The day that Princess Diana, Queen of Hearts, died, I was just getting ready to cycle off towards the far horizon on a little seven day adventure to the town of Carlsberg in Denmark, sorry that should read Copenhagen, I and a group of twenty or so police officers were doing a bike ride from Tetleys brewery in Leeds to Carlsbergs brewery in Copenhagen, don’t ask why or how I ended up being the only non-policeman present on a police organised sponsored cycle trip, its complicated.
So I was awoken at 4am on the Sunday morning by the Wife of Years Too Numerous To Count who does not ever sleep to tell me that the disgraced not-now-to-be-Queen had just died in a car crash in Paris after not wearing a seatbelt in a car driven by a drunk, did she never watch those Jimmy Savile Clunk-Click adverts in the years of her childhood ?
And as I prepared for my big adventure of the following day the TV played out the same ten minute news clip all day long for as anyone who was in the UK on that day will tell you, nothing else happened on that day and nothing else was shown on TV but the clip of the Mercedes being removed from that Paris tunnel and we all sat there and watched for the three hundreth time and said out loud for the three hundredth time “But I thought that Mercedes were such safe cars, even when being driven into concrete at 100mph by drunks ?”
And then on the Monday I gathered my baggage together and we ventured off to Tetleys brewery, me and all the policemen, and a handfull of people waved us off on our great adventure and by that evening we were on a ferry out of the country.
And so it was that we missed the week that has become known as “The Week That The British Went Soft”.
When the country was weeping hysterically en masse in the streets and wailing to the sky “Oh but I thought that Mercedes cars were so safe even when being driven into concrete by drunks”, we were peddling our way across Holland, a country so flat that when we came across a small incline we got off and pushed in shock even though we wouldn’t even have noticed the small incline had it been (for instance) in the Yorkshire Dales or The Lake District.
When the country angrily turned to HM The Queen and demanded that she leave one of her large palaces and relocate to a different and larger palace as if that would somehow share the public grief, “Oh but you never liked her anyway you old bag” they all shouted at her, and she just nodded inscrutibly, for HM The Queen has to remain inscrutible, even when rumbled by the crowd.
Through the week when the whole country went into social meltdown and weeping uncontrolably apparently became the order of the day we were cycling our way through Northern Germany on our way towards the Baltic and beyond and had no inkling at all that on the streets of our home country adults who under normal circumstances in their normal everyday life would be maintaing absolutely the British stiff upper lip in adversity, were gathering in groups with tearful eyes and pondering on “What will happen to those two poor boys now, now that their mother has died so tragically from concrete” and none of them pondered on the question of why they weren’t on holiday with her at the time or that the two prince’s staff weren’t actually paid for by their mother and so they’d probably just continue on as normal then.
And on the Saturday of her funeral we were on our way back to Rotterdam on a mini-bus and so missed the apoplectic grief of that whole day, instead at every service station we stopped at we were mesmerised by hundreds of Dutch people dressed in orange boiler suits on their way to Belgium where their national football team was playing a world cup qualifier.
In fact it wasn’t until the Sunday morning when we landed back in Hull after sorting out a couple of arrests for drug dealing on the ferry, that we bought newspapers and were reminded that actually, something had been going on while we were away and that the previous day there had been an outpouring of national grief on a scale never before seen and only surpassed in recent years by the outpouring of organised and carefully orchestrated national grief for Dear Leader Kim Jong II in North Korea, and as we sat on the mini-bus on the M62 heading back to Leeds we could only read those Sunday newspapers and mutter, “What the fook” and show each other the newspaper coverage and say things like, “What the fook, they threw flowers at the hearse, who does that in Britain ?”, and “I’d forgotten she’d died, was it before or during our bike ride ?”, and “No wonder we didn’t get any fooking press coverage for our bike ride to Denmark, the bastards”