Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My father and Thatcher

Dear Dad
This week Thatcher died and was buried, a fact that would have had little emotional resonance for you.  But you, like no-one else I’ve ever known, would have relished the political discussion it's sparked and all of its subtext.  The media have necessarily made it a time of reflection, but what I reflected on most of all was that you’re missing at times like this: my father who took the opportunity of every mealtime to prick my political conscious.
I wish I’d agreed with you more, at the same time as I know you would have considered this a personal failure. This week I missed your irreverence, your passion, and your refusal to accept that things are not important enough to have opinions on.  You always wanted me to act with conviction, even when you sometimes despaired at my choices.  Your generosity.  I’ve missed your honesty and your nonchalance about maintaining polite relations with idiots and hypocrites.  Your acceptance that enemies will be made if something is worth fighting for.

One of my proudest memories of you is seeing you standing for council through the ravages of chemotherapy, fighting a totally unwinnable seat for the sheer bloody-mindedness of making the Tories work for it.  And a year later and just a month before you died, you were out pounding the streets canvassing.  It makes me sick with anger that you had to witness a Coalition government, the defeat of all principles, and I saw a light go out in your eyes that day.

I know that you would have rejected this compulsory grief and critical silence for someone who relentlessly dismissed the suffering she was wreaking.  And I know you would have enjoyed analysing the shiftiness behind the compulsorily-given statements.  It was because of you, and those endless dinner-time conversations and inquisitions that I ended up spending years studying effects of the Strike on the Valleys' mining communities, and that I saw for myself and heart and future of whole villages chewed up and spat out for nothing more than to make a political point.  And nothing was ever the same again.

I’m pretty sure that tonight you would have opened up one of those endless bottles of ‘good’ wine that you were putting down for a suitable occasion; you would have enjoyed the snub to the thought police, and would have drunk to more caring times.  You would have watched the funeral, not out of reverence, but just because you loved television and would have enjoyed people-watching and dissecting the abundant evident discomfort.  I’m sure you would have noted that Phillip had more of a spring in his step than for years, and was clearly making unsuitable comments under his breath.  Funerals and weddings, these are the essential moments of coming together aren’t they?  The meanings are immeasurable.  I remember you taking photos of us at the service station at my gran’s funeral.  Only you.

I couldn’t help but feel the contrast between your death, at home surrounded by family whose lives would be broken without you in it, and her's alone, estranged.  You couldn’t have cared less about what happened at your funeral, your conviction that life was all until the very end was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.  None of the pomp and posturing can make up for the way we exit the world.  Do we eventually get the society we believe in?  I don’t really believe in this level of natural justice.  Today is just one more memory that you are missing from.

With solidarity and love alwJ


  1. This is a beautifully angry post (if that makes sense).

    I'm sure your Dad was proud of you and proud of your passion.

  2. This is a beautiful post. Very moving. Your dad sounds like such a wonderfully strong character.