Texas loo role: how Thatcher got stuck in Houston toilet



Texas loo role: how Thatcher got stuck in Houston toilet

Owen Bowcott
Friday December 28, 2007
The Guardian

Margaret Thatcher's affection for the United States is well known; her enthusiasm for the special relationship between Washington and London is undisputed. Her problem with Houston was, until today, less widely appreciated. Foreign Office files released to the National Archive at Kew, West London, record an embarrassing hitch on the Conservative leader's long march to power: she got stuck in a Texan toilet.

Documents describing her tour of the States in October 1977 as leader of the opposition contain details of speaking engagements, her desire to meet military officials - and her tribulations in the Lone Star state.

"The start of the visit [to Houston] on Friday evening was marred by the failure of the Warwick Hotel (chosen by the English Speaking Union) to provide either a hairdresser or someone to press Mrs Thatcher's dress," observed an official at the British consulate in the city. "Both of these had been ordered by the Secretary of ESU and they had, at our request, double-checked that everything was in order.

"The hotel, in fact, became a joke with the Thatcher party. The inside door handle of the bathroom would not work properly and both Mr Thatcher and Mrs Thatcher had to be released from bondage on different occasions.

"There were no dirty laundry facilities on the Saturday and Mrs Thatcher's secretary and mine did the laundry at the latter's home on the Saturday evening. This was all rather surprising as the Warwick is considered to be one of the best hotels in Houston."

The Conservative leader may never have uttered the catchphrase "Houston, we have a problem" but it might have served her well. Her other awkward moment come at the end of a press conference at the nearby NASA space centre when she was asked about the ailing British economy.

"She said she would answer questions on her visit to NASA but not about the British economy and that this was being rude to her hosts," the consulate letter records.

"She later asked her secretary to confirm that this was a CBS cameraman and to remind Mrs Thatcher in future that she should not give further interviews to CBS."

Otherwise, the reports suggest, the visit went smoothly. Her talks with President Carter lasted longer than the allotted time. She met the CIA, indicated that she was "distressed" at recent UK defence cuts, visited an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and talked about the prospects of a settlement in what was then Rhodesia.

"She maintained a frenetic pace throughout and although at the end she was thoroughly exhausted," recorded Ramsay Melhuish, a Foreign Office official in the North America Department, "the visit went well and she was satisfied."

ailing - niedomagający

allotted (time)- wyznaczony, przeznaczony na coś (czas)

bondage - niewola

frenetic - szaleńczy

hitch – problem, szkopuł

maintain - utrzymywać

mar - niszczyć

pace - tempo

release - publikować

smoothly - gładko

tribulation- męka, udręka

undisputed – bezdyskusyjny, niekwestionowany

utter – wygłaszać, wydawać (dźwięk), wypowiadać


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