One week ago Margaret Thatcher died from a heart attack in a London hotel. Since then an entire nation has exhausted itself in a cacophony of reverence, vitriol, mourning and jubilation. But mostly the death of Margaret Thatcher has resolved into a pervasive and yearning nostalgia: Thatcher’s critics have sought solace in the warm bosom of late 1930s show tunes, while her supporters in the tabloids have attempted to resurrect the red scare doting on the noteworthy proto-Bolsheviks like twitterer Joey Barton and bearded Frankie Boyle, the vanguard of the new “lefty” blight.
To the forefront of the nostalgic battle over the accurate recollection of the Thatcher era has been the resurfacing of the debate over jungle canyon rope-bridges. These almost mythological constructs marked the culmination of a post-World War II government initiative to connect British jungle communities to the mainland. In fact, incessant “lefty” film director Ken Loach has recently documented the rise and fall of the jungle canyon rope-bridges in his Spirit of 45. Loach argues that the bridges signified a British society that wanted to reach out to marginalised communities, especially those divided by large canyons. With Thatcher, however, came the imminent demise of state owned rope-bridges.
Thatcherism proclaimed jungle canyon rope-bridges to be economically unviable and detrimental to British competiveness on the international stage. For Thatcher, if people could just stroll across the bridges to get the basic sustenance required by life then they would have zero incentive to ever do anything for themselves. To counter the burgeoning “rope-clinger” culture, the Thatcher government meticulously stripped the bridges and challenged those living in jungle communities, separated from the mainland via canyons, to scale the canyons aided only by their own grit, determination and hard work; “I do not know anyone who has gotten to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it will get you pretty near.” Thatcher Thatcher jungle canyon rope-bridge snatcher her subjects used to chide from across the jungle canyon divide.
This is, of course, all second hand information on my part. As someone born in the 1980s I’ve never actually seen a jungle canyon rope-bridge, because Thatcher had stripped them all by then, hadn’t she! My curiosity was peaked by the wave of nostalgia for the rope-bridges so I decided to visit the known location of a former traversal node. The scene I witnessed there I scarcely want to remember let alone recount. Yet, in the service of you dear reader I will progress. I stalked to the edge of a clearing where I saw, among the decayed pillars of wood that once supported the crossing, a milling of people and ominous contraptions: there was a sturdy van with “Big Lottery” embossed on the side; a television crew fronted by that minor celebrity; and a vast and difficult obstacle course on the jungle end. I watched as a herd of people were rushed through the obstacle course – tripping, bleeding, wheezing – as the television crew filmed. The few who survived the course were petted by the minor celebrity as she gushed about how their efforts had completely changed her perceptions of jungle folk. After the television crew had obtained all their footage, the obstacle course survivors were winched across the jungle canyon where they were presented, by a man from the Big Lottery, with ten pound coins, a handshake and a commemorative mug from the Queen’s Jubilee. They were then sent on their way to live in society with the warning that if they failed to transform their ten pounds into a viable product or skill, they would be winched back to the jungle.
Gasping for breath I recoiled back into the underbrush. I tried to cry, laugh, holler, yelp or even vomit. But I couldn’t, I just gagged silently. There was nothing. I had nothing left.