A gift for Mrs. Thatcher

November 17, 1987: LONDON: To 10 Downing Street, to deliver a gift from my hairdresser Derek to Mrs. Thatcher. When she came to Vancouver last month for the heads of commonwealth conference Derek was brought in to deal with her hair. He washed it with her leaning over the bath in her hotel room. In an interview in The Province he was quoted as saying she had hair like steel wool. Embarrassed by his gaffe he has asked me to hand-deliver an apology and a package of photos while we’re here.

We phone ahead to his contact, Thatcher’s private secretary Cynthia Crawford, Crawfie, and she tells us she’ll let the people at the Whitehall barrier know we’re coming. We arrive by bus, pass without trouble through the barrier and present ourselves at the famous door. When I was eight or nine my father photographed me standing on the doorstep (those were the innocent, pre-security days when anyone could get that close) and told me that was the job to aim for.

We expect someone to come to the door and accept the package and that will be that. Instead, Crawfie herself invites us inside—“Would you like to take a look round?”—and gives us a tour. Derek’s gaffe seems not to have given much offence, it seems.

A woman’s touch is evident throughout: blue and yellow in the state room, some borrowed pictures (the house didn’t have any Turners when Mrs. T. arrived, so they got some from the British embassy in Paris, which had five), fake flowers in the fireplace. We don’t get into the PM’s study—she’s working there—but we are allowed into the cabinet room (a high privilege: few commoners have ever entered here). It’s surprisingly small, with a first-among-equals layout and the famous red phone on hand.

The Thatchers don’t seem to have many friends in England, Crawfie tells us. Most weekends they drop in on her at her place in the country—a bit much, I’d have thought, given that the  two women spend the week in such close proximity. It feels odd to be talking about the Prime Minister so candidly when she’s just a room away. But my father would have been tickled at the thought that, even though my career as a politician never amounted to much, I did eventually get inside the place.

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