Some more, please: The flavour of a royal occasion

2011-04-28 13:31

Cumin. Cheap and nasty Romanian red wine. And tears, a whole day of them, which was the other thing that flavoured everything I ate and drank that day.

Those are my memories of Princess Diana’s funeral back in 1997. It might seem weird to recall this on the eve of her eldest son’s nuptials – not so.

William’s marriage to his sweetheart, Kate, is the latest chapter in his mother’s circle of life. Which we have all been privy to since she unwittingly wore a see-through dress for a photo shoot at the nursery school she worked at before she married the heir-apparent to the British crown.

For our times, Diana is the source of all the excitement around the world in the run-up to tomorrow’s royal wedding. The £87 million (nearly R1 trillion) it’s going to cost is insignificant when you add up the amount of money the British royal family – specifically Diana’s generation and beyond – put into that little island country’s coffers through tourism. And dish out in charity and good PR for Britain too.

For everyone the milestones of Diana’s life are etched into our collective memory – as William and Catherine’s will be too.

My memory of the day Diana died is as fresh today as it was almost 14 years ago – I was living in London and was coming home from a party in the early hours of the morning. The newspaper posters said Diana was injured in a car crash as I set off across the park – by the time I reached the other side, the posters proclaimed her dead.

And then the flowers came. A sea of blooms for the woman who had married a prince and discovered that happily ever after is sometimes an illusion.

Almost two weeks after she’d died I made it to Kensington Palace, her home, to see them.

I could smell them a block before I could see them and they stretched across the park, creating another indelible moment on my life’s timeline – and everyone else’s too.

Her wedding was another. Though I was young, I remember the day well, all of us squashed into the school library watching it on a tiny TV screen.

Gasping as she finally emerged, draped in impossible amounts of cream material, to fulfil the fairytale endings of little girls everywhere. Hell, even Prince Charles looked handsome in his naval uniform – completing the mirage.

Equally I can remember her proudly displaying her first son, William, within the year and her second, Harry, a couple of years later.

I remember her infamous Panorama interview in November 1995 – which I watched at my local pub accompanied by a lot of beer and the ubiquitous pie, chips and gravy.

Her inevitable divorce from Charles followed the next year and then, to everyone’s horror, her sudden death in a senseless car accident.

I watched her funeral from a friend’s holiday home in Wales – the friend who was with me had recently discovered the wonders of her newly acquired spice rack.

We’d been through a few – turmeric, star anise and fennel seeds – and her latest kitchen experiments all included cumin.

We had it on our lamb chops, in our mash and sprinkled on our salad. A distinctive taste for an unforgettable day. We washed all that cumin down with far too much cheap red wine from Eastern Europe as we blubbed over the wreath of white flowers with “Mummy” on the card.

As the sun rises tomorrow over the small, mostly rainy, island nation, I will be hoping that each step the young couple takes will bring them ever closer to fulfilling their own fairytale happily ever after – the real deal this time, not just the appearance of one.

There will again be tears for me, happy ones, and this time they’ll be flavouring scones with jam and cream, pots of Earl Grey tea and I will be comforted by what this wedding represents: part of the circle of life, ensured in perpetuity by our children and theirs after them.

Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala.
Follow City Press: @City_Press

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