Monday, September 17, 2012

The Colour of Snow

 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.


  1. Your white outfit sounds lovely. I was in a queue for tea and coffee at a friends house, where a bunch of us in a running club had gathered to do the Bellingham Fell Race in Northumberland. It was the next morning and we were all stunned at hearing the news report.

    The Duchess of Cambridge is still a class act. She's taken on a tough job and I suspect she's mentally pretty tough. I don't know about the beheading, but it does look as though there will be some significant financial consequences for the Irish newspaper.

    I was thinking about how France is a republic (who beheaded their monarchs) and Ireland has its own nasty history with England. Neither country will be respecters of the British Royal family. Still, the decision to publish those pictures was, as you said, infantile and tasteless. Besides, I'm more interested in seeing Kate in her clothes than out of them!

  2. Very well said Pamela. They say the camera was a mile away!

    I remember vividly the dream I had the night Diana
    died. I was in a ground floor hotel room, on the corner with a roadside view. I saw a black limousine had crashed outside and I tried to tel 999 but knew this would not work as we were not in the UK. I took the sheets of the bed and told everyone to rip them into one inch bandages. When I awoke the terrible news came on the radio. Years later I stood outside the Paris Ritz, it was the hotel in my dream.

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  4. Here, here for old ways are best!!! I would bring a bag of old squishy fruit to throw at the small minded who obviously lack - sad souls.

  5. Having agreed with all the above sentiments, it is correct that we can and should expect privacy... but disrobing, despite in a setting of privacy is really asking for trouble.. I know that these days, modesty is not a word used much, but it would have been better to be more modest and only be bare for your husband or lover, than for all the world to see... there will always be someone waiting to photograph, and with cameras on mobiles, you are being watched the whole time without knowing.. It was a faux pas on her part, but its still wrong that they took them and then published to the world,.. she will know now just how awful the paps are*

  6. What a beautifully written post! I could not agree more!

  7. Nicely written! I too have the memory of when we heard the news of Diana firmly implanted into my memory. Will never forget that day. I am keeping my hopes up for Kate and William. Shame on those photographers, shame on those who buy the magazine and shame on those who think this is no big deal. It is.

  8. I do remember clearly the night Diana died....watching on tv in my apartment with my boyfriend. We first heard she was injured and watched hoping she was ok, only to learn she died. I do think the press is ridiculous in going after photos of famous people...especially the royals. But.....I have never found the need to go around topless outside....whether i'm in a remote location or not. And I've had some wild times with past boyfriends and none included going topless outside.

    I know they are both fully aware that they are followed and of great interest to all the paparazzi. I am not famous....and I will never go around topless no matter how remote the location and you can bet if I were famous....I'd for sure keep my clothes on when outside.

    Not really feeling sorry for her over this. She should have known better.

  9. I will sign that petition for Tarring & Feathering !
    I completely agree , the excess of the " press" in gathering not News but Garbage, Trivia, Ugliness and doing their best to Humiliate people who are so much better than the members of the press.

    I remember that night well also, I remember lying on the sofa in a darkened living room listening to WQXR radio in NY, they played Pavanne for a Dead Princess ( Ravel) and I lay there with my cat and wept.

    I think one of the requirements to be a tabloid photographer is not to have a conscience or respect for anything or anyone.

    besos, C

  10. FYI .. Prince William and his wife were miles from the road where the photographers were hiding. She was alone with her husband, she was not on a beach or with other people and taking her top off. She thought she was alone with her loved one.

  11. you said what it's really all about
    . . . greed.
    it's what seems to be running the
    entire world.
    maybe it always has.
    only now it seems worse.
    the old ways might have been best!
    since the golden rule is
    non-existent now.

  12. Beautiful post!

    We had just moved to Montecito; and our daughter and son-in-law had a lovely party to welcome us!

    My son-in-law said "Oh Penny; I'm so sorry Lady Diana was killed on the night of your party!!

    A perfect example of the "bitter" with the "sweet"!

    I was in France a full 2 years later; and saw many "memorials" (with fresh flowers) all over the place.

    I agree with everything you said!

  13. Just found your blog and love, love, love it. You had me hooked at the picture of Paul and Linda. It is one of my favorites too. Jumped to Pinterest and am following you there also.

  14. P.S. I think Edward might enjoy meeting Dudley, my basset hound!

  15. I saw some of the photos on the news...shots of William and Kate from the back - not the front. I thought they looked sweet and loving. Even if I'd seen front photos, why would I think anything else? I can understand why the family is upset, but for me, there's nothing very remarkable about a married couple spending some down time in the sun, applying sunscreen and walking hand in hand.
    I was on Cape Cod when we heard the news on Sunday morning that Diana was dead. I couldn't believe it.

  16. I'm always intrigued by what you will post next as you make us think ;) I remember details as they emerged on the news that late night when the program I was watching was interrupted and knew right away what had really happened. In the case of Kate, William, and also Harry, they are all young still and don't think far ahead of consequences sometimes, but in my mind they did nothing wrong but get caught by a camera..wish I felt as free as they did to frolic in this life a bit more before I die...

  17. I was living in Italy when Diana died. I got a call from a friend early in the morning. She didn't say good morning, or hello, just "have you heard" and when I replied "what" there was a long silence . . .

    It is a little different in England. Really. It is kind of something I am tempted to say "every" young English woman does on holiday. Go topless. I am sure that is a sweeping generalisation but it is extremely common. You take a vacation to find some sun (sadly missing even in August in England) and you go to the south of France or Spain, and you go topless. I did it as a young woman, all my English friends did it, you were the odd one on those crowded beaches if you had a top on! We were not a crazy or wanton crowd either. It is considered very normal to go topless when on vacation somewhere hot, even with very moral and sensible women. A slightly different European mindset I think. However. If I were even remotely famous I think I would be aware at all times that someone might be hanging about with a camera and that would tempt me to keep a top on. Kate, however, obviously felt she had some privacy! I feel badly for her. She was just doing something very, very normal (for a Brit) and thought she was in a private place.

  18. I am sure that the Royal couple will rise above it Pamela. The kind of people who hound the royals etc. are not worth bothering about in my opinion.

  19. Pamela,
    I too remember the night Diana died with clarity...I wasn't dressed in such a pretty outfit, I was ironing at home on a warm night. But I felt sick when I heard that people had violated Kate and William's privacy and were determined to publish the images they stole. I pray Kate will not lose her lovely smile and warm personality when out in the crowds. I'm on board for tarring and feathering the creeps responsible.

  20. Well stated is time to turn off the light these parasites choose to shine lights where they do not belong - and the only way to do that is to NOT purchase their products. Boycott all magazines until this practice stops I say!

  21. Such a lovely photograph leading to that sad story. I concur with your hopes, and thank you (and Edward) for your site.

  22. I am so glad you wrote about this. I agree with you that this kind of thing is so offensive and low. I have never understood the fascination with these kinds of photos and never have bought any magazine in which they would be published. As one of your readers said, the Duchess will probably rise above it and go forward with her typical grace and style, but she will be much more careful in the future. I guess that is the price of being a public person these days. There is very little privacy for them once they leave their homes.

  23. Hi, great post! And so sad. A free press can do so much good in a nation, bringing to light important information through good journalism and a tenacious search for truth. But it seems there are fewer journalists and more paparazzi. Readers are also to blame, I think, as is evident as one good newspaper after another struggles and goes under.

    Many folks just want the headlines. Instantaneous information, lots of pictures and easily digested please- no complex historical references or nuanced discussion. We have no patience with subtlety or breadth, (or even critical thinking) and so the media delivers what people will buy.

    And privacy? Nowadays companies can take information from our computers without our knowledge and place things on it without our permission that we are unable to remove. Just try to strip the metatags- which give an exact location, time, date and even the film and shutter speed on a digital photograph.

    But heaven forbid Congress restrict the "rights" of corporations, who now, apparently, are people too.

  24. So well said...coudn't agree more..


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