A Tale of Two Margarets


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I
 

Margaret sips her Tea,
shadowcast in pastel pleated light,
her muddled shoulders warmed
 

by the tasselled Kashmiri shrug;
a ‘gift’ when gifts were
still worth trading.
 

No-one left to fight now;
Bobby, gone hungry
to his tricolor grave,
 

the Argies defeated,
Las Malvinas – pah!
And Arthur and his boys;
 

crepuscular dust,
crushed beneath her
favoured Ferragamos.
 

The fire needs banking up,
she calls for Dennis
but he never comes.
 

II
 

Margaret sips her tea
in the sputtering light
of a saucered candle,
 

her scrawny shoulders
balmed by her grandmother’s
gifted nursing shawl.
 

No-one left to fight for now,
her man gone, his ashes
scattered on Garw’s slag heap.
 

Branded a ‘scab,’ shattered
by hunger and poverty, begging
scraps from neighbours;
 

driven to cross an
unrecoverable line. Just one
of twenty thousand ruined men.
 

The fire needs banking up,
she calls for Bryn
but he never comes.
 
 
 

~ Background information for those not familiar with British political history ~
 

The first Margaret is Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister 1979 – 1990. She was nicknamed the Iron Lady because of her uncompromising political attitude.
 

‘Bobby’ is Bobby Sands the Irish terrorist/political prisoner depending on your point of view on the Northern Ireland situation. He started a hunger strike whilst in prison in 1981 in attempt to regain the rights of paramilitary prisoners. In public she refused to budge and Sands and nine others starved themselves to death for their cause. He was 27 years old. Over 100,000 people lined the route for his funeral and his coffin was draped in the Irish tricolor.
 

In April 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas) which was occupied by the British. Thatcher’s government sent a naval task force to retake the islands. Argentina surrendered on the 14th of June after the loss of 900 lives, most of them Argentinian. The ‘conflict’ is still not resolved.
 

Thatcher was a driven woman when it came to the trade unions and was determined to crush them. She accused their leaders of undermining parliamentary democracy and economic performance through strike action. The biggest confrontation between Thatcher’s government and the unions was the miners’ strike. In March 1984 the National Coal Board proposed the closure of 20 of the 174 state-owned mines cutting 20,000 jobs. Two thirds of the country’s miners went on strike resulting in nationwide power cuts (which I remember, as will Becky, Alan and Paul). It also resulted in the striking miner’s families living in abject poverty and deprivation and many men gave in under the strain and crossed the picket lines. They were labelled ‘scabs’ by their striking workmates. Thatcher likened her fight with the miners to her fight with Argentina and called them ‘the enemy within’. After a year long strike the miners’ union conceded. 150 coal mines closed in all resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. Many of these were in the Welsh valleys, ripping the hearts out of communities. Decades on the valleys and its people have never recovered – economically or socially.
 
 

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1 Comment

Filed under Free Verse, Tercets

One response to “A Tale of Two Margarets

  1. This is a powerful portrait of the two Margarets – very well drawn to highlight the effects of one upon the other. The most surprising thing when I read this was that you are able to elicit a little sympathy for the Iron Lady – I have a strong reaction to her policies and politics but you portray her as a vulnerable woman. Wonderful echoes of one to the other ensure the connection is delivered loud and clear. Love what you have done with this one Julie.

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