As we walked through Grosvenor Square to the tube this morning, the flags were at half mast. Diplomatic protocol and all that (except the Argies in Brook Street, natch). Then we got to the Marriott Hotel on the corner. Four flags: one Union Jack, one Eurotrash blue thing, two corporate flags, all hanging from the top. ‘Wait here’, I said to my colleagues. I walked across to the doorman and told him that his was the only Union Jack within a mile (maybe within a hundred miles) that was not at half mast, and would he kindly tell the concierge. ‘I’d rather you told him yourself sir’, he hedged. So in I went and asked the concierge if he was proud of the fact. He went slightly pale, and dived for his telephone. ‘Thank you, sir’ he said.
There was something about the bearded cretin, resting upon his mountain bike whilst expostulating by megaphone to the crowd, that prompted me to break my return to the tube station and listen to his idiocies. The main thrust, it seemed, was that Thatcher was a witch and £10m might have been better spent than upon her funeral, particularly in the light of the current austerity.
Idle readers, I must admit that I may have been claret-fuelled, the after-funeral lunch at the Stationers’ Company beside St Paul’s having been more than agreeable. I rolled a fag, waited until a spirited East End woman had finished haranguing him, and then waded in.
I started with the unverifiable (and probably false) statement that the BBC had made more than £10m selling the television rights to 170 countries around the world. He didn’t disagree, so on I strode. Why, I asked, did Marxists like him oppose a ceremonial funeral for a democratically elected prime minister and global statesman, when despotic/Marxist countries the world over spend significant percentages of their annual national income on hero-worship and demagoguery? Furthermore, was he even born when Thatcher came to power? Did he understand the context of the times?
‘What makes you think I’m a Marxist, or a socialist?’ he asked.
'Well, You’re certainly not a capitalist, are you?’ I replied. ‘Are you any type of "ist"? I’ll tell you what you are – you’re a nihilist. You believe in nothing, which is why the people you are speaking to on your megaphone have not the slightest respect for you. Good luck’.
Idle turned on his heel and loped off to the underground railway, to a spontaneous round of applause from a couple of dozen Ludgate Hill spectators. It was thrilling.
The Marriott flags were all at half mast as I passed them twenty minutes later.