Where were you when you heard that Margaret Thatcher had died? I was halfway across a swimming pool in the Bahamas, looking out across the ocean. Roughly 25.0809°N, 77.2986°W.
I like to think that Mrs Thatcher would have approved, for lots of reasons. First of all, I was on holiday with four of the Girlfriends, all strong and successful women, all of them working mothers. The Britain that Mrs Thatcher had helped to create had attracted all four of them to live and work there – I was the only one of our group born in the UK. We were staying in a house on the Ocean Club Estate, on the eastern tip of Paradise Island, and certainly our host, the artist Jane Waterous, appears to labour round the clock Mrs Thatcher-style to keep up with demand for her work.
Three doors down the beach is the house used by Beyoncé and Jay-Z (whom I once referred to as Jay-Zed, mortifying the cost centres in the process). Of course I have no idea whether or not Mrs Thatcher had a view on Beyoncé, but both women were raised in the Methodist Church, and I think anyone who chose the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” for her funeral would surely have approved of someone who sang in a Methodist choir for two years.
Because we were in the Bahamas our television diet came exclusively from the US, and leading American political commentators and personalities offered accolade after accolade to the former prime minister. My four companions found it hard to understand why, in her own country, Mrs Thatcher’s death was so divisive as to send a tune entitled “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” into the charts.
But other than discussing the legacies of female politicians, what do career women do on their own in the sun? Work out and eat, of course, although I did have to devote some of my time to my next book. By shortly after seven every morning all five of us were either in the club gym or on the tennis court.
After that, the others worked on their tans as I gazed in admiration at their capacity for food. Hedge Fund Girlfriend in particular managed a breakfast one morning of cheesecake, chocolate biscuit cake and a slice of shrimp pizza left over from the night before. Whatever we did together (dine at Nobu, sit in the hot tub, visit the casino), we liked to think that we looked as if we had walked out of Sex and the City. (Well, SATC if Roseanne Barr joined the cast.)
This year I fulfilled my dream of finding a plane and flying myself around the islands of the Bahamas. I have never flown a plane in that part of the world before, and found operating the radio challenging enough. Nassau has five frequencies, all of which you need to communicate on before you leave the ground. Furthermore, they quoted air pressure in mercury inches rather than using the more usual hectopascals, which completely floored me. The pascal – officially chosen by the International System of Units as the definition of pressure in 1971 – clearly needs a little longer to catch on round the Bahamas and the US.
The final thing I did on holiday? I wrote 400 words on how the grocer’s daughter from Grantham had inspired me in business. I had got out of the pool for long enough to answer the phone from a Sunday paper (I did wonder if I was the only person on their database whom they could rely on to write something positive) and agreed to file that very day. I cited her work ethic, her ability to stick up for what she felt was right regardless of how unpopular it made her, and her diligence in writing handwritten notes to those she felt great concern for or appreciation of.
Yet I never voted for her. Too young in 1979, abroad in 1983, I felt ideologically closer to a different party in 1987. Whatever your political views, she was a remarkable lady, a one-in-a-lifetime political personality.