I was on the top deck of an old Routemaster red London bus with 3 mates when we realised that Thatcher was heading towards winning her first election in 1979. We’d eaten some cakes Steve had made earlier and were off to Earls Court in a state of giggling befuddlement to see Dylan on tour. We’d all had a usual dull day in the labs – testing radio isotopes on rats, boiling up some sulphuric acid distillate or mindlessly stress testing bitumen slabs – so a night out in a semi-hallucinogenic state was just what our collective doctors had ordered.
But the euphoria quickly wore off as our youthful metabolism worked overtime. We realised as we arrived in Earls Court that Callaghan’s government had imploded. As Dylan took to the stage, his set resounded to the echos of ‘Crisis, what crisis?’ which the Soar-Away-Sun orchestrated at every opportunity outside in the streets. When Dylan launched into ‘I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more’ we opened our eyes to see the Milk Snatcher about to take control.
It was sobering to think that so many people in that audience would have voted for her: those days, Thatcher seemed to speak to the people on the top of and the bottom of the bus. She spoke to people who attended Bob Dylan concerts, were struggling to make a living for themselves and who saw her and her party as representing them in a way that the Labour Party couldn’t. This wasn’t an evil wicked witch of the west but a homespun shopkeeper who talked straight and found a sympathetic hearing from many of the people she would alienate and whose lives she and her government would later destroy.
Had someone walked upstairs on that bus on the way back to Hounslow and shown us videos from the future – the miners strike, the Wapping story and the South Atlantic saga – we wouldn’t have believed them. Or rather, we would have believed them but only in the same way that we believed that the sky was purple and that a large green toad was driving the bus that night.
Instead, on the way back we sampled Steve’s cakes again and plotted our next night out. Some years later we realised we got the government we deserved.
(Where did this all come from?