Jonathan Mirsky: Lady Thatcher and Me

After unexpectedly being invited to ’s funeral on Wednesday, journalist and historian Jonathan Mirsky recalled the four encounters that comprised his “little history” with the former prime minister. From The New York Review of Books:

In 1997, not long before the handover to which she had reluctantly agreed, Lady Thatcher, as she now was, came to Hong Kong to deliver a highly paid speech to the Chinese and British Chambers of Commerce. I was now East Asia Editor ofThe Times of London. The day before her speech she asked to walk about central Hong Kong, accompanied by local and foreign reporters. Suddenly she declared, “I must buy some socks for Denis,” her husband, who was in London. A nearby Marks & Spencer was cleared and police stood in the doorway. I trotted to the unguarded back door and inside saw Lady Thatcher at the sock counter with a young saleswoman. She was just saying she had forgotten her money. I paid for the socks; she took the bag, didn’t thank me, and went outside. I left by the back door. Another minute.

[…] The next night I waited outside the banqueting hall where Lady Thatcher was to give her speech. I would be admitted to the hall after the meal. When it ended the doors flew open and guests rushed to the toilets. There was a long queue outside the ladies’. Mrs. Thatcher bustled over and exclaimed, “I must get back into the hall for my speech.” I told her to wait right there, went into the gents’, where there were ten or so men; I asked them to leave because Lady Thatcher needed to come in. Zipping up, they left. “Go ahead in,” I said to Lady Thatcher. “I’ll stand at the door.” She went in, after a minute to two came out, didn’t thank me, went back into the hall, and gave her speech with my suggestion included. Two minutes.

See also China Remembers Margaret Thatcher, via CDT.