Tag Archives: Princess Diana

Lady Di…Once Upon a Fairytale.

Once upon a time, a little girl with her hair in plaits and eyes full of dreams, watched as a magical fairytale unfolded on TV. Prince Charles was engaged to Lady Diana Spencer. Indeed, there was Diana fever and every single magazine around the world flashed Lady Di’s face on the cover. Moreover, as photographers pursued “Lady Di” like a frightened deer, millions watched on, including the little girl, entranced by her beauty and even the fairytale itself. Consciously, and even unconsciously, millions were swept up into this unconventional fairytale, where the not-so-handsome, big-eared Prince, had fallen in love with the shy, young kindergarten teacher hiding behind her fringe.

Charles & Di Wedding collage.JPG

 

The Royal Wedding, with all its pomp and circumstance, was held on the 29th July, 1981 the day before the little girl’s 12th birthday, when she was delighted to receive the commemorative stamps. Indeed, in the lead up to the big day, the little girl had been cutting up magazines and newspapers and pasting them into an exercise book with her school logo of the front. She might’ve lived in Sydney on the opposite side of the world, but she lived and breathed Lady Di, and now had concrete proof fairytales really could come true. Meanwhile, thanks to “Gran”, her friend ended up with a Lady Diana haircut…

Rowena 1981

Here I am aged 12 back in 1981.

The little girl knew everything there was to know about Diana. Indeed, there was nothing she didn’t know about the Royal couple. It was all in her book.

Princess Diana and Charles carriage

So, it will come as no surprise, that the little girl was glued to the TV set when Lady Diana Spencer arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral in her magical horse-drawn carriage wearing “The Dress”. If you were there, as in parked in front of your own TV set, you’ll also remember that moment when Lady Diana turned to the crowds with her dazzling smile and waved. It was a moment frozen in time. Who could not but fall in love with the beautiful Princess?

As we now know, almost the entire world was in love with Lady Diana Spencer, except her Prince.

Indeed, an invisible worm had infiltrated the dreams of England’s Rose and William Blake’s famous poem almost seems prophetic:

The Sick Rose

O Rose thou art sick.

The invisible worm,

That flies in the night

In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed

Of crimson joy:

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy.

William Blake

Princess Diana engagement

Interesting body language here.

However, right from the beginning, the clues were there. Even while they were announcing their engagement, Charles let it slip in an interview. When he said he was “just delighted and happy”, the interviewer sought further clarification, “And I suppose in love?”Charles’s reply is now haunting:  “WHATEVER ‘in love’ means.” Diana instantly replied, “Of course,” with a grimace and an eye roll. “Yes,” she giggled. Then Charles added: “Put your own interpretation on it,” as a feeble attempt to cover himself.

Perhaps, he’d hoped that love would come. However, as we now know, the Prince wasn’t in love with the beautiful, kindergarten teacher. Rather, he was still in love with Camilla, who for better or worse, has often been cast as the Wicked Witch in this fractured fairytale. However, the little girl knew nothing about all of that back then, and neither did the shy kindergarten teacher. Rather, she had found her Prince.

DSC_6183.JPG

Twenty years after Diana’s death, it is hard to fathom that sense of Diana Fever which engulfed the world. It’s impossible for me to explain it to my kids, because there’s nothing like it. There’s no one like her either. She was omnipresent. There was the Lady Di hair cut, the Lady Di collar with the bow around the neck, THE Wedding Dress, I’m not doing to touch all the dirt that came up during the divorce and so much more. Then, there was her funeral. Two thousand people attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey[1] , the British television audience peaked at 32.10 million (one of the United Kingdom’s highest viewing figures ever.[2]), and two billion people traced the event worldwide.[3] This makes Diana’s funeral one of the most watched events in history – Wikipaedia.

Somehow, the fairytale became so all-consuming, that it became one-size fits all. So many people wanted a piece of her, until there was almost nothing left for herself. Well, that’s how the theory goes. No one can keep giving and giving or even worse having themselves constantly taken away, particularly without their consent, without fading away and dying on the inside. Indeed, in some kind of reverse fairytale, couldn’t it be possible that every time the princess’s photo was taken and her image was stolen away, that her sparkle started to fade on some parallel portrait, just like Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Grey? That by the time of her death, that the Princess’s portrait had completely disappeared, with nothing left but the last veil?

diana and boys.JPG

Yet, that was not Diana. Rather, she rebuilt herself. While I don’t profess to be any kind of expert, it’s not difficult to infer that Diana found meaning and a zest for living through being “Mummy” to her boys. Recently, William and Harry have spoken out about losing their Mother, and shared her great sense of humour and how much fun they had with her. What losing her, has meant to them.

There was also her charity work, which was so much more than sipping cups of tea and attending cocktail parties. Indeed, she was quite a revolutionary and physically went to places angels feared to tread.

In April 1987, she shook hands with a man living with HIV/AIDS without gloves, while opening the UK’s first purpose built HIV/Aids unit at London’s Middlesex Hospital. While this might not seem a big deal now, at the time, AIDS was the new leprosy. Touching someone with AIDS, was a ground breaking act. With that single gesture, Diana showed that people living with HIV/AIDS needed compassion and understanding, not fear and ignorance. So it went, that if Princess Diana wasn’t afraid of shaking hands with someone living with HIV/AIDS or cuddling an affected child, we could do it too. It wasn’t going to kill us. She broke down some pretty major barriers on that front. As I said, her actions and deeds were revolutionary, making such a difference. It wasn’t just words and playing it safe.

Diana Landmine.jpg

It was the same with her support for banning of landmines. While this remains an important issue, back in 1997, even the British army still kept land mines in its arsenal The Princess was a benefactor of the nongovernmental organization: the Hazardous Areas Life-Support Organization, or HALO.  On Jan. 15, 1997,  she walked through an active minefield in Angola, and detonated a mine in front of an audience of international reporters, with the help of a land mine removal expert. “I did not want to be on the front page of the news the next day,” that mine removal expert, Paul Heslop, recently told the BBC, “as the man who’d blown up Princess Diana.”

Although Diana died a few months later, her efforts saw the UK ratify the international convention banning land mines the following year. Today, 80 percent of the world’s countries have signed on to the treaty. Among the countries yet to ratify the international ban on land mines are China, Russia and the United States.

So, despite her divorce, it seems Diana still believed in fairytales and in trying to make the world a more loving, safer place. Not only that, she took action and worked hard towards those goals, to the point of risking her own safety. Indeed, she was the Queen of Hearts who worked with love, compassion, drive and wasn’t afraid of stepping out and challenging her own fears to make a difference. Moreover, you can see this legacy living on through Prince Harry’s work with the Invictus Games, which use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women.

That is the Diana I choose to celebrate and honour now. The survivor and trail blazing revolutionary, who truly carpe diem seized the day and changed the world around her using love and influence. Sure, she had issues, but I’m not about to cast the first stone. My house is well and truly made of glass.

Meanwhile, my precious exercise book with the school logo on the front and Diana inside, is somewhere up in the attic. Although it’s a bit cringy-worthy these days, especially as I am an  Australian Republican, it’s still precious. It took a lot of hard work reading, cutting out and pasting to produce that book, and it’s as much a tribute to that little girl. Moreover, I still believe in Princess Diana and all she’s left behind. That’s because when you put all the hoopla aside, Princess Diana remains a truly remarkable woman…an eternal inspiration.

Is there anything you would like to say about Diana? Any memories? Please share them in the comments. 

By the way, I just found this article which goes to show I wasn’t the only one with a Diana scrapbook: Royal Weddings

xx Rowena

Time Traveling Through A Vintage 80s Magazine…

Everyone has a secret. Well, mine isn’t exactly a secret. I just haven’t got around to sharing  my passion for history and almost anything retro. This hasn’t been a conscious omission. I’ve simply been writing about other stuff. Besides, it’s a bit like stating the obvious.

You see, when you visit our place, there’s a Morris Minor parked out the front. There are rows of antique bone china tea cups which have broken out of the display cabinet and have started to wander. Old, black & white family photos peer through ornately carved, antique wooden frames and my computer is perched on top of an old oak desk with a gorgeous wood grain finish.

Being the eternal good Samaritan, I’m forever salvaging the past from our local charity or “op” shops as we call them. Indeed, you could say that I’m quite the “archaeologist” or even that I’m “kind to the homeless”. While I do have dogged persistence, most of my “finds” are beyond coincidence and were clearly: “serendipity” or “meant to be”. I had to take them home!!

Anyway, while my greatest archaeological weaknesses is vintage tea cups closely followed by illustrated books and cookbooks, another love of mine is collecting old magazines, which is quite odd in a way because I rarely buy contemporary magazines at all. My most cherished magazines are copies of the Australian Women’s Weekly dating back to the 1950s, which I picked up from an antique shop in the Queensland country town of Marburg, where my mother spent some years as a child. I love really getting into how people lived in “the olden days”.

Australia Day Wishes 1988.

Australia Day Wishes 1988.

Recently, I came across a new find for my collection. It was  an Australian Women’s Weekly dating back to January 1988. That’s now 24 years ago. While it is not as old as my other editions, it was the “Bicentennial Souvenir: Special Collector’s Edition”, which celebrated Australia’s “200th Birthday”. The Bicentenary was a very special time in Australia’s history when we really thought about our identity as a nation and there were all sorts of special events as well as much sorrow.

Personally, 1988 was also a very special year. You see, I’d left school at the end of 1987 and you could say life began in March 1988, when I walked through the gates of Sydney University and discovered a social whirl like none other. Aside from having my heart broken by my high school sweetheart, 1988 was a jolly good year!

While the magazine has much to say about the bicentenary, I’ll get to that after further research. I’m sure you can appreciate that any national celebration of that magnitude was “complex”. Meanwhile, I just want to bask in the light of the glorious 80s and soak up the social, fashion and technological changes and let the good times roll back.

Charles & Di: the greatest modern tragedy.

Charles & Di: a great modern tragedy.

With a touch of schadenfreude, I opened up my Women’s Weekly to find the usual suspects, Diana and Charles, who were guests of honour for the Bicentenary. The headline read: “What will Australia see this time…Diana: Royal Charmer or Spoilt Princess?” After finding this little gem, I would probably advise royal reporter Ingrid Seward to stick to journalism as she makes a lousy clairvoyant: “If the fairytale royal romance were going to crack apart, overheated in the furnace of public scrutiny, it would be now. But it hasn’t. And it won’t.”

This, of course, is one of the disadvantages of getting published. Your words really are set in stone and can indeed come back to haunt you.

Not unsurprisingly,fashion was hot.

Lady Sonia McMahon 1988

Style Icon Lady Sonia McMahon 1988

I came across an interesting feature called “Women of Style”, where they interviewed Australian style icons about their views on Australian fashion. Not unsurprisingly, Lady Sonia McMahon, wife of former Australian Prime Minister Sir Billy McMahon and mother of actor Julian McMahon, was interviewed.

Lady Mc Mahon had climbed to fashion royalty in 1971  when, as the wife of Australian Prime Minster Sir Billy McMahon,  she wore “that dress” to a reception held by US President Richard Nixon at the White House. The daring dress was split both sides to the armpits though held together by rhinestones about two centimetres apart from the waist up. While the dress appears quite revealing, it was actually lined with a pantyhose-type, flesh-coloured fabric.

Sonia McMahon in THAT dress at the White House.

Sonia McMahon in THAT dress at the White House.

Apparently, Lady McMahon was too impressed with how Australian women were dressing in the 80s. “She (Lady McMahon) used to think Australian women were among the best dressed in the world. But then came the jeans revolution and women relaxed- something Lady McMahon does not approve of. Smart clothes, she says, make a smart woman. Neatness and attention to detail, which some women are born with, but Lady McMahon says can be learnt, are paramount to style”. (I can’t help wondering what Lady McMahon would think of the current girl’s fashion…denim short shorts…)

Dame Edna Everage wearing a signature piece of Australiana

While Dame Edna Everage wearing a signature piece of Australiana

Meanwhile, not one to be outdone in the fashion stakes, Dame Edna Everage also featured in fashion pages in: What Dame Edna is Wearing Overseas. If you haven’t encountered Dame Edna before, she has a certain je ne sais quoi, which completely defies any kind of interpretation. As my daughter said when I introduced her to Dame Edna tonight: “What kind of person is she?”

Only Dame Edna could manage to incorporate the Auistralian flag and a 3D version of the Sydney Opera House into a frock.

Only Dame Edna could manage to incorporate the Auistralian flag and a 3D version of the Sydney Opera House into a frock.

In contrast to Lady McMahon’s classic elegance,  Dame Edna is wearing a garish canary yellow outfit with two koalas up a gum tree. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s also pictured wearing a blue dress with the Australian flag sequined on the bodice. But wait!!! It gets worse. I just noticed that the white starchy collar is actually the Sydney Opera House. Yikes!!! Hasn’t she ever heard that less is more? Oh my goodness!! I can feel some kind of severe anaphylactic reaction setting in. Oh! I mean… there’s the pink hair, purple hair and I’m not even going to discuss the glasses…Oh my goodness. There just aren’t enough superlatives to do Dame Edna any kind of justice whatsoever!!  She just has to be the most truly cringe-worthy, “national symbol” EVER!!!!!

The big question I have is this: Who allowed Dame Edna to leave the country dressed like that and why on earth did a magazine like the Australian Women’s Weekly publish the evidence?

Quite frankly, someone should have grabbed Dame Edna by the horns and told her in no uncertain terms: “Go to your room. You’re not leaving the house looking like that!!!” I know fashion was a bit out there in the 80’s but I’m flabbergasted.

Indeed, when it comes to managing Dame Edna stronger measures would have been required. The fact that she ended up overseas dressed like that and representing our country makes her fashion choices a matter of national security.  She was destroying our National Credibility Rating (NCR). What with those crazy outfits, the pink and purple hair and all her “hello possums” and parading around as Australian royalty, she was a national embarrassment.

I understand that customs usually stop undesirables from entering into a country but couldn’t they have done something to stop her from getting out??? Anything!!!

Of course, there are the fashion police. If ever there was a case demanding their expert attention, this was it. They should have locked her up and thrown away the key! absolutely!! Sentenced her to life imprisonment rather than let her flaunt her peculiar fashions overseas and in The Weekly.

Yet, as much as Dame Edna has that incredible cringe factor, for some strange reason, we still love her even though we want to hit her with the nearest fly swat!!!

Gee, I hope Dame Edna never gets hold of Lady McMahon’s “dress” from the Powerhouse Museum. Seeing the epitome of kitsch dressed as the epitome of style would be the outrage to end all outrages…especially as I doubt Dame Edna has ever shaved her legs!!

Moving on from fashion, I also found an interview with then 60 Minutes journalist Jana Wendt. Among other topics, she was responding to a magazine article which appeared two weeks after the birth of her son, Daniel. The article had implied that Jana was “afraid of motherhood” and was fearful that motherhood would make her less effective as a journalist. She had not been consulted for this article and explained: “I can’t believe that any responsible journalist, who supposedly values the qualities of motherhood, would come out and try to undermine a working woman’s life by saying that, just because she’s had a child, she’s somehow going to be different, or unprofessional, or, all of a sudden, softer in her interviewing technique. The prejudice that women often lay at the feet of men- well, I think some women should examine themselves for that prejudice because it’s clearly there.”…

“Your priorities do change when you have a child. Not your personal priorities but the fact that your lifestyle has to accommodate another person.You have somehow to work out how you’re going to make that person happy and contented so, yes, it did- or is- taking a lot of thought and I’ve no intention of stopping work at all. My work is very important to me and it makes me a complete person. I don’t think I’d be very successful at just sitting at home,” Jana said.

I personally have mixed views about Jana’s comments. I wholeheartedly support her desire to combine motherhood and career but her assertion that full time parents are just “sitting down” is poorly informed. They’d be lucky enough to sit down long enough to get through a cup of tea uninterrupted.

Another point of interest was a joint photography feature between the Australian Women’s Weekly and Fuji Film: How to Take Perfect Photos…Every Time!

Of course, this was written before digital photography when cameras used film and you couldn’t see how your photo had turned out until you’d had them processed. That’s right. There was a door on the back of your camera for putting in the film and not a screen. You also had to choose the right speed of film and you couldn’t switch easily between colour and black and white either. Photography was a lot more conscious than it is now. You really did need to try to set your shot up well and get it right before you took it, rather than checking as you go. This feature also suggested that if you were traveling and wanted to remember characteristic sound effects, you could take along a small cassette recorder. Now, that really starts to date the magazine.I’d imagine that if we could travel backwards in time and tell them we’re taking selfies on our mobile phones, they’d tell us: “You’re dreaming.”

I also came across this photo of a computer 1988 style:

Computers 1980s style...a terminal connected to a mainframe.

Computers 1980s style…a terminal connected to a mainframe.

However, as much as things have changed since January, 1988, some things have also stayed the same.

Thank goodness for Sao biscuits!!

Thank goodness some things never change!!

Thank goodness some things never change!!

I don’t know if I really miss the 80’s but wouldn’t it be great to be 18 again for just one day!!

Yes, I’d have a lot to say to my 18 year old self!! What about you?

xx Rowena

Sources:

The Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/a-love-beyond-understanding/story-e6frg6z6-1111114526775

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/celebrity/sonia-mcmahon-elegance-loyalty-and-that-dress-20100403-rkcv.html