Diana, Princess of Wales

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, arguably the most famous person in the world.

During most of the teenage years, I was an anglophile, deply fascinated by the British royal family. I don’t know if it was caused by the Arthurian stories I read as a child or Kenneth Brannagh masterful portrayal of Henry V, which came out when I was 14. All I know is that at that age I would spend hours at the British Council in Rio, pouring over encyclopedias reading everything I could about all the different Henries, Edwards, Georges… I had a predilection for the Plantagenets, the Tudors (who doesn’t love the Tudors?), and the Windsors. I collected every scrap of news about the Queen, Charles, and Diana.

I simply adored Diana. She stirred my imagination. She was like a heroine from the Barbara Cartland novels I used to read at 13, whom I later found out to be Diana’s step-grandmother, only that in her case the storybook wedding didn’t end the way she imagined.

I remember well the day she died. I was in Brazil, recently back from 5 weeks in Canada, and we were visiting my grandmother. I had slept in and all I remember is my mother waking me up and saying “Lady Di was in a car crash”. I shrugged “shurely she must be ok”, I thought. Then my mother said it looked really serious, the boyfriend died. I became a little more alert, jumped out of bed and turned on the TV. I had no doubt she would make it. She couldn’t simply die like that, could she? I think it was then that they announced her death. I think I spent the next few days glued to the TV, accompanying every minute of the few days after the death, the Royal family in Balmoral, the coming back to London, the funeral. I cried as if I lost a good friend.

As most fans of Diana, I hated Charles and thought it was all his fault. Now I feel deeply for the man. I understand him better. I can see more clearly the manipulative side of Diana. I can also see how courageous she was in taking up the causes she championed. She kissed AIDS victims in a time when ignorance led most people shun them like they had the bubonic plague, she hugged leprosy patients in Asia, she literally touched all the people she met. She might not have been the brightest people around, but her compassion and concern for the most downtrodden more than made up for it. In an article for this week’s Time magazine, Catherine Mayer  says:

Though friends say he was just a distraction, her choice of two Muslim boyfriends looked set to test how deep the tolerance of New Labour’s Britain would go. This much is plain: she had long since escaped or shed the attitudes of many white Britons. After her death, Trevor Phillips, a black Labour politician who now chairs Britain’s Commission for Equality and Human Rights, told Newsweek Diana “embraced the modern, multicultural, multiethnic Britain without reservatio.” Unlike most Europeans, she had “no flinch, no anxiety about race… for nonwhite Britons, she was like a beacon in the darkness.”

In the end of the article, Mayer concludes by saying:

But the fact that she was – undeniably – on occasion manipulative, deceitful and self-centered should not blind us to the fact that, during her 17 years in the limelight, she had grown as Britain had grown, changed as Britain had changed, and that by the time she died she had something increasingly vital to offer. Arbiter [press secretary responsible for Diana’s funeral arrangements] recalls a strange, muted, mournful night after the Princess died when he encountered a group of wheelchair users on their way to lay flowers at Kensington Palace. “They were saying, ‘Who’s going to speak for ys, now?’ They had a point. The disabled: who’s going to speak for them? The AIDS patients: who’s going to speak for them? The drug addicts, the down-and-outs, the homeless, the elderly? She was their voice and drew attention to their plight.” Arbiter pauses. “She’d have made a good Queen, you know. But that’s it. She’s gone.” Gone? As anyone who knows  anything about the strains that make up modern Britain will tell you, that is very far from true.

The magazine includes also good articles about Charles, and the princes William and Harry.

Watching the news today, I couldn’t help but feel moved all over again. Harry’s words during service made me cry and feel for the two young men. I leave you with his words:

Air Show

When I came home from lunch today, I knocked on the door and Alan unlocked it hastily before running off. “Was he in the shower?”, I wondered. But no, he was on our balcony, with half his body hanging out, almost falling off, following the flight of a World War II fighter plane, escorted by an F18 and an F16. Once they flew over, he looked at me with a grin from ear to ear and babbled as fast as an excited 6 year-old “did you see that?? did you see that?? they’ve been going around all morning!!”. He proceeded to list me all the airplanes he saw, what they did, and show me his goosebumps from the excitement.

Yes, I confess. My husband is an airplane freak.

Even after 37 years working for an airline, he still gets as excited as a three year-old child when he sees an airplane. And it doesn’t really matter what kind of place it is. In Montreal, we lived about 15 minutes away (by car) from the airport so it was quite normal to see airplanes flying low on their way either to or from the airport. Sometimes we would be driving along the highway and he would suddenly look up and point “look! a airplane!!”. Sure enough, there would be the usual 737 or A320 getting ready to land. All I could do was amaze myself at how he still found that exciting after seeing that every day and yell “watch where you are going!”.

So, after 11 years together, I can proudly say that I can now tell whether that airplane flying way above us is a Boeing or an Airbus (or an Embraer/Bombardier), and I can always tell, even from all the distance, an A340 from an A330, or even an A340 from a 747…

Needless to say, we’ll be attending the Air Show this weekend near the CNE grounds. The show starts at 1 pm on saturday, sunday and monday. We’ll probably go tomorrow after our morning at the market…