In 2004 I was lucky enough to visit Iran as the guest of a family friend. One day another friend picked me up to drive me to Behesht Zahra, the large cemetery south of Tehran which has many graves of soldiers killed in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. There are more cheerful days out to be had in and around Tehran! But I also wanted to visit the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini which is nearby. Again, there are more cheerful days out to be had in and around Tehran! But I do like my history and don't believe in just going to see the pretty sights (of which Iran has many) when I visit a country.
On the drive south, along the dusty highway out of Tehran, my travel companion asked me: 'What do you think of Ayatollah Khomeini?'
This question floored me. I mean, I'm a woman from the West, wasn't it absolutely obvious what I would think of him? To my companion clearly it wasn't. This set me thinking, and I found an answer that had to acknowledge the factor that had made it possible for him to ask such a question.
'Well, Khomeini was a very strong and important figure.'
'Yes, he was,' my companion agreed, and we left it there.
P.S. A friend has suggested I am wasting my time raking over the coals to write a blogpost about the top 10 crimes of Thatcher. Of course, I had been going to follow this up with a top 10 crimes of Blair, which would be identical, only omitting points 1, 5 and 8, and replacing Tony Blair at no. 10 with Gordon Brown.
However, I do regret setting myself such a gruelling publishing schedule and have decided to spare you the turgid details of points 2-10, and end the series here. We all have other, fresher, fish to fry.