Semi-obligatory tangentially Diana-related post
It was a big family gathering, and these are rare. There are lots of people I am related to, but they don't often seem to constitute a family. They are geographically dispersed, culturally disparate, and separated by many other elements of time, space, history and consequence. The older I get, the more I understand why this is so, and the more normal it seems.
My mother and her sister C have always been close though, so it was natural that she and my dad, plus my sister, me and my Significant Ex should be invited to the Big Do to celebrate C's silver wedding anniversary. Also being celebrated were Significant Birthdays of each of their two sons, P and P. It was held on an RAF base, as my uncle was in the RAF at the time and that's where they lived. They put us up in the Officers' Mess. I was mildly freaked out by this at the time, as a fully paid-up member of the anti-Establishment, but I got over it. There were more important things to worry about.
It was the summer of meltdown with my Significant Ex. We weren't getting on, but we were doing our arguing behind closed doors. Most of the world still had no idea there was anything wrong. Consequently, we both got absolutely hammered. I danced the Macarena with 18 year olds who smelt faintly of vomit, and wondered if I was too old to do a 'tactical chunder', as we used to call them at college, myself. He spent a large part of the evening playing snooker with my half-uncle, who did have an idea.
Around 1 am I was sitting on a bar stool next to my aunt C, of whom I am extremely fond. She was telling me that the dangerous thing about the Officers' Mess is that they let you sign for drinks. By this point in the evening she was having trouble doing the signing, and I think we were both having trouble staying on the stools. But she got more vodkas in nonetheless.
Can I ask you something? I said. How do you manage to stay with someone for 25 years? Cos I don't think I'm going to make ten. She gave me a long sideways look. I don't think she'd realised.
Well, she said, when it's just me and G, we're fine. We've always been fine. The problems only come when you have to deal with the rest of the world. It's the rest of the world that can get in the way.
She was absolutely bang on. But I still don't know how we could have stopped it.
The next morning, the breakfast room was full of Diana news. The rest of the world got in *her* way something chronic, I thought.
We had an argument about my wanting to watch the funeral. Looking back, it was probably an argument about something else in disguise, most of them were. In the end I went to London and watched it with ex-schoolmate-not-yet-housemate S, who had recently lost her own mother and was house-sitting in Hackney. I mixed jugs of Bloody Marys, she lined up the Silk Cut, and we sobbed for our respective losses.
Later, her ex Chris came round and took us out for a drink in the pub we'd been too scared to go into on our own. He went off to work his shift in a casino in Leicester Square, but later came back having bunked off. We drank more, got stoned and ended up playing backgammon, each of us looking through one eye because we couldn't focus with two.
When the vodka ran out, we got some duvets and bedded down in a companionable heap on the giant sofa. I'd told Chris I was there because things weren't so great at home. S fell asleep first, and he made a move. I kicked him. He took it on the chin.
Life seems simpler now. But this could be just an illusion. The world's always out there, waiting to get in the way.