Monday, June 16, 2008

Column, September 4, 2007

IN years to come it will be like the question: “What did you do in the war Daddy?” – What did you do when Di died?
Strange now, 10 years later, how there seem to be more people wondering at the mass explosion of very public mourning that broke out after her untimely death in a Paris tunnel than there are people who admit to the flower-throwing, grizzling grief we saw in those tumultuous days afterward.
There must have been some doing the grieving, I’ve seen the pictures again this week – grown men blubbing like babies as they gently placed bunches of flowers at the edge of the growing carpets that were laid outside the Royal palaces.
But it was worse than that – even though the histrionics displayed by those who never knew her and had never met her was bad enough. What was worse was the self-appointed grief police who were on patrol in our pubs, clubs and offices as the nation mourned.
You needed to show you were suitably bereft by:
Not smiling
Expressing how you ‘could not believe she was gone’ every 10 minutes or so
Warning prophetically that this would be the end of the monarchy
Solemnly intoning ‘the queen of people’s hearts’ when yet another clip of her appeared on TV
If you weren’t doing any or all of the above to the satisfaction of the grief police you were no doubt a heartless swine who probably tortured kittens for a hobby.
The only people smiling, and not even they were doing it in public, were the florists. And how is a bunch of soon to be wilted flowers an appropriate tribute. Save us from this strange desire the British seem to have adopted to place flowers ‘in tribute’ to someone. It had started before Diana of course, with little roadside shrines to those departed in crashes, but it attained its full expression in the carpets of decaying foliage that gathered outside the Royal palaces.
There is a word for what went on in Britain in those September days 10 years ago – weird.
I’m sorry, but if your public outpourings of grief for a woman you had ever known or even met are such that her funeral is taken out of the hands of those who did love her and becomes a public occasion, you’re weird.
What those grieving ‘their princess’ seemed to forget was that she was the mother of two young sons and they above anyone else had a right to grieve.
And yet what happened to them? Were they allowed to cry for their mother at her funeral like any other normal young boy?
No, they had to follow her coffin on a gun carriage because the crowds clamouring for a state occasion would settle for nothing less and certainly nothing private.
That’s why there seem to be more people know who wonder at such public mourning than there are people who actually did it – after all if you had denied two young boys the right to properly mourn their dead mum all because of your overwhelming compulsion to hurl daffs at her hearse, you might have got a bit reticent as well.
Even now, 10 years after, there are still people who regard her death as public property. There were calls for her memorial service to be broadcast on giant screens for the inevitable crowds that would turn up – which would have seemed a bit like overkill to the handfuls of foreign tourists who were hanging about.
There are still people who think they own her memory to the extent that they can dictate who attends her memorial service and that the Duchess of Cornwall was persona non grata, even though she was invited by William and Harry.
That is weird.
One woman even said she felt like she had won the lottery when it was announced that Camilla would not be attending. You would have to have a fairly empty life I would suggest to express emotions like that about a memorial service for a woman you didn’t even know.
Perhaps that’s the reason for the public outpouring of grief that happened 10 years ago. The buttoned-up British finally, briefly, found a person they could have a good blub over in public and no-one would think the worse of them.
Now I think many of those who grieved so loud and long are slightly embarrassed by their actions back then. Perhaps that’s why, for her memorial service last week, the giant screens called for by some national papers were not needed because only a smattering of people turned up as spectators.
That left the memorial service to those who really knew and loved her – her two sons. Which is how it should have been 10 years ago.

IT has always been said that it is unwise to pick a fight with a solitary young drinker in Hereford.
Chances are the young man might well be from the nearby SAS headquarters.
However, as one hoodlum in Harlech found out, there has been an unforeseen result of the Army’s deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.
He took a dislike to two young men having a quiet pint together in Harlech. He left and was unwise enough to return with a knife.
They were only armed with their bare hands…and combat experience in Afghanistan.
I dare say that if you’ve spent several months having the Taliban fire rocket-propelled grenades at you, a drunk waving a knife in Harlech might seem an amusing diversion.
In the understated terminology of court proceedings it was said that he was ‘disarmed’ by the soldiers. Suffice to say he was duly dealt with – and I’m hoping it was none too gently – and delivered into the arms of the law.
I hope the two brothers in arms went on to enjoy their night out. They deserve bravery awards for their service in Afghanistan, but they shouldn’t really have to earn them on a night out in their home town.

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