Wednesday, April 17, 2013
A very English crowd for Lady Thatcher's funeral
Where I was standing close to St Paul's the most remarkable thing about the funeral of Margaret Thatcher was how polite everyone was. Even the demonstrators were courteous.
You couldn't see a thing but everyone was offering advice and help on where to stand and where the funeral cortège had got to.
A thick-set Asian bloke with a banner turned to bloke in trainers and asked everso politely: 'Excuse me are you with the protesters?'
The man turned and replied, equally politely, 'Yes.'
'Where are they?'
'I don't know.'
At that point, a small woman from an Italian TV station turned to first bloke accompanied by her cameraman and asked: 'What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Margaret Thatcher?’
Without a moment’s hesitation he replied: ‘Iron Lady. Because she thought more about her image than the people of Britain.’
Here we had a little demonstration of what is best in Britain - politeness, softly-spoken dissent, freedom of speech. Even in an overwhelmingly Thatcherite crowd, nobody batted an eyelid as this would-be protestor made his views know, albeit to Italian TV viewers.
Elsewhere, there was a posh-sounding lady banging on about how terrible the Freemasons are. At one point she said they should be branded so we could all recognise them. I also saw some bloke with a 'welcome to pig vomit city' banner.
But it was all peaceful, respectful, even good-humoured though nobody anywhere near where I stood, at the end of Ludgate Hill not far from the cathedral steps, could see anything.
It was all a bit of a waste of time really but most of those near me seemed happy to play their part as also-ran onlookers, admirers and mourners to give her a decent send-off.
As the service began and I was leaving, a man with a megaphone declaimed: 'Please get back to work. You were not invited which probably means you are not important. Oh! Somebody called me the C-word or was he offering me some?’
Respect, humour, tolerance, solemnity, calm - the English way of death.