For once, we were all in it together

Baroness Thatcher's funeral united people who normally loathe each other

Share
Related Topics

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.

Wedded bliss

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.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Web developer (C#, MVC4, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Jquery)

£30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Senior Automation QA Engineer (Java, Selenium WebDriver, Agile)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: The Hitch on Americans, literature, liberal intervention and language

John Rentoul
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment