I took a roll up to London yesterday, to Trafalgar square. Lyn was having a bath, and on such occasions I often go out. I felt I needed to go, to see the crowds which had apparently gathered outside South Africa house. What I found up there, in central London on a cold but bright december afternoon, both humbled and amazed me: A group of South African women, chanting and dancing in a circle, a small group gathered around them. It felt kid of eerie, sort of magical and mesmerising, yet happy. I do not quite know how to describe it: it was as if a piece of some lush land far to the south had been transported into the sprawling concrete metropolis in order to honour a great man. I found it incredible.
I sat there a while listening to the rhythmic words I did not know the meaning of, and then, after popping in to Waterstone’s, headed back along whitehall. Passing the entrance to Downing Street, I gave my usual two-fingered-salute to the current occupant. I put even more venom into it than usual yesterday, furious at the hypocrisy of a Prime Minister now lamenting the death of a ‘great man’ who he had once advocated executing. The sheer gall of the right, now hailing Mandela as a secular saint when when they had once vilified him as a terrorist is sickening, but I digress.
I then headed to the statue of Mandela in Parliament Square, wryly noting to myself how his statue and Churchill’s had been placed at opposite corners as if to keep the two from arguing – somehow I don’t think those two would have got on. There, too, a crowd had gathered, and again I sat a while to listen to the singing. But it was getting dark, and before long I decided it was time to head home. On my way back to the tube station, however, I decided on such a night going back by boat might be more fun.
At that I caught the clipper. Getting aboard wasn’t that hard, but I did not think it would take so long to get to north Greenwich. I got home at least an hour later than I would have done, tired, hungry, and fancying a beer. Yet it had been another cool day, one upon which I had seen the magical sight of a par of Africa being brought to London in order to honour one of that continent’s, and the world’s, greatest heroes.