I work close enough to Kensington Palace Gardens to walk around them occasionally at lunchtime. It’s a post-prandial palliative for the pressured world of PR.
Today, however, it was quite surreal, more so than usual (it gets surreal occasionally when you are dive-bombed by Canada geese or see terrapins floating around in the pond). Today, it was full of people bemoaning the loss, ten years ago to the day, of Diana.
There wasn’t actually weeping and wailing or gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, but it was quite strange. It was almost like walking into a stage set, with media everywhere (the nice man from London news was there but he didn’t say hello), someone playing Candle in the Wind on a stereo, phalanxes of photos, people picknicking. All you needed was Elton John to materialise from thin air and the suspension of disbelief would be complete.
Stepping into this parallel universe it occured to me that really, that was the Diana phenomenon. It was the closest people got to ‘real fairytale.’ Diana was real, she was really a princess, she had real children, you can really see where she really lived, and died. She also appeared on the telly a lot.
This crossover between real and fantasy was, today, for me, a crossover between real and media. Which are essentially the same thing in a lot of people’s minds. Remember how strange it was to see Larry Hagman interviewed on Wogan while at the height of the evil incarnate that was JR, around the early 80s? And apparently John Altman has been abused in the street during his stints as Nasty Nick on Eastenders.
It seems to me that as entertainment swallows reality, so news programmes adopt the entertainment clothing (or lack thereof – what could be more entertaining than Emily Maitlis’s legs). No wonder people are confused. After becoming hooked on the Spencer Soap (think Dallas/ Dynasty/ Eastenders/ Coronation Street rolled into one, mixed to a dropping consistency and baked for 3 years at 700 degrees fahrenheit) they’re still bereft. They still want that elusive yet strong fix of realityfantasy. And today, in Kensington Palace Gardens, they were able, tantalisingly, to step back into that media-created fairytale.
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