Britain has a heat-wave. To me, sunshine is fantastic news. I fill up a massive jug with water, apply lots of sun-screen and go outside to get the benefit of the glorious, health-giving rays. Eventually the sun moves round and no longer falls on my property so I move indoors. This evening, unlike most other evenings, I decided to put BBC News 24 on as background noise while I read, write, do my usual quiet activities.
This is not the hottest summer we’ve ever had. I was born at the peak of one hotter than this. That was in 1977 and people were rather warm but quite appreciative of a long, hot summer. I grew up through many (many) more of them. Every year I sat exams in blistering heat where we couldn’t open the windows because half of the pupils would collapse with dreaded hayfever and the other half would run out screaming because a wasp had flown in.
Summers didn’t really change, but once you get into the working world, you tend not to get as much time to notice. Sometimes, we’d have a year where we had a week of sun around Easter and then a fairly cool and rainy season to follow. The hot summers always returned.
For three years, we’ve had only cool, rainy summers and I’ve kept saying the sun will be back. Now that it is, though, it seems people have forgotten how to get on and enjoy a real summer. News 24 is telling me every half hour or so that a warning has been issued about the dangers of the hot weather. There have been, according to one health care worry-ward, high numbers of lost toes through people gardening in flip-flops.
This frightens me. Not because I may succumb to the heat. No. It frightens me because it has taken only three years for almost an entire nation to forget the sun exists and can get quite hot in this country. Has the nanny state really made people so reliant on the media to know what to do that they can’t remember to drink water, dress appropriately and maybe, I don’t know, open a window? Have people really become that stupid?
The news is creating a panic out of it just as they do with heavy (more than an inch) snowfall. Yes, it’s very warm. Nobody needs to cool down that desperately though that they need leap into rivers despite warning signs about undertow. Is it just that they really are too stupid to know any better? I wish I could believe the contrary.
In decades, centuries, millennia past, when the news reported news and didn’t dish out advice, people got on and dealt with the heat by means of drinking water, staying out of the sun, wearing wide-brimmed hats to keep the sun from making hard-boiled brain for breakfast and at the same time shielding eyes reducing, among other things, the risk of removing one’s own toes because one could bloody well see what one was doing.
I’d like to think that one day while I slept particularly deeply, aliens came and attacked Britain with a lobotomising beam leaving my fellow countrymen with the ability to do only what they were expressly told to do by the voices from the BBC. But what I’d like to think is seldom the case and once again that is true. People have just lost what little common sense they once had, it would seem.
Me? I’m enjoying it while it lasts, just like I’ve always done. This year I’ve discovered a sun-screen that actually works for me and my milk-white skin is now a healthy golden brown. My vitamin D levels are at an all time high because I’m not burning to a crisp when I step outside. But I’m also waiting to hear reports, after the hot weather has passed, of people suffering dehydration because no-one told them they had to drink water even when the skies are cloudy and grey. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun? Well, so do I, an Englishwoman, but I take a bag of common sense with me, just to be on the safe side.
I’m no fan of Tory politics or beliefs, but when I hear that an 87-year-old lady has died suffering from dementia, I can’t celebrate that. It’s a complex situation and yet utterly simplistic.
I can see why so many are waving little flags of triumph as though they went out and killed her themselves. Particularly in the North of England a lot of bitterness toward her still exists. She did a lot of harm here once upon a time, some of which still hasn’t recovered. Once upon a time, a long time ago.
But. And this is a very big but. Margaret Thatcher was the strongest leader Britain had seen since Churchill. She was not only the first woman Prime Minister but she changed the face of British politics on both the national and international stages. Mrs Thatcher truly believed that Britain was still Great Britain and did not need to rely on its former glory for respect. She went out there and she took on the world, standing tall next to leaders that have dwarfed each one of ours since.
Few people can claim to have the courage of their convictions to the extent that Thatcher did and she stuck to her principles no matter what. One does not have to agree with her beliefs or actions to recognise the sheer strength of the lady and for that alone she is to be admired.
Her eleven year tenure of Number 10 made its mark in so many ways that people are quick to forget about. I read in the Guardian the words of President Obama that echo my own sentiments:
Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will.”
He added that her premiership was “an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered”.
Women of Britain, whatever their political beliefs, should be celebrating the life of someone who opened so many doors for us by her very existence.
At the end of her life, what I saw was a lady shattered by the loss of her husband. Without him she rapidly declined and that tells me that whatever else she might have been, she was a human being who in her own way knew great love. There can be no celebrating the loss of such a person. Today, 8th April 2013, she was a frail old lady suffering dementia and having had numerous strokes finally succumbed to one. She was a wife, mother and grandmother.
I can’t celebrate that someone passed, no matter what they did in life. I definitely can’t celebrate the passing of a frail old lady who once held the world in her thrall. No, I will gladly say that to me this is a sad day because such a remarkable woman has gone from our midst. It makes nothing better that she has gone, repairs none of the hurt that she did, augments none of the good.
I will not smile that Thatcher died.