Monday, February 14, 2005

Charles and Camilla. I'm sooo not interested.

I was looking through some of the newspapers online, and I was surprised to see how many of even the serious papers are devoting space to this. As long as the taxpayer doesn't end up paying extra to subsidise their disco and vol au vents, I really am not interested.

It did get me thinking about previous royal occasions though. The one I most remember was Diana dying. The day after it happened I was watching the television coverage and The Scotsman, who was on holiday in Lithuania with some friends, phoned me to ask if it was true. I don't mean to give the idea that we support the monarchy; we don't particularly. Nor were we special fans of Diana; she seemed a pleasant woman; I think her husband treated her pretty poorly; and it's sad when an attractive mother with two kids dies so young. She did a lot for charity, but if I was given a huge income, a high public profile, and not much to do all day apart from chat to Elton John on the phone or shop for shoes, then I'd do a lot too.

The day before her funeral, which took place on a Saturday, I was going home (I worked in central London at the time)and decided to go to The Mall to see the preparations for the funeral, and all the tributes that had been left. When I got there I bought a disposable camera, because I realised it was probably the only time I would see that sort of scene. The Mall was crammed with people, and filled with flowers and candles. the thing I most remember is the smell: candle wax, scented candles and flowers. There were loads of little stalls set out with Cockney wideboys yelling

"Get yer Princess Diana memorial candles, three for a pound!" as if they were selling cauliflowers. I imagined the emotional exchanges which had taken place all over South London that week.

"Ere bruv, it's awful about Princess Diana, ain't it?"
"Yeah. I reckon the whole nation needs to pay its respects."
"We should go down to Buck House, bruv."
"My sentiments exactly. I'll get the folding table out, you get down the pound shop and buy up their whole stock of candles. See if Sanjay'll give you a bulk discount. We're in the money my son!"
"Lovely jubbly!"

The route had been fenced off, and people had begun to reserve their places, planning to stay overnight in order to be at the front, unfolding deckchairs and arranging blankets and picnics. I overheard a disgruntled woman complaining about a family who had come early, laid out their deckchairs with blankets, cagoules and other belongings, and then disappeared to have a night out in London.
"You're either here or you're not" she muttered to the others in the crowd, unscrewing her thermos of tea. No matter what the occasion or how deep the grief, the English old biddy carries on the fine tradition of griping about queue protocol.

I've still got the pictures. I hope that one day in the future they might be of historical interest to younger people, and I can say that I was there on the eve of the funeral (although for half an hour and only because it wasn't too far out of my way). Mind you, in 45 years' time, when I'm 80, if you hear a bunch of young people saying
"Blimey, let's go, it's that strange old woman coming who wants to show us funeral pictures all the time." then you'll know who it is.