I think the resounding thing I feel from the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down (as predicted by my friend, the author of Cicero's Songs, when I first knew him in 1985, by the way)is old.
Some of you may know that my husband is a few years older than me. What I studied in History at school had been Modern Studies for him. I kind of feel a bit like that with things like tonight's commemoration of an event which counts as History for my daughter. It surely can't possibly be two decades since we saw those huge, jubilant, crowds smash up the barrier that had brutally and ruthlessly divided a country, a city and many, many families and friends for 28 years.
We watched the events of 9th November 1989 unfold from our digs in a small Nottinghamshire village. We'd moved down only a few weeks before and it was a huge change for us. It was like moving to another planet for us. Everything was so different, the accents, the way of life, the roads were so much busier. For the first time in our lives, we were living away from the coast which was really hard for me at least, to get used to. It was quite a shock to our systems.
That modest change in our lives took quite a lot of adjustment, but it was nothing compared to the difference the tumultuous events in Berlin made both there and across Europe as the Iron Curtain was ripped down, melted and turned into coke cans. I know what we went through - what on earth it must have been like for the people in both East and West Germany I can barely imagine.
After the initial euphoria of the wall coming down came the sometimes painful and expensive process of reuniting Germany. There and across Eastern Europe, it came as a much bigger culture shock than we'd ever experienced for people who'd lived most or all of their lives under stifling Communist rule to become citizens in a democracy.
The officials of the state had to learn that they had to treat people with decency, fairness and respect and not just dictate to them as before.
In the aftermath of all of this, our own Shirley Williams set up something called Project Liberty, an organisation which helped train government officials in being accountable to parliament and the people instead of an all powerful Communist Party. She talks in her recently published autobiography, Climbing the Bookshelves (a book well worth a read if ever there was one) about how Project Liberty helped with the process of privatisation. Under the Communists everything was state owned and Project Liberty advised on the transition to private ownership and the importance of setting up appropriate safety nets for people. Under Communist rule, everyone had jobs, but that would not continue under the new capitalist economies so they had to set up a structure that helped those people. It's typical of Shirley to want to use her expertise in Government to help in this way to try to help build fair and open systems of Government and her involvement in this is one of the reasons she's my all-time political hero.
Those amazing events of 20 years ago led to huge change across all of Europe and gave hope that even huge totalitarian monolithic repressive regimes could come to an end.
That change means that the maps of Europe my daughter grows up with are so very different from those when I was her age. Then a huge swathe of Eastern Europe was coloured in pink with just four letters, USSR, on it. Where I grew up with West and East Germany, she only knows Germany.
It really doesn't seem like 20 years ago, though........