably is, she has the inborn grace of a priority consideration for individuals. For people, as a whole, too. Because, when she makes a speech, she does not “orate” She talks naturally and spontaneously, giving much thought to her words, but also keeping straight to the matter in hand.
Organisation she has brought to a fine art, giving equally to her Parliamentary work, her constituency—and how busy she is, seeing everyone, neglecting no one—her home in Farn-borough, Kent, her husband, and her nine year old twins, Carol and Mark. We talked about children, and schools. Mark is a boarder at Belmont, Mill Hill Preparatory School; Carol goes to day school, and will go on to Queenswood School for Girls.
Mrs. Thatcher believes in educating girls on the same level as boys in maths, science, languages, and all the subjects that train the mind to think. She would add domestic science as essential to girls—but she does not under-rate (and how right she is) the valuable lessons every girl can learn in Mum's kitchen.
She likes to cook, and is all for a bit of adventure, sweets with savoury, and so on. Mr. Thatcher likes new dishes, though I gathered that his approach, like that of most men, is a bit wary! She likes good, modern furniture, and adds to her home as and when she sees antique or modern pieces that fit in.
At The Dormers, the house where Mr. and Mrs. Thatcher and their children live, the colour schemes and the furniture blend together charmingly.
The sitting-room and Mrs. Thatcher's bedroom are in Regency and Georgian type pieces; the hall is modern, and in the dining-room, old and new team up to make an attractive whole.
Of course we talked about clothes! Mrs. Thatcher has a great sense of the right clothes for the right occasion, and she always looks very smart, but she is not extravagant. She believes it an economy to buy good clothes, and she makes them last.
On this occasion she was wearing a green suit, five years old, but it did not appear in the least “dated” . In fact, Mrs. Thatcher brings out her wedding dress, on occasion, and still wears it at public functions about three times a year, and it always looks very nice.
Busy though she is, Margaret Thatcher is a firm believer in home life. Duties permitting, she tries to return home to Farnborough every night. In discussing the problems of women who combine home with a career, and of young married girls and mothers doing part-time work, Mrs. Thatcher thought it important to plan the day always with a little time over here and there for emergencies.
I do agree with her that it is the best way to solve all the hundred and one details that crop up in a woman's day.
For instance, that morning, before Mrs. Thatcher left The Dormers for Finchley, there had been delay in putting a phone call through; the man from the Gas Board had been to adjust some gas taps, and the vacuum cleaner had gone wrong! Typical of the things that happen to housewives!
I expect she thought like many of us on such occasions she would never get going. When she closes her front door on things domestic to follow her political career, she leaves a nanny-housekeeper in change; and she has a daily help.
It seems to me that the “bit of time over” is an idea worth copying for women who combine a career with home. It might well be the answer to those domestic crises when we ask—is it worth while trying to do two jobs? Mrs. Thatcher thinks it is, so long as the children are cared for. No children, she said, should have to come home to an empty house.
I did not ask Margaret Thatcher if she thought that, in spite of women's emancipation, this is still a man's world. Because I knew what her answer would be—that equality of ability counts. She would have agreed, I know, with what an American woman (recently appointed to a post in the State Department previously closed to women) said: “Women must remember that they are part of a man's world and are accepted for what they can do. No more, no less.”
What Margaret Thatcher has done and is doing in a man's world—she is a Master of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and a Barrister-at-Law—is evidenced in her work and promotion a: Westminster since she became the Member for Finchley and Friern Barnet.
What Margaret Thatcher has done and is doing in a woman's world is to make us feel very proud of our sex. She inspires our platforms, and gives heart to our undertakings. Wherever she goes, whatever she is doing, she is every inch of what somebody's grandmother is telling some small girl, somewhere.