On the Way to St Paul's
Fences kept the protesters in place on Farringdon Road, separating them from the mourners. Photographers and TV crews hovered, waiting to get their shots. A military band warmed up across the road, where ex-servicemen held flags and banners. A man selling the Socialist Worker with a ‘Thatcher’s Dead Special Pull-out’ dropped some leaflets and was told to pick them up. He refused. A line of soldiers marched and shuffled themselves into place beside the fences. A woman called Alicia gave a full-throated rendition of Billy Bragg’s ‘Between the Wars’. ‘Up the miners!’ she said as she finished. ‘Up the National Health Service!’
‘Oh do fuck off,’ said a passing woman in a suit. ‘Give it a rest love, give it a rest, this is a funeral,’ a man said. I asked Alicia if she was there to provoke people. She said she had just come to sing that song ‘because when I was growing up the miners’ lives were destroyed by an iron lady with an iron fist. What’s happening today is carrying on the bullshit that she started.’
‘Everyone has the right to protest, but this is a funeral, and I think it’s pretty distasteful,’ said the man who had been telling her to give it a rest. Two men in suits went by. ‘This is obviously crusty corner,’ one of them said. ‘I don’t want anyone to think we’re involved with this,’ a woman said to her daughter. Journalists picked through the throng, collecting opposing views. A man in a shirt with a picture of Thatcher’s face on it looked down from an office block, drinking a cup of tea. Builders peered from the spire of St Bride’s Church, their fluorescent jackets picked out against the grey sky.
When the gun carriage approached people began to turn their backs. They booed, chanted ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie, Out, Out, Out!’ and ‘Waste of Money!’ Across the road mourners clapped and shouted ‘Behave!’ and ‘We love you Maggie!’
After the coffin had passed people sang ‘If Maggie wasn’t dead I’d string her up’ to the tune of ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’. I saw a man sobbing against a lamp post. He told me his name was Sean, he’d been in the army and he was upset that the protesters were booing his comrades. ‘Probably not one of them knows what it’s like to be in battle, when the streets are filled with blood. And they’re booing soldiers, and they’ve not spent the money. I’m half Irish so I was in the middle of it. I lost a lot of friends.’ I asked him if he’d come to pay his respects. ‘I wasn’t respecting Maggie. I hate her. I’ve wished her dead for 32 years. I came to meet up with a group that wanted to turn their backs, and it was meant to be silent. They’ve just hijacked it.’