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 cort├Ęge 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.

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