She Who Would Valiant Be

She Who Would Valiant Be


I stood opposite the Law Courts. The flag  at half mast dancing in the spring breeze . It was thirty minutes before the coffin on the gun carriage left the St  Clement Danes 400 metres up the road. I looked across at the GE Street’s Law Courts and remembered as a school boy being paraded triumphantly around  Master Thompson’s office. His largely female staff worshipped him and I basked in his  reflected glory.  Much later I found out  what he always knew, that he wasn’t my natural father. It made me sad. GE Street also built my darling local church, All Saints, Putney.

The RAF band came down. Then came the troops and they took up their places. An officer came down and measured their placements with an enormous divider which measured exact footage. They shuffled into place.

I took my place just outside the Temple,my neighbour was a hotel manager  from Finchley. The great lady had often been a guest at functions in her constituency. He confided in me”She called us her people”. Like his two friends and many others he was wearing a suit and black tie. My tweed jacket was feeling a little casual. On the other side were two ladies from Ealing “ We loved her she made us proud again.”

The crowd was suitably  subdued and respectful. So it was easy to hear the commands as they echoed down Fleet Street. The soldiers went through their drills which ended with their rifles up side down and their heads  bowed. We do ceremony so well.

Two very grand Guards officers,busbied and bemedelled, on their heroic mounts  walked by. More commands came from the church. The soldiers drilled again. We heard the  first bars of the Death March. We could hear the drum, the funeral note.

 First came the police on their horses. Then came the  Royal Marine band and then the soldiers followed by the  Union Jack draped  coffin. The coffin so grand as it was pulled slowly by an immaculate troop of  the Royal Horse Artillery.

I had been discussing with the hotel manager the fact that at Nelson’s funeral held in the same place 207 years ago ,as the coffin passed there was a wave like sound as the 100,000 present that day  showed their respects and took off their hats. Few today wore hats. Today as a sign of respect people raised their camera/phones and took a life long memory. Others without phones clapped. I have clapped in cinemas and now I have clapped a corpse.

So what were we celebrating.? A leader with convictions. Tory triumphalism. Others have seemed, to be successful politicians, for whom becoming Prime Minister was just another mark on a CV designed to make them  as wealthy as possible. As a nation in decline we have in recent years taken to building monuments to anything and everything and having parades for every sporting triumph. Those who die in football stadium disasters and those who are killed by terrorist bombs are given the same pomp and circumstance as those who  died as volunteers  at the Somme, discovered America and colonised Australia. As our history becomes less significant so  we celebrate it more. Everyone likes a parade especially if its on television.

Thatcher showed that even a nation in decline can make one last effort. And maybe that  was what we were celebrating. Our one last effort both internally and externally .The debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the banking crisis and  the  gentle submerging of Europe surely mean this was the last effort. Although the privatisations stand  as successful monuments to Thacherism,one third of the council homes sold off are now in the hands of private landlords, in many areas the reactionary ,corrupt unions have been replaced by complacent managers and greedy and corrupt bosses and the entrepreneurial miracle seems  as far away as ever. Our best and brightest children still prefer the law and accountancy to creating new wealth.

On the way home on the tube ,I sat next  to someone in a morning suit who had been to the service. He turned out to be Barry Henderson who  had historically been an English born Tory MP representing  Scottish constituencies under Thatcher for nine years. He told of what a great and kind woman she had been.

Mrs Thatcher once said that any man over 28 who travelled by public transport was a failure. Barry and I are both over 65. She at least had been a success. And that day she didn’t travel by public transport.

PS Later Vivien would see the coffin pass by the end of our road on its way to the crematorium. Ashes to Ashes, the paths of glory lead but to the grave.

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5 Responses to She Who Would Valiant Be

  1. Emma Hyner says:

    Very good Hugh x

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Stephen Levinson says:

    Great stuff but I think you underestimate the legacy. New Labour and the Coalition felt it impossible, to unstitch what she had done to change industrial relations and the management of the economy. Her influence on privatisation and reducing the role of the state spread throught much of Europe and she had her part in removing communism. To have such a continuing impact twenty years after being deposed says a great deal.


  3. Legs says:

    She did have public transport. The gun carriage belongs to us, the public. To me the comment about public transport sums up what I feel is wrong with us, and where she failed. We are interested in wealth above common good for the earth.

    • Gary rees says:

      Legs has not only a point, but length and breadth.
      But, still, an interesting commentary appropriate to a leader who led.

  4. itwonthurt says:

    Now now Legs, you know what the man in the Debenham junk shop said.

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