Diana, Princess of Wales. Lady Di.
Princess Diana was a woman who courted controversy all her life. She divided opinion everywhere she went but appeared to be so loved by all and sundry that it was almost sacrilege to say anything against her. At the time.
I’m sure there is little doubt that the Royal family (or the establishment) used her to produce an heir and a spare as the saying goes while Charles’s heart lay firmly elsewhere with his first love, Camilla.
The tragedy in the Pont de L’Alma Tunnel firmly cemented Diana in the hearts of her adoring public as a woman who could do no wrong. Nobody could comment adversely after the tragedy of a young, vibrant woman dying in such terrible circumstances. It was an accident that robbed three people of their lives. And the boys of their mum.
But Camilla has stood the test of time as Charles' wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. She has kept her mouth shut as controversy raged around her and she goes about her business in quiet dignity. She’s not beautiful, she’s a big raggedly, she doesn’t wear posh clothes well, she nips out the back for a quick cigarette and people are starting to admire her for it. Especially women of a certain age who see a kindred spirit in her and not a clothes horse. She appeared on the TV on Christmas Eve visiting Battersea dogs home. The programme was about the dogs, not Camilla, but there was a little bit of footage of her getting out the car with a Jack Russell (both rescued) under each armpit, Dogs were handed back and forth as handshakes and formal introductions were made. It was obvious she was a little uncomfortable with that and wanted to get on with seeing the kennels.
Camilla and the rescue Russell, picture from the Daily Mail
The presenter, Paul O’Grady had dressed a litter of ten puppies in Xmas jumpers… well was desperately trying to every time the camera went back to him. He was involved in yet another tussle of ears, tails, teeth, fur and pee. Then Camilla came in, curtsey, handshakes, then Camilla got on her knees to say hello to the puppies and was swamped in tails, fur balls, jumpers etc. then she half turned and asked for a hand to help her get up. She earned a lot of fans doing that and letting it be filmed.
I have been to Hyde Park twice to try to find the Diana memorial fountain and failed, so in intrepid blogger style I set off for a third time, map in hand, the significant other following behind with camera.
The problem is, it’s not a fountain. Well not in the uppy downy sense.
This in the memorial fountain
We found it in the southwest corner of the park, south of the Serpentine lake. It has been there since 6 July 2004 when it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth with Diana's younger brother Charles Spencer, her ex-husband Prince Charles, and her sons William and Harry also in attendance.
It caused controversy at the time, and I’m not sure about its popularity now. The most common thing overheard around it is ‘is that it?’ with a huge degree of disappointment. Ok it was designed by Kathryn Gustafson, (cost £3.6 million) to provide a fitting memorial for the princess and does credit to the amazing person that she was."
It has 545 individual pieces of Cornish granite made into an oval stone fountain through which runs some water. The guide book says it is surrounded by lush verdant grass, it’s surrounded by mud. They reworked the area around the fountain to improve the drainage but frankly, it looked a mess.
It’s 3 to 6 m wide and it runs at an angle so the water gets pumped back up to the top.
The two sides are different, to reflect the two sides of Diana’s life; happy and turmoil.
It was supposed to allow paddling and contemplation with folk standing in the water, but three girls were hospitalised soon after it opened. It was very slippy and it was closed. Beautiful but dangerous. Maybe that is a truer comment on Diana.
I prefer the view looking the other way
So, in December 2004, another alteration project was started. This involved work on the drainage, together with laying new hard surfaces on some of the most frequently walked areas of the site and the planting of a special hard wearing rye grass mix in others.
I am not particularly fond of the royal family, they do a good job. But then so do I.
I went to work on the day of Diana’s funeral.
Pier on the Serpentine
I got my degree from Princess Anne I refused to curtesy, I had worked for it. But she and I got chatting about horses and that was that.
She was at our Uni three times. (Anne I mean ) She sat on a filing cabinet at our tutorial point . She explained that she had just had her anti malarial tablets and felt terrible, so against protocol we all sat down and had a great chat about homeopathy!
I met her again at a guide dog thing, she asked how I had arrived and what the Edinburgh traffic was like as she was in a hurry to get to the rugby. I once had a chat with Prince Charles about flat feet. He was ok, professionally interested. Interested in my accent and where I was from.
I met Diana at the uni too. She’s a good eight inches taller than me and was two stone lighter, she looked like bones with fancy clothes draped over them. Got the impression there was not a lot going on between her ears. But I know from other students that she sparked into life downstairs at the kiddies clinic where she was talking animatedly about the babies and their treatments so I guess it’s each to their own.
Famously, she hated Scotland.
Twilight in Hyde Park
Just reading that back, it sounds as though I move in high circles but I trained at the British School of Osteopathic Medicine, that's in the middle of London, ten minutes walk from Buckingham Palace and Charles has always had a huge interest in complementary therapy, Anne was a patron of our college hence they were always popping in and out !!