Writers like Simon Schama can instill a sense of the ominous in the weather's whims. When he researched Citizens, his interpretation of the French Revolution, he lifted every available stone, leafed through every dusty tome, scoured every gallery and plundered every library to fashion his tale. He revelled in the found narratives, relished the way nature heightened political drama, and warmed to the brutally cold winters that beset France on the eve of the complex events that we call the French Revolution.
Every March 1st, El Boyfo and I have the same exchange.
El Boyfo: Winter is over.
Me: Oh no it isn't!
I enjoy March because it does that four seasons in one day thing: sunshine, sleet, snow, rain, gales, and sunshine again. You don't know whether to leave the house in thermals or in a brand new spring frock. There was a little bit of that at the beginning of March. I remember doing a songwriting masterclass at Bath University, arriving in glorious sunshine and leaving in flurries of snow, but then something odd started. An icy wind began to blow, a wind that wouldn't bloody cease. Australians speak of a lazy wind, one that can't be bothered to blow round, so it blows right through instead. This was such a wind.
I'm always patient in March. I know it's when we really long for Spring, but have to wait that little bit longer, but this lazy wind persisted beyond my seasonal tolerance. Prince's 'Sometimes it Snows in April' began to sound in my head. It would shortly be confirmed by reality. "Punxsutawney Phil Sucks!" I tweeted.
We live in a second floor flat on a hill, so we're accustomed to leaving our front door to fresher winds and then feeling a little warmer after our descent into the valley. But it got to a point where I was beginning to dread, "the winter that wouldn't end." People looked challenged, fed up; global warming, a new ice age, Roland Emmerich, and not wanting to die here, were on the lips of the Londoners I brushed passed.
Naturally, I began to think harbinger, but harbinger of what?
On Monday afternoon I was at a café in Marlyebone High Street having coffee with a bunch of people. There was a lull in the conversation as we addressed the bill, so as usual I had a quick look at Facebook, just as my best friend posted "HANG OUT THE FLAGS!" I noticed that another friend had commented, "Indeed." I immediately knew something was up. I know my friend doesn't do jingoism or football, so I consulted my news feed and it immediately became clear. I blurted it out at the table, "Margaret Thatcher has died!" Someone said "Oh dear. I'm going to lose a lot of friends this week. I was a fan."
I rang my jubilant friend and screamed. He laughed. Our friendship began during her waning dominion. I instinctively dialled him, but couldn't actually summon anything more than a squeal. So I just got on with my day off: I popped into Sotheby's with a friend, went to the National Gallery to look at the Constables, to Leicester Square to watch 'Django Unchained' and then to the Groucho Club for the launch of a friend's new magazine. The day's news resurfaced there.
By then I knew I wasn't of a Tramp the Dirt Downpersuasion. I'm through with political celebration. I celebrated when she resigned and celebrated when Blair won. I also celebrated Obama's successes, but even he has caused me to see the pointlessness of political celebration. The Groucho conversation evolved into a discourse on forgiveness and humanity, but forgiveness was clearly sticking in people's throats. One person offered that he thought, "Thatcher was a diva even if she was an evil bitch."
It all seemed like much of a much-ness until I exited Brixton station to a light drizzle, and that bloody wind. I boarded the 333 to ascend the hill, but it wouldn't move. I realised that people were standing to look through the bus' front window, whereupon I thought, "You're bloody joking!" I thought it was a riot, but in fact a revelry large enough to stop traffic had spilled out onto the junction. My i-Phone was charged. I wanted to capture this.
I walked into the crowd, my camera lifted. A policewoman barked me off Coldharbour Lane. I noticed the Ritzy cinema letters had been crudely rearranged. There was an ugly placard hanging from the facade, "The Bitch is Dead." People were singing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead and chanting, "Fuck the Police." Approaching sirens screamed Nazgul-like in the night. It felt a little edgy. I took a few snaps and made haste.
By the time I got home somebody on Facebook was expressing concern about the fact that Ding Dong the Witch is Dead had entered the i-Tunes chart. Lyricist Yip Harburg would be delighted. He was a staunch socialist targeted by the House of Un-American Activities Committee. He wouldn't have liked Thatcher any. As I readied for bed, Facebook chatter erupted around the photos I'd posted. I began to realise that this was a national consciousness event on a par with Princess Diana's death. But whereas that was a remarkable outpouring of grief dismissed by some as mass hysteria, this felt like the revival of an old ruck, a grudge rematch, the smarting of old wounds, the death of a nightmare mother, whose children must come to terms with the emotional havoc she wreaked by loving and abusing them in equal measure.
I'm sure the wind relented almost immediately afterwards, as if it accomplished its purpose: to bear hence the iron soul of an ice queen, who had waged cold wars, during the bitterest winters of discontent in a nation's living memory. Margaret Thatcher: Gone with the wind.