Thursday, 9 May 2013

Mrs Thatcher's flat - at Scotney Castle

I've asked myself, whether, with better health and more money in my 20s, I might have become a journalist on a provincial newspaper. I am sometimes curious, even downright nosey. I ask staff nosey questions. Here is one example, from last weekend.

We visited The National Trust’s fantasy “Scotney Castle” in Lamberhurst last weekend, after being thwarted by the traffic queues to Rye on the sea. Swarms of slightly irresponsible bikers were out, like annoying wasps, swarming around a sticky picnic. I was not just interested in the blossom among the semi-fake, romantic medieval ruins. I was watching 'people behaviours' and investigating its recent history, namely finding Mrs Thatcher's flat.

British people were out in hordes, looking unfamiliar with good weather and warm sun. They had emerged from their winter bolt holes (homes) in Kent, looking amazed to be outside without wearing coats, stretching and blinking like Cinderella woken by her unexpected Prince. Scotney was heaving : the queue to get a cup of tea was 50 yards long.

I was also interested to see where Margaret Thatcher had a flat when she was Prime Minister. So I asked National Trust staff. To my surprise, the flat is just outside the ticket office up a rather rickety flight of stairs. Imagine in the 1980s, coming out the ticket office, looking forward to your get- away-from-it-all walk, to encounter the Iron Lady, and her armed guards with visible holsters, emerging from her wooden front door and coming down these stairs:

The flat has three bedrooms, one in the attic and lacks any country views. The sitting room overlooks a plain lawn. It was chosen for reasons of security. Her bed headboard was bullet proof!

Her flat is the two upstairs windows, on the left (above) not the window on the right. The other grander half of the frontage has a poetic inscription below the upstairs window, based on Scripture, about virtue built on rock outlasting the sands of time which “The Lady Not for Turning” might have wanted but she did not get. This home certainly does not compare with, say, Berlusconi's weekend home on Sardinia. Of course, Mrs Thatcher also had the use of "Chequers", a fine Tudor country house for British Prime Ministers, in Buckinghamshire.

Inscription about virtue outlasting the 'sands of time' on grander flat
I've found that BBC Kent local TV journalists have pre-empted me. They also managed to get inside "The Belfry Flat" to photograph the somewhat her grandiose wallpaper, as shown in this film

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