“Soft you; a word or two before you go.
I have done the state some service, and they know’t”
Othello Act V Sc II
An estimated quarter of a million people lined the streets to St Paul’s to bid farewell to Margaret Thatcher. We turned up mainly, of course, to pay our final respects to one of the greatest political leaders of the western world. But we came also, I am sure, to demonstrate how the tiny minority of bile spewing ersatz “revolutionaries”, eagerly sought out by the well heeled chattering class hacks from planet BBC/Guardian did not speak for the ordinary folk of all ages and from every walk of life who came into London today.
It was grey and damp as I walked from Southwark Cathedral along the bank of the Thames to the Millennium Bridge. When I reached St Paul’s at 8.00am the pavements were already crowded. I managed to thread my way through to get a reasonable position – and watched and waited.
The mood was quiet and restrained as fitted for the occasion. We watched the police as they went about their business and checked the arrival of the great and the good as they arrived in buses – the limos were only for a handful of the very top brass.
The one big cheer that rang out had me puzzled until my neighbour laughed and just said the one word “Boris” - and true enough there was London’s Mayor being interviewed by some hack. At the end of the interview he walked back to St Paul’s on his own with more cheers echoing round the streets….how our other politicians must grind their teeth in fury at the man’s popularity….
Later we cheered the service men and women as they took up their positions lining the route of the procession – and an even louder cheer and applause for the red coats of the Chelsea Pensioners, the old soldiers who took position on the cathedral steps, ready to act as guard of honour for the flag draped coffin as it entered the great doors.
Then finally we heard the muffled drums of the military band as the cathedral’s bells tolled their own doleful knell….and there it was, borne on a gun carriage drawn by horses and accompanied by an honour guard from all branches of the services. Draped in the Union flag, covered by white flowers, the coffin of Margaret Thatcher passed before us and was greeted by the crowd with applause and cheers of warmth – not a protestor in sight or in sound.
We watched as the honour guard bore the coffin up the steps – and then the cathedral doors closed.
Some stayed on but I left with the intention of coming home and watching a repeat of the actual service on TV. But as I passed a nearby pub, The Rising Sun, I saw a big crowd inside – they were watching the service on the big screens usually reserved for football or cricket. So I joined them and there we stood, with our beers, the pub packed and silent as we watched the whole service – the biggest tribute of all from men (it was mainly men) who probably haven’t seen the inside of a church for years, if ever. Only when the service was over did the pub revert to the usual noise of chatter, laughter and glasses being collected.
That’s the way we mourned and saluted Margaret Thatcher, the grocer’s daughter who brought a demoralised and divided country back off its knees and told us to stand tall….