By the time you read this, Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will be over. Tributes will have been paid by British politicians, world leaders and various dignitaries. Protests will have been made, many of them in pubs around the country.
But after she was taken from her suite at the Ritz and before she lay in state at Westminster, her remains were kept in a mortuary around 100 meters behind our flat in Camden Town (northwest London). We weren’t aware of this bizarre fact until three days ago, when I broached my Sherlockian theory to my husband, stunning and mesmerizing both of us.
It made perfect sense. With tensions running high after her death on April 8, where would be the perfect place to keep the body of a highly divisive political figure away from possible protests and angry mobs? In Camden Town, of course — Labour bailiwick, land of punks, Goths, bohemians and Amy Winehouse.
I had been wondering about unusual police presence in the alley behind our back wall since last week. In the early hours of April 9, I’d remarked to my husband that there were police vans in the alley (where the back doors of the undertakers are). We both thought the police were on high alert for disturbances — even riots. But the police remained during the following days. Maybe a crime had been committed in the next building? Maybe they were guarding some VIP? And that’s when it hit me: they were guarding a VIP. A dead VIP.
There was nothing in the news about it but we got confirmation on a gossip website.
By the time she was moved to Westminster on April 16, crowds had gathered on the main road and I watched from my living room window as the funeral directors loaded her coffin onto the hearse and whisked it away to west London.
So how do you feel about that? I asked my husband, an Englishman in his 40’s who came of age during the Thatcher era. “Well, that’s the closest I ever want to be to her. I feel like throwing things.”
Anger towards Thatcher
And that’s the tamer stuff he said. He may not have joined or approved of street parties celebrating her death, but like many of his generation, he feels great anger towards Thatcher and her policies (which I will not dissect here). You can read Brits expressing their stinging Thatcher rebukes here and here and here.
Now I’ve lived in this country for nearly a decade. I’ve been through three hotly contested parliamentary elections, I’m used to sarcastic diatribes against politicians, and have been caught in the middle of outright, if inarticulate, violence (we were trapped in a pub during the July 2011 riots–another story). I must say, however, that I have not seen as much hatred and loathing directed towards a single person as it has been towards Margaret Thatcher.
I mean, this website anticipating her death has been live for a number of years. The song Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead climbed to the number two spot in the charts after April 8. There were parties up and down the country, and especially in former mining towns in the north of England.
As a Filipino, I found these displays rather shocking. I’m no Thatcherite myself but a party? Really? Not even Ferdinand Marcos’s passing occasioned such celebrations. I think there are vast differences in cultural attitudes surrounding death and mourning that puzzled me, as they have no doubt puzzled Pinoys, Americans and other nationalities.
Yet that I think about it, why am I so surprised? My husband lived through a time of great turmoil: the Brixton riots, poll tax riots, the Falklands war. He struggled through serious illness throughout his teenage years; he is alive only because the National Health Service was free at point of use–a legacy of the welfare state that the current Conservative Government is trying to dismantle. I myself lived in Sheffield, the former steel capital of Britain. A city blighted by unemployment and poverty even in the mid-2000’s. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Sheffielders hiss when Thatcher’s name is mentioned.
Beyond ideological divides (free market versus welfare state), beyond party lines, beyond the upper class versus the working class, there is deep-seated revulsion against the destruction of livelihoods and communities, the piecemeal privatization of public institutions such as the health service and universities, the erosion of compassion and collective responsibility for the poorest and most vulnerable.
More than the abstraction of “Thatcherism,” these things are tangible to the British people, and they want them back. So while I do not have any desire to dance on anyone’s grave, I understand the anger and I respect it, too. – Rappler.com