Thursday, April 28, 2011

Me and Princess Di

I have not been following or participating in the excitement over the Royal Wedding but when a detective from our city's cold case unit phoned me specifically to ask about it, well, I realized there is no escape for me. By dint of being English it seems I am a de facto expert and, according to some, sitting in my parlour awaiting my invitation.

I did get an evite from Mahmoud al Massour to collect the $10 million I'd won in the Syrian sweepstakes, but so far nothing from Will and Kate.

But I will tell you, I once had dinner with Princess Di.

Yes, the Princess Di.

To be honest, I usually stop the story there, as it gets less dramatic as it continues.

But what the heck. It was at a fancy ballroom in London in, oh, 1985. Some sort of charity function and I was on the arm of a beautiful young lady (just a friend) who couldn't find a more dashing date. I don't remember parking, but I do remember walking up the red carpet outside the place, people pressing against the barriers to get a look at those coming in, and us in our tuxedos looking self-important. It was quite a thrill.

Inside there were a dozen tables, maybe more, ten or twelve to a table. Diana made her entrance suitably late and was two tables away. Every table had a cadre of servers, but she was always served first and no one started to eat until she did. Rather embarrassingly, my group became a little rowdy (they kept refilling our wine glasses!) but I remember her looking over and smiling, like she was enjoying a few young people having fun in an otherwise stiff and formal setting.

There was dancing afterwards, but she left before that got going, though I recall jitterbugging with newsreader Moira Stewart.

I kept the invitation, a beautiful piece of art it was. In fact, I took it on a trip to America a year later, though for the life of me now I can't think why. Portable chick magnet?! Who knows. . . but on a bus ride from Washington DC to Wisconsin I got talking to an African American woman and her ten-year-old daughter and she asked me if I was royalty (the accent, you know). I laughed and said, "No, of course not," but told her about the dinner with Di. She was so amazed I dug the invitation out of my bag and gave it to her. Her face was a picture, eyes like saucers and her little girl didn't even dare touch it. It was a silly memento for me but seemed to mean a lot to them, and I sometimes wonder if it's still on a mantelpiece somewhere.

Anyway, my best wishes to William and Kate, they seem like very nice people. My tenth wedding anniversary is coming up, so if they want any tips I'm available to advise. For the future King, I'd even do it for free.

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