Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Remembering Di

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at my paper journal for 1997- and so it was. Also rather embarassing. I was very earnest back then. And earnest over stuff that now seems trivial.

I was going to show you my entry for February 28, 1997- which is all about Schubert- but, moving ahead, I came across what I had to say about Diana's death and funeral and changed my mind.  Here are the edited highlights.

I suppose I could save this stuff till the actual anniversary but- well- I might have forgotten about it by then... 

31/8/97: Got up this morning, with a cold, to the news of the death of the Princess of Wales. All day, off and on, we've followed the news coverage- from the piecing together of what happened in the Paris underpass to the arrival of the coffin at RAF Brize Norton. My first thought was this death will be one of the defining moments for my generation, but after 12 hours of BBC solemnity and hyperbole, it just seems like something that's happened. They showed scenes from the marriage that made me want to kick Charles's head in- for instance he had fainted in Canada (she was bulimic) and he made a rambling, jokey speech about it being because she was expecting sextuplets. Crass, arrogant, tasteless, unfunny. Don't let him anywhere near the throne. I never cared for her much, but I think she had guts.

1/9/97: The driver was drunk, the paparazzi swarmed over the wreck taking photos before calling the emergency services; the most famous woman in the world dies in a welter of significant detail, as if this were art not happenstance. The funeral, on Saturday, will be the biggest national mourning jag since Churchill's, with all sporting events (except the Highland Games) cancelled and most businesses closing for the day or the duration. The media go along with the national wallow, with no-one (that I've seen) brave enough yet to speak of the egotism, the display, the self-dramatisation, the acts of spite. She was an icon and is now a martyred icon, like Marilyn or JFK.

2/9/97: Archetypes to which Diana conforms: the virgin martyr, the mater dolorosa, the virgin mother, the betrayed and avenging wife (Medea), the ministering angel. 

She was always virginal. Her dodgy affair with the dodgy son of a dodgy father- their distinctly dodgy liebestod in a speeding car with flashlights popping all around- does not impinge upon, does not affect her essential virginity.

3/9/97: The mourning for Diana has developed into a great outpouring of national grief....Commentators note how the popular clamour has over-ridden protocol and caused the authorities to keep revising and adapting their funeral plans. On previous occasions the people accepted whatever arrangements the Palace was pleased to impose. Now the people dictate. It is a revolution in the way things are done in this country. What Diana failed to do in her life, she has achieved in death.

5/9/97: My mother...thinks the Diana mourning fest is over the top. Well, yes, it is, but so much the better I think. Goodbye Brief Encounter, hello emotional excess. The British have found themselves again. We are a sentimental, effusive, romantic nation, only we repressed all that for the sake of the Empire. The Queen, with one arm twisted up her back, appeared on telly to deliver a tribute to her ex-daughter-in-law.  My mother approved and the telly pundits adored but I thought, "what a hard-faced,hard-hearted, lipless old bat". There wan't a word in the tribute (read off an autocue) that suggested any personal aquaintance with the deceased- or any personal anything. She doesn't get it. She just doesn't get it!  As my mother said, "Our generation doesn't wear its emotions on its sleeve." Well, they had their reasons. Two world wars didn't help. But thankfully we're out of the valley of the shadow now and can emote again.I remember Churchill's funeral ( was 14). I remember dutiful and obedient crowds and dignity and pride. But this funeral is about people power. It is a carnival of grief.And ridiculous old Elton John will be singing in the Abbey. Yes!

6/9/97: We watched the progress of the funeral all morning- from the roads round Hyde Park to the Abbey to the gates of Althorp. Afterwards I felt quite tearful, as if I had suffered a personal loss- which I haven't.

7/9/97: There are still people flocking to the Dianic pilgrimage sites- unable to let go. Me I feel purged, but it was an odd week, with something oppressive in the air you either gave into or fought against. I've known a few times when collective emotion has swept the nation: the Falkands War (the Gulf War less so), this year's Labour election vistory and now Diana's death. these are times when the nation resonates like a hive and the dissenting individual has to exercise some willpower not to be subsumed.

11/9/97: The Diana cult is idolatry said someone on The Moral Maze this morning...Other members of the panel used the opportunity to sneer at democracy, at the taste of the crowds, at Tony Blair for "jumping on the gun carriage" and to suggest that there were parallels to be drawn with the Nuremberg rallies. I thought it was all a bit mean-spirited. There were tens of thousands of people on the streets of London; black, white, straight, gay, all ages, all classes; everyone was friendly, no-one got mugged, the mourning was dignified, unhysterical; the anger (and there was a lot of anger seething away) never got out of control. The human race en masse does not normally behave with such restraint. I think we should regard this as an achievement, as a tranche of good news. It was a demonstration of human decency on a grand scale in celebration of someone who- for all her faults- was decidedly a good woman.

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