‘The Assassination’ by Hilary Mantel



From The Guardian:

APRIL 25th 1982, DOWNING STREET: Announcement of the recapture of South Georgia, in the Falkland Islands.

Mrs Thatcher: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State for Defence has just come over to give me some very good news …

Secretary of State: The message we have got is that British troops landed on South Georgia this afternoon, shortly after 4 pm London time … The commander of the operation has sent the following message: ”Be pleased to inform Her Majesty that the White Ensign flies alongside the Union Jack in South Georgia. God save the Queen.”

Mrs Thatcher: Just rejoice at that news and congratulate our forces and the marines. Goodnight, gentlemen.

Mrs Thatcher turns towards the door of No 10 Downing Street.

Reporter: Are we going to declare war on Argentina, Mrs Thatcher?

Mrs Thatcher (pausing on her doorstep): Rejoice.

Picture first the street where she breathed her last. It is a quiet street, sedate, shaded by old trees: a street of tall houses, their facades smooth as white icing, their brickwork the colour of honey. Some are Georgian, flat-fronted. Others are Victorian, with gleaming bays. They are too big for modern households, and most of them have been cut up into flats. But this does not destroy their elegance of proportion, nor detract from the deep lustre of panelled front doors, brass-furnished and painted in navy or forest green. It is the neighbourhood’s only drawback, that there are more cars than spaces to put them. The residents park nose-to-tail, flaunting their permits. Those who have driveways are often blocked into them. But they are patient householders, proud of their handsome street and willing to suffer to live there. Glancing up, you notice a fragile Georgian fanlight, or a warm scoop of terracotta tiling, or a glint of coloured glass. In spring, cherry trees toss extravagant flounces of blossom. When the wind strips the petals, they flurry in pink drifts and carpet the pavements, as if giants have held a wedding in the street. In summer, music floats from open windows: Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach.

The street itself describes a gentle curve, joining the main road as it flows out of town. The Holy Trinity church, islanded, is hung with garrison flags. Looking from a high window over the town (as I did that day of the killing) you feel the close presence of fortress and castle. Glance to your left, and the Round Tower looms into view, pressing itself against the panes. But on days of drizzle and drifting cloud the keep diminishes, like an amateur drawing half-erased. Its lines soften, its edges fade; it shrinks into the raw cold from the river, more like a shrouded mountain than a castle built for kings.

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