The Vicar on Mrs Thatcher

Guest blogger, The Rev’d Humphrey Blytherington is Vicar of St Hilda’s, Little Snoring with All Saints, Great Snoring. He is a graduate of Plymouth University. He completed his studies for the ministry at Latimer Hall, Durham. He is married to Daphne and enjoys home brewing, model railroading and is an avid member of the Great Snoring Morris Dancers.

Well, lads, I’m awfully sorry I wasn’t here for the Iron Lady’s send off, but I was enjoying a little post Easter vac with Major Wildebeest. He and I had a boys’ own sort of vacation tootling around the country helping out on a couple of steam railroads. Smashing little railroad down in East Sussex called the Kent and East Sussex. It tools along the river valley and one ends up at Bodiam Castle. Delightful place, and just the finest weather. One day Thomas the Tank Engine was there. Awfully fun.

Mrs Vicar? She went off with Mrs Doyle on another one of her Catholic jaunts to the continent. Visited Lisieux. Home of some gal Mrs Doyle calls “The Little Flower.” Frenchy girl. The sort who goes up to bed one stair at a time on her knees saying a rosary bead for the Pope’s intentions and all the souls in purgatory. You know the sort of thing I mean. Not really my cup of tea. I can’t see it does any harm mind you. Why yes, Daphne brought me back a copy of the saint’s book. I tried dipping into it, but for the life of me I can’t really see what all the fuss is about. Just a lot of nonsense about being Daddy’s good little girl. They brought me a little statue of the saint to put next to the St Bernadette they brought me from Lourdes. I put the darn things into the closet, but whenever Mrs Doyle cleans my study she winkles them out and puts them back on the mantelpiece with a pot of flowers from the garden and a little candle. Said the Little Flower prays for priests and maybe she’ll pray for me. Rather nice in a way. I can’t see it does any harm.

Speaking of Daddy’s good little girl, wasn’t that Margaret Thatcher something? What a gal! Talk about backbone! She had more backbone than one of those dinosaur skeletons you see up at the V&A. Yes, I know she was a bit of a shrew, but who could tame her eh? None of the lily livered politician chappies that’s for sure. I can’t say I agreed with the way she got into bed with the fat cat bankers, but good gosh, what a woman! Never forget the way she toppled that Argentinian strong man and teamed up with Ronald Reagan to bring down the Russkies.

What did you say Ian? What about the Pope? Oh yes, forgot about him. Polish fella. I suppose you’re right you know. He was involved too wasn’t he? You think the three of them were in cahoots? Never thought about it that way I must say. Come to think of it, I suppose it was rather impressive. He was on the right side wasn’t he? Our own bishops seem a bit leftie for my liking–most of them couldn’t stand Maggie.

I say, do you lads know the story about Archbishop Carey being Thatcher’s revenge? I’m sure it’s all gossip, but now they’re all dead I suppose it doesn’t matter so much. Story goes like this: the Church of England had to have a new Archbishop of Canterbury once Runcie stepped down, and they wanted old Hapgood from York to get it. Well, Maggie had been to Oxford with Hapgood, and when she was there she was just the grocer’s daughter and a woman to boot, so not really on the top of the heap. Meantime Hapgood was one of the old public school boys–Eton or Harrow or some such–very much on the inside of the inside if you see what I mean. So the Church of England chappies wanted Hapgood to get it, but the way the system works is they have to submit two names to the Prime Minister, who then makes the choice, hands it over HMQ and the deal is done.

So they thought they’d be a bit crafty and put Hapgood’s name on the list and then go through the bishops to find the youngest, most inexperienced, tom fool of a bishop in order to force Maggie’s hand. They searched high and low and finally found George Carey who had just been appointed to Bath and Wells in the back of beyond. He was not only a charismatic evangelical who liked tambourines in church and Bible studies and all that sincere sort of come to Jesus Billy Graham stuff, but he was also rather poorly educated and from a working class background. To top it all he had this rather odious, bossy Mrs Proudie sort of a wife called “Eileen” of all things. So they thought he’d be the perfect person to force Maggie to choose Hapgood.

Thing is. Thing is…Maggie called their bluff and chose Carey. Haw haw! What a gal! Anyway, I was chortling on about this with Huppo at the clergy lunch the other day and Lavinia happened to overhear the conversation and barged in, as is her wont. “Humpy!” she shrilled, “Why on earth are you pretending to appreciate that terrible ogre Margaret Thatcher? Don’t you realize how totally obnoxious she was? She simply turned back the clock and took women’s rights into the dark ages.

I was flabbergasted. Luckily Huppo piped up and said, “I hardly think you can say the only woman prime minister in the history of this country put back the clock on women’s rights.” At that Lavinia made that little huffy noise she does when she puffs out her cheeks and stomped off in her clodhoppers to grab a herbal tea and one of her vegetarian sausages.

Enough of that. I did see Maggie’s send off on the telly, and I must say the dear old CoE knows how to put on a good ceremony. Makes one proud to be English and proud to be a Vicar. St Paul’s and the honor guard and HMQ and dear old Duke of Edinburgh all turning up. Must say my own eyes were not completely dry on the day.

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  • Paul Rodden

    I always enjoy old Blythers, but uncharacteristically, the rural vicars I know here in Blighty, just like Humph, are as apolitical as they are areligious. So, they would put St Therese in the cupboard rather than throw her away as they hate causing offense, whilst being out of scones or strawberry jam are likely to be the only things which elicit any sign of real passion… :)

  • Howard

    Humanly speaking, I think the role of Pope John Paul II in the collapse of Communism is greatly overstated. Sure, he annoyed them, and sure, they collapsed during his reign; but likewise he annoyed Ayatollah Khomeini, who also collapsed and died during the reign of John Paul II. The deaths of both Khomeini and Communism had mostly to do with their own sicknesses.

    A better case could be made for Reagan hastening the collapse by scaring the Soviets into spending far too much on their military, which made their inherent problems worse.

    So much for humanly speaking; couldn’t the Pope have changed things by his prayers? Of course, but many people were praying for the same kind of thing. The key prayer may well have come from a housewife in Kiev who will remain unknown until the end of the world.

    • Peter

      Well The Russians tried to kill the Pope so he wasnt only annoying. He was the reason they couldnt stop the polish demonstrations, and then Gorbachev decided voluntarily to dissolve the East Block… Gorbachev said he was inspired by st.Francis, and he even visited his tomb in 2008. So its not that easy to says how much did Reagan do, how much the others….

    • Henri

      You are certainly seeing this from an Atlantic-centered point of view. But from a continental point of view, he did much more that Reagan! The Polish, Czech and Hungarian people who revolted against the ungodly rule of the communist were not neo-cons à la Reagan, but normal people of faith who believed in democracy, not the American ersatz of it. While they (the Polish metal worker, the Slovak nurse, the Romanian university student…) probably never heard about Reagan or Thatcher, John-Paul II was the man who visited these countries and told the people “do not be afraid”. And the people ceased to be afraid, and reversed the communist rule.

      + pax et bonum

      • vox borealis

        neo-cons à la Reagan

        Awesome. So now Reagan is a “neo-con.” I love watching this infinitely malleable term come to mean less and less over time.

        Anyway, yes, my European colleagues agree that John Paul II was an important figure around whom the popular movements rallied.


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