In the Montage Room at the BBC, a sunken basement in the depths of Broadcasting House, Martin McDonaghy had just poured himself a coffee. It was only his second of the morning, which meant that today counted as a Good Day: the in-tray was close to empty and although Work Experience Boy (Martin believed that names were only applicable to people with job titles) was having trouble grasping a simple copy and paste task, there was no blighting event on his horizon. Last year’s Boat Race had thrown this year’s coverage into overdrive with almost twice the number of live video links ready to pick out anything in the Thames that didn’t have level 5 security clearance, and a team of video technicians ready to amalgamate the footage into a slick package, all in under 3 minutes.
2012 had seen the Montage Team almost triple in size for the Jubilee and the Olympics, and Martin was enjoying a year where the current affairs were not the kind the public wished to see glorified, or even relived. No, tax cuts and triple-dip recessions were not memories to be emblazoned in a sepia tint with Einaudi predictably tugging at heart-strings. 2013 was a good year to be in the Montage Department.
“Martin! Martin! Martin!” The door burst open; it was Imelda from News. “Martin! She’s dead! Thatcher’s gone. She’s kicked the bucket. Actually dead this time, not just a hospital scare. Genuinely, actually dead. Where’s the footage?!”
“Thatcher, she’s just died. We need montage footage of her ‘best bits’.”
“Oh right, yeah, hang on” Martin was distinctly unimpressed, celebrity culture should be stamped out of the nation. Death was a part of life, so where was the need for obituaries? The coffee was left gently steaming as he swung his chair around and clicked his way into the extensive Obituary Database. He scrolled down through seemingly endless possibilities, all pre-prepared and ready to be rolled immediately: Prince Phillip – Assassination Obituary, Prince Phillip – Natural Death Obituary, President Obama – Terrorist Attack Obituary, all the way past Nicholas Sarkozy – Pelted to Death with Eggs Obituary and Silvio Berlusconi – Auto-erotic Asphyxiation Obituary, until he reached Margaret Thatcher.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m getting there, give me a second!”
But it wasn’t there. There was a Margaret Thatcher – Suicide Obituary, a Margaret Thatcher – Drowning Obituary, even a Margaret Thatcher – Cyanide Poisoning Obituary, but there was no Natural Death option. Nowhere.
“Martin, News are waiting and I can’t stall for much longer.”
“It’s not here.”
“What do you mean?
“It’s not here. It must have been deleted.”
“Shit. We need something now. Something non-controversial. Oh God, @Thatcher’sGhostOfficial has just tweeted “Enjoying a hot choccy by the pearly gates #iknowwherethemilkwent”. If we don’t get something up now we’ll be toast.”
“Can’t you get on the phone to the Nationals? Find out what they’ve got on their websites?”
Martin watched as Imelda fled to the corridor, furiously punching numbers into her blackberry. Moments later she stormed back in,
“Nothing. Absolutely Jack Shit.”
“What do you mean, what about The Times?”
“They said I’d have to become a member and pay monthly if I wanted to use any of their material, but that we could have a preview of their Special Commemoration Policy Crossword…”
“They’ve got an embargo on all other press and News are doing a sponsored Grieve-a-thon to raise money for Hedge Fund Managers. But other than that, they said montages were predictably Emergent Service Worker”
“Idiots. What about the Guardian?”
“The only montage they have is one of Thatcher tripping over different curbs to the soundtrack of The Entertainer. They did say we could use a photo from their Topical Arts section, but it’s called Maggie ‘the’ Thatcher, and is of an artist who is making straw effigies of Thatcher to go on his roof, as a testament to her flammable nature.”
“God, we really are up the shitter. We’ll just have to… have to…”
“Document Twitter’s reaction……”