It was 20 years ago uh, yesterday
If only I’d remembered to write this post yesterday…
Anyway, just wanted to share my memories of the day Princess Diana died. Not because we were close friends or anything, but because I (along with Kristina and Anne) was literally in the middle of it.
In May 1997, we moved to London with student work visas, which allowed us to work in Britain for six months. Our initial plan was to stay in London a few months, make some money, then spend some time backpacking around Europe. Well, after being in London for a few weeks, we decided to forgo the backpacking bit and just stay in London as long as humanly possible.
It was idyllic (I mean, with twenty years of rose-tinted hindsight.) We found a tiny flat in South Kensington, just off Gloucester Road, and a short walk to Kensington High Street, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and all that fun stuff. We found temp jobs (for a company called Office Angels, which is just…does it even still exist? Yes it does. (Maybe I’m being sexist by thinking it’s sexist. Who said men can’t be angels?)
Anyway, Kristina and I worked in offices around the West End, and Anne worked in a pub. We made friends. We spent our money on beer and rent. It was a glorious summer. Britpop (my favorite music, I was obsessed) was in full swing, the weather was gorgeous, we were young! We had no responsibilities!
One night, we got a phone call in the middle of the night. Or maybe early the next morning (look, it was 20 years ago, okay?) from one of Kristina’s friends, asking if we’d heard the news. We hadn’t, because Diana was killed in the middle of the night for us. We woke up to the news of her death.
It was sad, of course. But what was nuts was how close we were to everything. The tube station we took to work was the Gloucester Road station. If you left the station and walked down Gloucester Road, you’d eventually come to the front door of Kensington Palace. And that’s what everyone (or so it seemed) in the United Kingdom was doing. Walking from the station to the palace, with flowers.
It was nearly impossible to cross the street to get to the pub. Or to walk against the tides of people to get to the station. It was crazy. The front of the palace was a tide of bouquets. Flowers, notes, stuffed animals, everything.
A few days later, Kristina and Anne took a long-planned trip to Amsterdam (where they had originally met.) I was too broke, so I stayed behind. I remember thawing our tiny freezer with a hair dryer, and then leaving the flat to go watch the funeral procession down Kensington High Street.
Seeing the flowers with “Mummy” on top of the casket was the saddest thing in the world.
That’s about it. After it passed, I went back to the flat and probably watched it on TV. I don’t know. And that’s pretty much the whole story. Not exciting, but it’s kind of…interesting to have been so close to it.