Death suited the old lady. In her dotage she had gone the way of all flesh. She was no more made of iron than you or I. On either side of the aisle they had been waiting for the day. After decades of prelude it did not disappoint. As a ghost her power returned, without physical form she was omnipotent and omnipresent. She was as alive as she’d ever been. Resurrected in print, bathed in ethereal light – England invited to genuflect to its returning saviour. Resurrected in print, hard features in monochrome – Britain invited to reflect on its conqueror.
The columnists, the commentators, the comedians, they were possessed, they spoke in tongues, they strived to say what no one else had said, they stirred the restless dead. This was their rapture. They put the spirits into action, they told the stories of their side, they recast the myths of their tribe. Even those that had nothing to say spoke, some of those with nothing to say spoke the loudest, some of those with the most to say stayed silent.
The old lady had her own ghosts: the decimated men of her generation, the finest hour, the glorious leader, their glorious dead. A war she had not fought, an empire she had not lost. She’d made her own battles. Enemies without, enemies within: wars waged on behalf of the buried.
She told the the south it would rise again but even in its pomp the centre could never hold. In life the grip would slip, in death the certainties returned. She spoke the language of fear and they loved her because they were afraid. Frightened that someone, somewhere had designs on what was theirs. She let them have own their houses but made them fear the future and forge the past.
The serious and sober said the dancing days were done but they danced in the streets. The ghost had escaped the gatekeepers. There was silence and there was celebration. The scars her successors said had healed bled again. The scabs were not skin, they could be picked, they revealed something raw. The hope and the hate, the aspiration and anguish, something ruptured beyond repair but in this moment it could be rewritten and it could be forgotten.
Under the earth dirt, dust, iron and rust, just another English ghost.