Tunnel visions of Mrs. Thatcher
Be positive, says PM on VIP visit
A visit to a perfume factory sounds like the ideal way to round off a hectic day for a woman Prime Minister.
But Margaret Thatcher's visit to Quest International at Ashford on Friday was more than just a foil to her morning trip to the Channel Tunnel works.
After she had been shown how science and nature could combine to produce beautiful fragrances, Mrs Thatcher said: “It's the finest example of art and science working together I've come across.”
Mrs Thatcher's visit to the Channel Tunnel workings obviously gave her tremendous satisfaction because the project is positive proof of her belief that private enterprise can deliver on the grand scale.
But the Prime Minister is a trained scientist with a chemistry degree as well as a perfume fan and Quest's combination of the two proved irresistible.
The all-pervading cocktail of fragrances that surrounds the premises hit Mrs Thatcher the moment she left her official car.
“I didn't realise it would be so permeating,” she said.
Quest president Charles Miller Smith escorted her to the fragrance laboratories where she was invited to sniff Rose Otto and Jasmine oils.
When the cost-conscious Prime Minister heard how much these essential oils were worth, she asked senior perfumer Mike Evans whether the sniffing strips should be kept to save money.
In the end she said the smells were so lovely she would take the blotters home.
Mr Evans showed her how fragrances were formulated to get the right blend.
Also there to explain things were Dr Brian Willis, senior vice-president research, Peter Midwood, group vice-president fragrances and Richard Furlong, Quest's managing director at Ashford.
Then it was off to the research laboratories where sophisticated equipment allows scientists to find out exactly what smells are made of.
In seconds Mrs Thatcher and a bearded Dr David Green were sitting side by side in front of a video screen chatting away like old friends.
Also there to guide her were Dr Tony van de Weerdt, head of fragrance research at Ashford, and Dr Bruce McAndrew.
She was given a sample of a perfume appropriately named Margaret, in a bottle bought especially by the company's public relations officer Lesley-Anne Rogers.
Perfumers never give much away but ‘Margaret’ was “a beautiful floral fragrance of tuberose and Jasmine with some spicy notes,” said Lesley-Anne.
Mrs Thatcher said she had enjoyed the visit tremendously.
The message at the Channel Tunnel site at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover, earlier in the day was: Be Positive.
Mrs Thatcher spent an hour underground and took the controls of the tunnel boring machine, which is cutting the service tunnel towards France.
When she emerged into the open air she said she was very excited by what she had seen.
“I was very upset when the initial tunnel was stopped in the 1970s. I thought they had stopped the future, she said.
Asked about local people who had worries about the tunnel, Mrs Thatcher said: “This is very exciting and I find people are taking it that way. Be Positive.”
Her message came just 12 hours after Dover councillors had turned down a plan by Eurotunnel to use more land at the cliff top to store plant and equipment.
Nearby, residents were said to be going through a “living hell” .
Mrs Thatcher was confident about the future of the ferry industry, too.
“There will be plenty of business for both the tunnel and the ferries. There will still be a thriving and prosperous ferry industry … so long as they don't go on strike.
“My guess is we will soon have to start on a second tunnel” .
One of the workers underground described it as a “pleasant 75 degrees.”
Mrs Thatcher was shown how the machine works, and then took the controls in the cabin.
She returned to the surface with a piece of rock as a souvenir.
Security for the visit was very strict. Police kept watch on all levels of the Channel Tunnel site, and officers were also on duty on the cliff tops.
Trains passing by on the main Dover to Folkestone railway line were carefully watched, and officers were on duty on the tiny Shakespeare Halt platform used by BR staff. [end p908]
A nose for the news
Cameramen covering Mrs Thatcher's visit to Quest found themselves making the news.
They had decided to don plastic red noses in aid of Comic Relief and the gesture wasn't missed by the Prime Minister or TV film crews.
Mrs Thatcher declined the cameramen's offer to try on a red nose but said she had already made her contribution to the Comic Relief.
“I ought to have brought a teddy bear and he could have worn one,” she said.
Residents' fears get short shrift
Fears of residents who claim the Channel Tunnel will ruin their environment and bring them few benefits were dismissed by Margaret Thatcher.
Speaking at Tontine House, Eurotunnel's town headquarters, the Prime Minister said: “I think they will appreciate that this is a great historic event.
“To have a tunnel so that you can drive through from England to France is a piece of history and they are witnessing it.
“When we do these great things of course there is great opposition at first.”
Mrs Thatcher added that the link would create jobs and residents would accept it for their grandchildren.
She was given a giant complimentary ticket to use on the first train in 1993 and a bouquet by Ann-Marie Aynsley, 10, from—Kennington, daughter of Eurotunnel manager Martin Aynsley.
Questioned about the possibility of terrorists taking over the tunnel, she said the same could be said of the London underground or ferries.
The visit was surrounded by tight security with extra police drafted in and armed police on nearby rooftops.