11. desember

"He went to the first-floor lavatory and had a quick line there. It seemed a bit unnecessary to go all furtively upstairs. He snorted with a thumb against each nostril in turn, and smirked back at Gerald shaking hands with Ronald Reagan. You never felt the old boy knew who Gerald was - he had that look of medium-level benevolence. From outside the music was thumping, it had been Big Band jazz and now it was earlyish rock'n'roll, such as Rachel and Gerald might conceivably have danced to twenty-five years ago. Fireworks popped and screeched. Beoyond the locked door the collective boom of the party could be heard, with its undertone of secret opportunities: there were two men here that he wanted. The door handle rattled, he tidied, checked, flushed, tweaked his bow tie in the mirror, and sauntered out, hardly seeing the policeman waiting.

The Duchess had taken his place next to Catherine, so he looked about. The crowded drawing room was his playground. He found himself lounging intently towards the PM's sofa. Toby came away like an actor into the wings, still smiling; he couldn't say what she'd said. Lady Partridge had been hovering, and bent and clasped the Prime Minister's hand. She seemed nearly as speechless as Nick would have been on meeting a revered writer. 'I love your work' was really all one could say. But in this case, as Lady Partridge was an old woman, a crinkle of wisdom and maternal pride could be seen beside the childlike awe and submission. Nick couldn't quite hear what she was saying ... something about the litter problem? ... and he was pretty sure that she herself couldn't hear the PM -- but it didn't matter, they hung on to each other hands, in an act of homage or even of healing which for Judy was a thrilling novelty and for the PM a deeply familiar routine. They were both fairly sozzled, and might almost have been having an argument as they tugged their hands backwards and forwards and raised their voices. There was something in the PM that seemed to say she'd have preferred an argument, it was what she was best at, and as Judy withdrew, crouching blindly backwards, she picked up her empty whisky glass and banged it against the leg of the Monster of Vanity.

It was the simplest thing to do -- Nick came forward and sat, half kneeling, on the sofa's edge, like someone proposing in a play. He gazed delightedly at the Prime Minister's face, at her whole head, beaked and crowned, which he saw was as fine if improbable fusion of the Vorticist and the Baroque. She smiled back with a certain animal quickness, a bright blue challenge. There was the soft glare of the flash -- twice -- three times -- a gleaming sense of occasion, the gleam floating in the eye as a blot of shadow, his heart running fast with no particular need of courage as he grinned and said, 'Prime Minister, would you like to dance?'

'You know, I'd like that very much,' said the PM, in her chest tones, the contralto of conviction. Around her the men sniggered and recoiled at an audacity that had been beyond them. Nick heard the whole episode already accruing its commentary, its history, as he went out with her among twitches of surprise, the sudden shifting of the centre of gravity, an effect that none of them could resist. He himself smiled down at an angle, ignoring them all, intimately held in what the PM was saying and the brilliant boldness of his replies. Others followed them down the stone stairs and through the lantern-lit passange, to watch, and to play their subsidiary parts. 'One's not often asked to dance,' said the PM, 'by a don.' And Nick saw that Gerald hadn't got it quite right: she moved in her own accelerated element, her own garlanded perspective, she didn't give a damn about squares on the wallpaper or blue front doors -- she noticed nothing, and yet she remembered everything.

There was sparse but hectic activity on the parquet when they stepped on to it, to the thump of 'Get Off Of My Cloud'. Gerald was bopping with a tight-lipped Jenny Groom whilst Barry pushed Penny round the floor in a lurching embrace. Rachel, sedately jiving with Jonty Stafford, had a look of exhausted good manners. And then Gerald saw the PM, his idol, who had said before that she wouldn't dance, but who now, a couple of whiskies on, was getting down rather sexily with Nick. All Nick's training with Miss Avison came back, available as the twelve-times table, the nimble footwork, the light grasp of the upper arm; though with it there came a deeper liveliness, a sense he could caper all over the floor with the PM breathless in his grip. Anyway, Gerald put a stop to that."

-- Fra Alan Hollinghurst: "The Line of Beauty" (2004)

"The circumstances could hardly have been more propitious for me: the Tories were having a reception in the Rosebery Room of the House of Lords, in order to launch a crusty old book by a crusty old peer named Lord Butler, and there was a rumor that the newly elected female leader of the Conservative Party would be among those present for the cocktails. I had written a longish article for the New York Times magazine, saying in effect that if Labour could not revolutionize British society, then the task might well fall to the Right. I had also written a shorter piece for the New Statesman, reporting from the Conservative Party conference and saying in passing that I thought Mrs. Thatcher was surprisingly sexy. (To this day, I have never had so much anger-mail saying, in effect, "How could you?") I felt immune to Mrs. Thatcher in most other ways, since for all her glib "free-market" advocacy on one front, she seemed to be an emotional ally of the authoritarian and protectionist white-settler regime in Rhodesia. And it was this very thing that afforded me the opportunity to grapple with her so early in her career.

At the party was Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, a poised and engaging chap with whom I'd had many debates in Rhodesia itself, both at the celebrated colonial bar of the Meikles Hotel and in other more rugged locations. I'd even taken him to meet Sir Roy Welensky, the tough old right-wing white trade unionist and former prime minister of Rhodesia who had broken with the treasonous pro-apartheid riffraff around Ian Smith. "It's always seemed perfectly simple to me, Mr. Verse-torn," this old bulldog growled in the unmistakable accent of the region. "If you don't like blick min, then don't come and live in Ifrica." Perry had granted me the justice of this, as how could he not, and now felt that he owed me a small service in return. "Care to meet the new Leader?" Who could refuse? Within moments, Margaret Thatcher and I were face to face.

Within moments, too, I had turned away and was showing her my buttocks. I suppose I must give some sort of explanation for this. Almost as soon as we shook hands on immediate introduction, I felt that she knew my name and had perhaps connected it to the socialist weekly that had recently called her rather sexy. While she struggled adorably with this moment of pretty confusion, I felt obliged to seek controversy and picked a fight with her on a detail of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe policy. She took me up on it. I was (as it chances) right on the small point of fact, and she was wrong. But she maintained her wrongness with such adamantine strength that I eventually conceded her point and even bowed slightly to emphasize my acknowledgement. "No," she said. "Bow lower!" Smiling agreeably, I bent forward a bit farther. "No, no," she trilled. "Much lower!" By this time, a little group of interested bystanders was gathering. I again bent forward, this time much more self-consciously. Stepping around behind me, she unmasked her batteries and smote me on the rear with the parliamentary order-paper that she had been rolling into a cylinder behind her back. I regained the vertical with some awkwardness. As she walked away, she looked back over her shoulder and gave an almost imperceptibly slight roll of the hip while mouthing the words: "Naughty boy!"

I had and have eyewitnesses to this. At the time, though, I hardly believed it myself. It is only from a later perspective, looking back on the manner in which she slaughtered and cowed all the former male leadership of her party and replaced them with pliant tools, that I appreciate the premonitory glimpse--of what someone in another context once called "the smack of firm government"--that I had been afforded. Even at the time, as I left that party, I knew I had met someone rather impressive."

-- Fra Christopher Hitchens: "Hitch-22" (2010)

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35, Oslo

Inger Merete Hobbelstad (f. 1980) er kulturjournalist, teateranmelder og filmanmelder i Dagbladet og burde egentlig vre lut lei av skrive etter endt arbeidsdag. Men den gang ei. Jo, og s har jeg mastergrad i Litteraturvitenskap med en oppgave som handlet om Homers "Iliaden". Hvilket jeg altfor sjelden fr sprsml om. Og s ns jeg p imh@dagbladet.no.