So she finally did step down from that jewel-encrusted carriage; her head dizzy with accolades, with glorious confusion, the baying crowd perceived as purring kittens to her leonine, English majesty. She descended smoothly, unaided, to some lavender field – it should be stiff with barley? – in that singing niche of her memory that for her, forever, might be if not Ingerland, then Grantham. And as she walks, from that shop, from that street, into the butter-cupped facsimile of that rural idyll, the parting crops do then draw up to attention… and the birds stop… and the limp sun stills above the willow. Because (she thinks, or somebody thinks) something major has happened.
And maybe it has – unless I dreamed it? Maybe there was an event as well as a death. Maybe we have to concede that? And then… in what way do we rejoice?
A rake of us – a simmering multitude with every bit as much gumption and fight and ‘conviction’ as she – many of us recoil from both that faux English idyll and the idolatry, the (in our view) slightly weird, slightly perverse adulation for this woman. A woman we link to some blanched – or maybe that should be scorched? – Englishness. A brutalist and therefore hugely uncultured (opposite of) outlook. A leadenness too; dull and grey and introspective in the worst of ways – bigoted, actually – reeking memorably of contempt for the most fundamental human rights in say… South Africa, as though Apartheid itself was some acceptable province of this Way We Were nation. (Mrs Thatcher, remember, led when it came to propping up the dying racist regime in the pre-rainbow nation. Should we celebrate the memory of that, I wonder?)
Even those of us who happen to be blokes, who think it was kindof great that a woman got to be PM are denied the possibility of respecting this woman. Most of us knew already, pre the coiffured barnet, accent and manner that Thatcher’s obvious bitterness, that vile and one-dimensional and utterly hypocritical (no apology for labouring this one!) ‘conviction’ against the trackie-wearing classes, The Immigrants and The Homosexuals would make many of us squirm with shame or rage. The fact that she blew a historic opportunity for Britwomankind by being an utter and malevolent donkey in the role of PM has almost passed us by, such was the magnitude of her dislocating pomp.
She was sexless and yet quasi-regal, love-fodder for the dumb fawners and the prejudiced. The Mail invented her surely – she must have been pressed out of a centre-page special entitled Ideal Dictators? I can’t explain her any other way. The thought of her (and I know it ain’t jus’ me because we’ve been talking, right?) simply does my head in.
She got at us personally, I suppose, one way or another. In my case, we were yeh… close. Having been born and spent the first twenty-odd years of my life in Grimsby, I moved to London to work as a photographer’s assistant in what is atmospherically describable as The Thatcher Era. I had no money and shared a room in a rundown, terraced housing association gaff with one of my brothers. Hilgrove Road. It was great yet completely crappy in a way that we didn’t mind but that made parental visits unthinkable. Stepping outside the door though and walking the couple of hundred yards up to Swiss Cottage was a revelation to this particular smalltown boy. I had never really seen posh motors – Porsches, Jaguars, Rolls Royces – down here it was crawling with them. How did that work?
Now I know this car thing may not stand up as anything other than duff anecdotal opinion but it had real meaning for me, it was true – it became truer, in fact – that there was money here in a way that had never remotely been suggested Up North. Moreover as this admittedly crass osmosis of the divisive character of Elite Southness became better enriched by my experience/observation, so my political and I think philosophical oeuvre cobbled itself together; directed (if cobbling can be directed?) by Thatcherism. It became obvious that the most humungously cynical fix was going on; put simply, that the Tories were fixing it for The South. Because it didn’t matter in terms of votes or constituencies or voices how much mithering The North got up to… the South, under Thatcher won out. A massive and indeed overwhelming number of safe Tory seats in the London area effectively farted in the face of the rest.
We all knew that was what was going on. Politicking of the rawest and most unsophisticated kind. Parliament entrapped. Toffs and Tories flicking a superior brand of the V’s, whilst busloads of Home Counties-returning coppers flashed their wage packets at incandescent miners. It was deeply ugly; a legacy I was reminded of last night when a friend, having howled when the subject turned to a possible State Funeral, suggested a burial more appropriate, in her view.
Sling the old witch down a fackin’ mine-shaft. (And yes, for the record, my friend is an Essex girl. And yes, she would be right in wanting me to point out that I AM AWARE poverty and discrimination existed in the South too during this period but I stand by my identification of a very real North-South divide – construct or function though that may have been of a regional and possibly parochial standpoint. And she is with me and I am with her on the notion that Thatcher quite deliberately set us against each other… and incidentally, what does that remind you of?)
Recently (and here I’m not speaking of any reactions to the death – I’m avoiding media on the subject pretty entirely) there appears a rather sickening fashion for appreciating Mrs T’s determination and commitment to things she believed in. I’m not having that. Why credit the prejudices, the immoralities in fact, of a world leader in bulldozing folks apart? My most crucially politically-formative years were spent in a great city-state which barely acknowledged the existence of Another Country out there. Or more exactly knew all about it but didn’t give a toss. Because an allegedly strong woman was making allegedly tough decisions. I came to see her then and over time as a shrill weakling; a brittle, thin-blooded creature who plastered on thick the slap of bravery and ‘conviction’. I never believed a word – and I still don’t.