A funeral allows all sorts of emotions to bubble to the surface, and Baroness Thatcher's was no different. Watching the formal procession, the strangely militant hymns, and the studied composure of the congregation in St Paul's, memories came flooding back. Thatcher's final outing was watched by up to 4.3 million on television, as well as the thousands who lined the streets of London. It dominated the media for days, and sharply divided opinion. In some parts of the country, people celebrated, made placards, wheeled out effigies and got drunk. More watched Maggie's coffin go past on telly than tuned in to Jeremy Kyle – nothing to do with her legacy or their politics. Funerals remind us all that we are mortal. Funerals are all about us, as much as the dead person they honour. People watching this funeral will have lost family members and close friends not too long ago, and a funeral makes you confront quite a lot of your own baggage. It even made George Osborne shed a tear. Mrs Thatcher was a mother – even if she often put her job first – and a highly successful working woman. Her death brought people together under one roof who normally loathe each other; bitter rivals who set their differences aside for an hour. In that small way, this funeral served a useful purpose, showing the world that occasionally the great and good can do something without scoring points or sniping.
As for the rowdy demonstrations, they are part of a great British tradition of irreverence stretching back to Chaucer, Rowlandson and Cruikshank. If you wield power, you deserve to be picked apart and pilloried. Comment and protest is the right of every citizen, no matter what legislation lurks in the wings designed to curtail freedom of speech and muzzle the press. Maggie herself would have agreed with the right to demonstrate, 100 per cent. Who can forget her gracious demeanour when confronted with Katharine Hamnett wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed "58% DON'T WANT PERSHING" at a Downing Street reception in 1984?
Giles Fraser, the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul's (who resigned over the church's handling of the Occupy demonstration), made a fool of himself, opining that the church should not have hosted the funeral because the building symbolises national unity, not discord. I disagree. Lady Thatcher's funeral was an opportunity for the nation to express its solidarity – not because we agreed with her policies, which were undeniably divisive and unfair, but because most of us are tolerant, which she conspicuously wasn't. During her time in power, anyone who didn't sign up to her policies was considered a "lefty", a barmy dissenter. Thank goodness we've moved on. Cathedrals have hosted markets, courts, schools, gambling – all sorts of high and low cultural events, and a funeral is no big deal. I reckon Jesus would have been astounded by Giles Fraser's simplistic view. Watching the ceremony reminded me of my own mother's send-off. Like Mrs Thatcher, she was highly irritating, patronising and single-minded. There was only one way to do things – her way. The service was largely in Welsh, at her request, meaning my sister and I understood little. Like Mrs Thatcher, she managed to control everything, even after her death. I loathed Mrs Thatcher's failure to help other women – she was a traitor to her sex – but I admired what her funeral achieved.
From one lavish ceremony to another with an equally tricky dress code – at this event guests will have to wear weird costumes provided by the bride and groom. Sean Parker, the flamboyant founder of Napster and former president of Facebook, might be worth over £1.3bn, but money doesn't seem to have bought him much taste. The technocrat is spending £6.5m staging his wedding in June, hiring the costume designer from Lord of the Rings to run up a special outfit for each guest which will incorporate "some elements of Victorian flair and whimsy". Formal invitations weren't sent on dreary white cards – the 34-year-old decided medieval scrolls were more apt.
Vanity Fair described Parker as "an erratic party animal" – his nuptuals sound like a cross between Game of Thrones and The Hobbit, with guests entering through a special gateway that's costing £390,000. Choosing what to wear for a wedding is a minefield. Sean Parker and his bride-to-be, Alexandra Lanas, have solved one problem for guests, although another remains – what to give a couple who named their daughter Winter and who once dressed as Justin Timberlake and Britney?
On the spectrum
The other week, a colour magazine contained a questionnaire designed to reveal whether readers were "on the spectrum" – exhibiting the kind of behaviour associated with mild Asperger's. In Silicon Valley, tech companies are recruiting workers who score highly because, whatever social skills they may lack, they are brilliant at solving other problems. Needless to say, I scored pretty high: 28, when most women rate in the mid teens.
Yes, I have no small talk, find meeting strangers difficult, and am obsessive about travel, breakfast rituals, tidy rooms … need I go on? Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, about a teenage boy with Asperger's Syndrome was not only profoundly moving, it was also very touching. I could not imagine how it would transfer to the stage – and having helped to care for a brain-damaged stepson once, I am acutely aware of the huge strains that such children place on a marriage. I finally caught up with the play last week – it has transferred from the National Theatre to the West End, and is a huge hit. Luke Treadaway is sensational as Christopher, and the high tech set – a geometric box which reveals all sorts of tricks – is superb.
The word "journey" is over-used these days, but on this occasion it's the only way to describe a fantastic play.
Posh gets posher
Linguistics students at Manchester University have been studying videos of David and Victoria Beckham, concluding that the couple have radically altered the way they speak since they moved to the US. She started pronouncing the L at the end of words such as "all" and he stopped dropping his Hs.
The students concluded that Posh is getting posher, and David sounds less like a footballer and more like someone who now mixes with politicians and the rich. The Beckhams were never going to sound American even if they adopted yankee turns of phrase, but they will have consciously ironed out their Estuary speech. I don't blame them. My voice changes depending on whom I'm talking to. After working in Australia for six months in the Eighties, pals here thought I'd morphed into an Aussie on my return.
It vanished after two weeks back in Blighty. More importantly, is this research worth a degree in linguistics? Sounds flimsy to me.Reuse content