They kissed, he told her Denis had said the interview with him was the best she'd done, then with impeccable manners he introduced me. Is it possible to admire the Lady but hate her politics? Maggie looked terrific, wearing a gorgeous, elegant mid-blue suit, her hair well groomed, the diamonds sparkling. Despite a long day of interviews and book signings, she exuded a blend of intensity and sparkiness. She put her hand on my arm as she discussed her day, forcing one into engagement. When she spoke, she stressed her debt to the three men in her life: her father, Keith Joseph and her husband. Denis, standing on my right, said proudly: "It's just you." Lord Hanson stepped forward to greet her, but she ignored him and headed for her beaming husband. No lonely old age for Lady Thatcher.
In her party speech Lady Thatcher talked about the impact of Methodism on her upbringing, a bond she also shares with minister's son Frost. The book describes the strict routine of church on Sunday morning and evening, with Sunday school thrown in, but also points out that such upright living was not so dour as it might appear. While temperance was the rule, there was much pleasure, in eating, "keeping a good table" and in church social events, a feature stimulated by the Methodist system of circuits and lay preachers, which group a number of churches together and provide a form of networking.
Having been also brought up as a strict Methodist (now happily lapsed), I have long been aware of how powerfully it shapes the rest of your life - on a par with the Jesuits, I'd say. I can certainly detect Methodists (or lapsed ones) a mile off. We are this odd blend of serious, plain living and liberal and are firmly against any game of chance (there was no question of placing a bet in my home). The Methodist still lurking in Maggie blocked the creation of a national lottery. The Methodist lurking in me knows she is right, even as the children badger me to buy a ticket. And though I love horse racing I still don't bet.
What's in a name? A hell of a lot. The name Margaret is rather a cross to bear. Glamorous it is not. I used to go to parties with my best friend, Francine, and inwardly groaned as the boys looked up expectantly as they heard her name. Lady Thatcher also prefers to be called Maggie. "It's softer than Margaret," she told Sir David during the TV interview, adding that the name means "lovelier than a pearl". At that point my husband, watching under duress, completely baffled by my new affection for the woman, left the sitting room, groaning.
How do mothers of small children manage to win and hold down top jobs? I put this question to Sara Nathan, the BBC news journalist who has just been picked as the new editor of Channel 4 News. Aged 39, she has two children, Rachel, six, and Jonathan, four. She confirms my theory that behind really successful women there is often a man around the house. Her husband, Malcolm Singer, is a freelance composer, who can work mainly from their home in Acton, west London, assisted by a nanny. "He can juggle," Sara says. She also has close family, including doting grandparents, who drop in. "I'd hate to think my children were neglected," she adds. But, as she points out, in her progress up the slippery pole through Newsnight, breakfast television and the launch of Radio 5 Live, she has worked long hours and unconventional days. In her current job, producing The Magazine on Radio 5 Live, she gets up at 5.30am to be in the office before the programme begins at 8.30am, but this allows her to arrive back by 5.30pm, for supper and bedtimes. At Channel 4, instead, she expects to be getting the children up and taking them to school. But the basic problem of this lifestyle, as she agrees, is that while there is always someone there for the children, they don't see that much of both parents at the same time. Do such children grow up thinking parents never row?
The gerbils are in disgrace! Lucky and Licorice are exiled to the shed, locked away from unsupervised children. We awoke on Saturday morning to the wails of the six-year-old from the dining room/playroom: "The gerbils have escaped!" One was extracted, squeaking, from under a bookcase, the second from under the sofa. Half the morning had been wasted.
Then the two-year-old, who is fascinated by these horrible rodents, sent the cage toppling. I put it on a side table, to clear up the mess, another huge drawback of gerbils. While my back was turned the six-year-old took out one gerbil, and was promptly bitten on the thumb (If I were a gerbil, I'd bite off her head). She screamed and demanded first aid. As I applied Dettol and a plaster, the toddler quietly switched on the plate warmer, which sits on the side table ... on which the gerbils' cage was temporarily resting. An hour or so later my elder daughter noticed a funny smell. The bottom of the cage was melting. As we tried to sort out this crisis, the toddler intervened once again, and knocked over the tattered cage and table. My husband exploded in misdirected rage. "Horrible gerbils, the house is a slum, they can't stay here" and marched off with them to the shed, doubtless to their relief, too.
Just as I was enjoying a rodent-free house, my 12-year-old came home from school with a baby hamster: her friend was giving them away free to good homes. "She's called Marshmallow, isn't she gorgeous?" It was my turn to rush groaning from the room.
After shivering in the middle of a school playing field, I cracked: out came my best winter coat. As midsummer approaches what mad fool would get out their summer rags? Thank goodness I haven't bought any tickets for open-air theatre or opera ... no wonder Northern Foods is doing a great line in not-very- seasonal steak and kidney pie.