The Null Device

Christmas with Margaret Thatcher

If you're finding your Christmas stressful or unpleasant, keep in mind that it could be worse; you could, for example, have been at one of Margaret Thatcher's Prime Ministerial Christmas parties, which were, if her friend and advisor Lord Bell's memoir is anything to go by, reputedly uniquely joyless affairs, more like an ordeal to be endured to prove one's loyalty than anything meant to be enjoyed:
“There were absolutely no presents — presents were not part of Christmas as far as Margaret was concerned. No Christmas jumpers. No open-necked shirts. No charades. No games. And no children — apart from the year we had our three-month-old baby Daisy and she was too small to leave at home, so I had to get special permission to take her with us.”
The day was centred around the Queen’s speech at 2.45, when complete silence was required. “You couldn’t speak, you couldn’t cough,” writes Bell. “You couldn’t move. You had to get yourself into a reasonably comfortable position because if you shifted once it had started she’d give you a killer death stare.
After everyone had stood to attention through the Queen's speech, the Iron Lady's renowned sense of compassion would usually emerge:
“She would never actually criticise the Queen, but she would usually make a sarcastic comment at the end — 'Oh dear, she’s going to feel sorry for the poor again.'”

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