Ten Years On

It was late August, 1997. The Italian Lakes beckoned. The vacation was booked months in advance. Two weeks at a resort on the banks of Lake Garda, in northern Italy. By road, it was a two day journey from Britain. A drive to Dover, on the south coast. Then across the English Channel on the ferry to Calais, France, and on via Paris to the Swiss border, the Mont Blanc tunnel, and eventually the French/Italian Alps before a run down to the one of the most beautiful places on earth – Lake Garda.

I’d driven through Paris before – and since. It was about 2.30pm, on August 30th, 1997 that I steered my two-seater Toyota MR2 down through the Pont de l’Alma underpass in Paris before settling down for the long run to our overnight stop near the German/Swiss border.

I slept well that night. The long drive, though stimulating in a sports car designed for continental autoroutes, was still tiring and my dreamless sleep held no presentiment of the drama unfolding in that very same Pont de l’Alma underpass I had traversed only hours before.

It was after 5.00pm when we eventually reached our destination next day. Checking in to the accommodation took time, so it was after six when we finally parked up and began unloading our luggage into the luxury trailer rented for the vacation.

I was lugging the last of the baggage from the trunk when a young German man with only broken English and a sense of acute embarrassment, walked slowly over from the trailer next door.

“You ees Eenglish, yes?”

I nodded, a little suspiciously.

“We, that ees, mein frau…..eh, my wife an’ me…..we so sorry, ’bout your Diana.”

I looked vacant, “Diana?”

“You does not know?”

I shook my head, perplexed.

The young German man seemed most uncomfortable.“Your princess……Diana? She dead. Killed. It was car accident, yesterday. In Paris.”

I muttered something resembling “thanks”, went inside and began tuning the radio to find an English language station.

Little more than twenty-four hours before, the Pont de l’Alma underpass had seemed so benign……so, very ordinary………

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6 Replies to “Ten Years On”

  1. I’m not big on memorial type things but I admit I left this one on. Hey, the music was lovely and the English usually don’t blather as much as Americans do. Plus the Royals at least seem able to produce more viable offspring than our elected representatives do…can you even compare William & Harry to Jenna & Barbara?

  2. Isn’t it funny how some events can bring back perfect recollection. Law officials say that eyewitness accounts are not that reliable, but I think they are perfect in some cases. I remember exactly what I was doing when Kennedy was killed, 9-11 happened, and when I heard Diana was killed.

    Do you think the queen will retire so that Philip can be king for a couple years before he dies of old age?

  3. I’m pretty sure the Queen won’t ever abdicate, Flimsy.

    And, JR, you didn’t say where you stayed. Being a bit of a nosey old bugger … was it maybe Sirmione? We went there once — beautiful. Peace perfect peace.

  4. NYM – you know, I have to agree on the blathering thing….now, in Britain “blathering” can mean either ‘nattering on” or “wingeing and whining”, or maybe a combination of both. Taking the former definition, while not a sports fan I do enjoy the Wimbledon tennis tournament and was pleased to find it broadcast over here in America. Sadly, I had to give up watching it, as the American commentators just can’t shut up for five seconds. Instead of enhancing the games, they detracted from it, making it impossible to concentrate on what was happening on court. Their inane conversations during tense moments of matchplay verged on downright rudeness, as though viewers would be more interested in them than the players on court. A similar situation occurred during the World Cup Soccer . Why, Oh why can’t they just shut up for two minutes and allow us to enjoy the game?

    I think both William and Harry must be relieved the days are well and truly over, when marriages between foreign ruling houses were arranged. One or both may well have ended up with Barbara or Jenna!

    Anan – it did seem a very weird coincidence at the time, though on reflection thousands of travelers must have passed through the Pont de l’Alma underpass that day. Most of them, of course, would have been French.

    Flimsy – memory is a strangely deceptive attribute, it seems to either make idiots of us, or brand photographic scenes indelibly on our mind. I have to agree with TOB, the Queen is unlikely to ever step aside for Charles. While many dislike Charles, mainly due to the media-induced campaign favoring Diana during and after the divorce, I tend to feel some empathy with him. He’s two years younger than I, so we – in a sense – grew up together. He had a lonely childhood, a mother too busy to be a mother, and years away in a not very sympathetic boarding school. It’s little wonder he found Diana’s immaturity unbearable, compared to the mother-figure represented by Camilla.

    TOB – we stayed at Gardone, but visited Sirmione regularly particularly in the evenings, wandering through the narrow streets, window shopping the priceless and beautiful wares so uniquely Italian, drinking beer by candlelight at the outdoor cafes. One of my most favorite places on earth. You are right – peace, perfect peace. One day, I intend to go back. Oh, one day!

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