Sunday, 14 April 2013

Grantham keeps calm and carries on

I visited Margaret Thatcher’s hometown of Grantham yesterday, not to sign the book of condolences but to do the weekly shopping at Morrisons.

There was no outward sign of any mourning. There was no makeshift shrine of flowers and teddy bears outside the corner shop where Thatcher grew up (the shop is now occupied by a chiropractic business called Living Health).

Why the local stoicism? Following the Lincolnshire earthquake of 2008, the Guardian noted:
Stoicism is in keeping with the character of a county which, despite being England’s second-biggest, does not like to make a fuss.
In the 1983 general election, I was Liberal candidate for Grantham and, in the course of canvassing, met several local people who knew Margaret Roberts (as she then was) before she left for Oxford University, never to return. None of them had a good word to say for her. They still gave the Tories a big majority, though (the sitting MP was Douglas Hogg before he bought the infamous manor house with the moat).

One of the more bizarre occurrences during the campaign was at a house meeting one evening. In those days, Grantham’s local cinema (the Paragon) was an independent family-run business. The manager went out and about with a Super 8 camera and made his own newsreels. He asked if he could film the meeting. I prepared to conduct an interview, only to discover when the manager turned up that he made his newsreels with no sound. Had I known in advance this was to be a silent film, I could have organised a custard pie fight or tied the Tory agent to a railway track. In any event, I am probably the last Liberal candidate in British political history to feature in a silent newsreel.

PS: The title of this post is a cliché but it seemed only appropriate, given that almost every shop in Grantham still appears to be selling “Keep Calm and Carry On” coffee mugs. This slogan has rapidly become the “You don’t have to be mad to work here but it helps” de nos jours.

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