The Colour of Snow
It was a linen jacket the colour of snow with an embroidered border that ran down the front and around the cuff of each sleeve. I wore it with white linen trousers and beige lace-up shoes. There was a string of pearls around my neck and my hair was down. It was the last night of August 1997 and we’d been out for dinner with friends. I returned home that night, turned on the television and saw a newsman with tears in his eyes. There on the screen was the twisted black wreckage of a car in a French tunnel and the coldly stark words on the bottom, Princess Diana Dead in Paris.
Psychologists will tell you that my memory of this night, right down to the shoes I was wearing, is clear because it is frozen. The brain seems to bathe itself in certain hormones during traumatic events, particularly public ones, freezing these memories like flashbulbs. They remain ever available to us, forever pressed in the book of our minds. We can take them out to view at will, their colours are fresh as the day they were made. Ask anyone of a certain age where they were when President Kennedy was killed, or on the blue morning in September when the Twin Towers were attacked. They’ll be able to tell you.
For me, that horrible memory of the night Diana died remains as clear as air and though the photographers that had chased her into that tunnel were sitting stone faced in a van by the time I turned on the television, it was already being reported that a few of those individuals were still snapping pictures of her as she lay dying in the back seat of that car. I remember the funeral. I remember her sons following behind her flower draped coffin, their heads bowed as they stared at the street as they walked. I remember the eulogy given by her only brother as he laid the blame for her death squarely on the shoulders of the so-called press that had always felt justified in any invasion of her privacy, right down to the last moments she drew breath.
While my memory of that night remains frozen in time, apparently the memories of some are more fluid, for now, it seems, it all begins again. In the past several days Italian and Irish newspapers have printed invasive photographs of Diana’s daughter-in-law, pictures taken as she relaxed in a supposedly secluded French hideaway alone with her new husband. Never mind the juvenile mindset of those publishing these shots, (apparently they are convinced that the grainy images of a topless princess will provoke the international public into a frenzy of magazine buying), pathetic indeed the person older than twelve who finds these images engrossing. I have read some women commenting that they “certainly wouldn’t worry about it if I had a body like hers”, but I seriously doubt they’d be quite so cavalier if they opened a newspaper or flipped on the internet to see photographs of themselves in their birthday suits for all the world, and their fathers, to see. Yes, it is a gross violation of her privacy. Do we really need to ask this question?
I hope this doesn’t change the new princess. I hope it doesn’t wipe the open smile off her face and make her want to retreat to walled gardens and inner rooms. The world needs the light and beauty this couple provides and it would be a shame indeed to see their easy graciousness negatively altered. I hope those tempted by such grotesqueness can be squelched and these invasions are not allowed to escalate until history repeats. God knows, I don’t want to remember another linen jacket the colour of snow.
There will always be those deformed by greed, its tentacles reach into every aspect of society today. And there will always be those who believe nothing or no one is too sacred not to be sacrificed on the altar of capitalism. I do not believe this. I believe having these pictures on the newsstands of the world only serves to cheapen us all. I believe the people responsible for these zoom-lensed photographs should be sued, at the very least. Personally I’d like to see them tarred and feathered with their pointy little heads in the stocks of a public square.
Sometimes the old ways are best.