Archive for the ‘princess diana’ Category

Loss of Good

Today 20 years ago I entered the day at a party in Tufnell Park (where we lived then) hosted by journalist Maggie O’Kane and her husband John, a Guardian editor. Despite the late night I found myself waking early with the radio on quietly on which I heard first about the accident of Diana, Princess of Wales, then early reports of her death. I told my Other Half when she woke. Despite being not in the least royalist and not particularly interested in Lady Di during her lifetime, I felt a sadness at the loss of someone who was so evidently kind-hearted and fundamentally good.

princess diana mario testino photograph

by Mario Testino

My Mrs had left something at the party and asked me to go get it once the time was decent – it was a Sunday morning. When I was back at Maggie’s flat, John already had a conspiracy theory worked out for the ‘murder’. Occupational hazard of being a journo I guess.

Later in the day we went into town and had lunch al fresco in Covent Garden. There was a copy of the Sunday Mail at the restaurant. On the last-minute-changed front page was wailing about the tragic loss of the people’s princess: inside, too late to change, was an ugly, snidey piece with a photo taken secretly in a gym from above of her. Caught out in their rank hypocrisy.

princess di josef locke hear my song premiere


I crossed paths with Diana only once. It was at the premiere of the movie ‘Hear My Song’ at the Odeon Marble Arch (formerly the Disney cinema). I had a seat by the aisle and she walked close, breezed blondely by. The Irish singer Josef Locke, the main character of the film (played by Adrian Dunbar who had invited us along), attended that night and sang her Danny Boy. I still have a white kerchief with embroidered text they gave away to mark the occasion at the back of my sock drawer. (I’ll add a photo when I get back to within reach of my socks. – done)

handkerchief Hear My Song film movie premiere 3 july 1992

To mark today I bought, in semi-ironic spirit, a small Charles & Di wedding dish in a junk shop in Carlingford, Republic of Ireland a few weeks ago. It cost 3 euros. They are pretty much ten a penny (plus Brexit currency rate) over there.


prince charles lady diana spencer marriage 29 july 1981 dish

bought in Carlingford, Co. Louth – August 2017

History but Not My Story

I’m currently working on a family history project to do with the end of the British Empire, which is how come I found this time-line on a website I stumbled across yesterday called Nations’ MemoryBank. It’s the first part of an overview of the 20th Century, running just over the millennium border up to the present, and what a peculiar overview it is – I thought it was satirical at first glance. The ‘supported by the Daily Telegraph’ logo at the bottom may give a clue as to why the historical landmarks featured have been picked out (I haven’t edited them in any way – there’s nothing between the events listed below). I have taken the liberty of [reading between the lines in square brackets]…

2005 Suicide bombers kill 52 people on London’s transport system [be afraid of foreigners]Civil partnerships give same-sex couples legal rights [uh oh, gays]
2001 Islamic terrorists crash aircraft on targets in New York and Washington [be very afraid of foreigners, they cause disasters]
1997 Labour wins the general election, with Tony Blair as Prime Minister [what a disaster]Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a car crash in Paris [another disaster, probably caused by drunk foreigners – they’re such crap drivers even when they’re sober]
1994 First women priests are ordained by the Church of England [uh oh, women]
1992 Channel Tunnel opens, linking London and Paris by rail [oh no, we’re connected to foreigners now]
1984 12-month ‘Miners’ Strike’ over pit closures begins [uh oh, workers]IRA bombers strike at the Conservative conference in Brighton [be afraid of foreigners]
1982 Argentina invades the British territory of the Falkland Islands [more bloody foreigners]
1981 Racial tensions spark riots in Brixton and other areas [uh oh, blacks]
1979 Conservative Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain’s first female Prime Minister [a ray of hope]IRA kill the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten [be afraid of foreigners]
1978/1979 Strikes paralyse Britain during the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’ [uh oh, unions]
1978 World’s first test-tube baby is born in Oldham [uh oh, scientists]
1973 Britain joins the European Economic Community [be afraid of foreigners – they’ll rob us of our sovereignity…]
1971 Decimalised currency replaces ‘pounds, shillings and pence’ […and our heritage – it makes much more sense to count in twelves]

Di Killer Queen

princess diana

Just finished watching Stephen Frears’ film ‘The Queen’ – well made and moving. Reminds me of two times my path crossed royalty.

When I saw Princess Diana at the premiere of ‘Hear My Song’, Adie Dunbar‘s movie, at the Odeon Marble Arch. Old Josef Locke got up on stage and sang Danny Boy to her.

The other occasion was when I met Prince Phillip at a Barnardo’s conference at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster (The Wife’s Conference Centre for him i guess). Somehow I knew, even when he was right over the other side of the room, that he was going to come over to me. His yellow teeth would have been stinky on anyone less rich. He asked me what I was doing there, I explained I made films for Barnardo’s. “Do they pay you properly then?” he asked with his famous tact.

The Queen I’ve only ever seen when I walked onto Fleet Street one day only to see the whole royal family drive by on their way back from Saint Paul’s from some kind of memorial service.

I remembered, watching the movie, being in Nevers in France when Charles married Diana and not being bothered to watch the wedding, which surprised my French hosts. I had vague republican tendencies even at that tender age.

The night Diana died I had been at a party at Maggie O’Kane‘s in Tufnell Park. I heard the sad news at around 5 in the morning on the radio in my bed at 19 Carleton Road – where, the following week in the living room I watched the funeral procession leaving London through Hendon and my childhood manor. When I went back to Maggie’s house the next day to pick up something, her husband John Mullen, also a Guardian journo, already had a conspiracy theory. That’s journos for you.

It must have been that Sunday we were in town, lunching at an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden, when I read one of the Sunday papers, the Mail i think – inside was the usual critical stuff about Diana (less topical, more feature-type pieces), in direct contrast to the breaking news on the front which was already canonising her. That’s journos for you.

As Blair says in the film, she made a lot of people happy. And she did a lot of good. So I suppose it’s good to have those strange days captured in this film. Those strange days when my Irish Republican sister-in-law went down to the sea of flowers at Buckingham Palace.

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