30 Years Ago

We can’t avoid it so I’m going to have my say as well. I’m not a monarchist – or a republican for that matter. I don’t really have strong views either way. But I am not going to be mean spirited and have a go at K and W. I wish them well, as I would any couple about to embark on a lifetime of commitment because it takes some guts in this day and age – even without all the media pressure.

What interests me about royal weddings – and coronations, jubilees, and funerals – is that they are markers in our lives. We remember where we were – even my husband, a staunce republican, could tell me where he was on July 29th 1981.

I was 13 years old and living in our big old house in Teignmouth. My mum ran a guest house and supplemented this with ‘foreign students’. My mum believes in the royal family and what it stands for and she took a rare few hours off to sit and watch the wedding. She made the students do this as well; she thought they should experience this historical occasion. I sat there too as did one of my older brothers, the other one having escaped somehow. But it is the Italian student, Massimo, I remember. He was a bit scoffing of the whole show but agreed to watch nonetheless. But he didn’t get very far. He managed to watch Diana getting out of the carriage at St Paul’s and reveal the dress. He watched the palaver of getting the train out, of straightening it up, and those creases. But it was when he saw the length of it spanning the aisle of the cathedral that he finally let go of an almighty snigger and my mum told him off. I think he must have disappeared to play football at that point, bemused by our mass hysteria over a wedding. I’m sure I could read all sorts about the Italian psyche into this but basically he was a bored 17 year old.

I wonder now, thirty years on, knowing how this marriage panned out, and what a global phenomenon Diana became, whether Massimo ever looks back and remembers where he was. My guess is that he does.

My novel The Generation Game is set against a backdrop of national events, some of them royal – the Silver Jubilee, Charles and Diana’s wedding, and Diana’s funeral. As I said, I’m not a monarchist but it does strike me as weird that I should have chosen these events – except for the fact that they are such strong markers in my life; I remember vividly where I was for each of them. I wrote the novel long before K and W’s engagement so I wasn’t trying to tie my book in with wedding fever. But that’s art imitating life again as it so often does.

The book comes out on 30th July, 30 years and a day after that wedding, which some of my characters witness. I guess I chose the wedding as a backdrop for an important part of the narrative because  I could picture it all so clearly. I may have been in a small seaside town with my family and those ‘foreign students’ but I could just as easily have been standing outside the steps of St Paul’s or in the Mall for all the footage and photos I have consumed over the years since. 

That day has stuck with me and leaks out in my writing. It’s just a coincidence that the son of that couple is getting married so near the launch. So many ripples. So many creases.

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One thought on “30 Years Ago

  1. Hi Sophie
    I have just read your piece ’30 years ago’ and can relate to it so much. Although I am a royalist – well mostly I’m not a republican – but you’re right, our lives are marked out by these kind of events and I can remember not only what I was doing 30 years ago, but the Queen’s coronation I remember vividly and follow all the ups and downs on the royals’ lives. Can’t wait for your book to be published. I will be amongst the first to get my copy. When are you ‘booksigning’ in London?

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