Sunday, July 15, 2007

It was summer in England ... and the skies lit up and the women cried


"Oh to be in England now that summer's there." *

I was … in England … and it was summer. Not just an ordinary summer, but the most incredible summer for believing in love and its power to endure. Who could have known then that not only England but the whole world was bound to be heartbroken?!

The summer I arrived at Heathtrow, all England was spruced up for a wedding.

I came in the first week of July, 1981 at the behest of the British Council, to attend a summer program on enterprise promotion at the Cranfield School of Management in Bedford, an hour from London.

The program was cool and relaxed. I made friends quickly with the Indonesians, Malaysians, and Latin-Americans in that international group of 40. I was elected vice president – simply because I spoke the best English of the five women in class.

We had weekends off and plenty of time to go around– the Big Ben, British Museum, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and the Westend for some theatre. I peeped into an English pub house, gulped English draft beer and apple cider, sipped tea with cream and 8’oclock mints, and shopped at Harrods. I wanted to go to Stratford on Avon (birthplace of Willy, the bard) or even just Liverpool (cradle of the noble mopheads). But I was told going to those places would take some doing, not to mention British pounds which I was short of.

All too soon, it was time for the wedding. We could have the day off and go to London, our training coordinator announced the day before. I demurred at joining the wedding mob. But I grabbed the chance to go to Hyde Park at its eve – a sort of despedida de soltera for the affianced couple.

Maybe I saw Diana and Charles at the park. Maybe not. It was hard to say from our distance of 20-25 meters from the grandstand.

The most vivid recollection of that night at the park should have been the fireworks -- the most spectacular I have ever seen to this day. But it recedes side by side memories of the women, the English women -- many of them in tears.
"Charlie, oh, Charlie ... goodbye Charlie."

"Charlie, let me have a last look at my Charlie,” a blonde woman about my age, was crying loudly, piggybacked on her husband for a better view of her Charlie – as though Charlie was about to die instead of get wed.
I took it personally when that marriage failed. I took it hard when Diana died

On the 26th anniversary of that star-crossed marriage, I remember the women crying.
* Adapted from:
Oh, to be in England now that April ’s there
And whoever wakes in England sees
Some morning, unaware
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!
- from 'Home thoughts from abroad' by Robert Browning.

54 comments:

snglguy said...

Yeah, who would've known then that their "Prince Charming" turned out to be a cad, and that the union has slowly made its descent into mediocrity even before it started. All thanks to a hag named Camilla...

ScroochChronicles said...

I remember trying to skip classes just to catch the coverage on Channel 9.

Noemi said...

I was in England in 1984. Oh how I adore royalty. I miss that place and the scenic countryside. Do you have photos?

diogenes said...

Good old memories that still bring smile on my face:-)

pining said...

Must have been an amazing experience for you on such a special day :-)
I can't believe those English women going mad over Charles though, oh well just a matter of taste I suppose...
I've been to Bard's place just recently btw... 'twas lovely :-)

cacofonix said...

It was a double blow when soon after Diana, my long time crush (from when I was around 13, I carried his pic in my wallet..hehe) John Kennedy Jr. perished in a plane crash. I took both personally as my sisters and I used to be European ( British in particular) Royalty die-hards and regularly subscribed to magazines featuring them. Diana of course outshone 'em all.

Anyway, both events happening one after the other made me realize the transiency of life and the futility of worldly fame and glory - strongly drove into my heart the truth about…

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

It must have been a moving experience witnessing part of something grand and historical ...:).

Annamanila said...

Snglguy!

That union seemed doomed at the very start, ano? I can't quite put my hand on why. Camilla is just one piece of the jigsaw which hasn't really been put together. And if its true it is our own choices that determine that happens to us, then we can look at Diana herself in that responsible light.

Annamanila said...

Scrooch?

Really, anong grade ka na nuon? I remember my family (and friends) told me they were looking for me in the crowd while they watched the wedding on tv. :)

Annamanila said...

Noemi!

Awww ... at that time medyo rocky na ba ang marriage nila? Now, I just remember how intrusive English tabloids were, still are, with the royal family. I think the English are really enamored with their royalty.

Annamanila said...

Diogenes!

Yes, those memories are precious to me ... bitter-sweet. At that time, it was just a royal wedding -- well the wedding of the century -- but what happened afterwards were something fot the soap opera.

Annamanila said...

Pining!

Back then, in the 1980s, Prince Charles was the most beloved of the royal family, second only to the Queen herself. Kumusta na ba si Queen? She's so enduring din ano? Teka di ba si Queen Mother buhay pa?

Annamanila said...

Cacofonix!

Yeah, the Kennedy's seem to be a tragic family ano? They say the family's star-crossed destiny begun with the decision of the senior Kennedy's (Rose and Joseph Sr yata) to have their mentally retarded daughter lobotomized. I read that a long time ago. Ay, pogi naman talaga si John-john. Remember his cute na cute na pictures when he was a boy.

Thanks for the quote about the fleeting quality of life. Ang ganda.

At that time, I was just excited that there was a royal wedding taking place while I was in that country. But that wedding became more celebrated in its tragic aftermath hindi ba.

Annamanila said...

Cacofonix!

Been wanting to ask several posts back .. do you have a blogsite? When I click on your name, it opens to a profile page which however doesn't say anything about a blogsite. Let me know okay.

cacofonix said...

soon as I have one, 'will let you know anna...thanks! :).

I used to have one but I closed it recently...:).

Annamanila said...

Cacofonix!

Oks. TY!

sasha said...

It's fascinating, them royalty. I guess we're fed by the Disney people with so many princes and princesses that's why.

Happy Tuesday, tita :)

Gypsy said...

..so you will pardon me for being cynical about Fairy Tale endings...

Major Tom said...

It was some kind of bizarre when the marriage ended and failed that way. I thought this kind of tragedy only happens in movies, but they do. Don't you think royalties are bound and destined to live such way, to be tragic sometimes?

Annamanila said...

Sasha!

And the fairy tale strories about sleeping beauties and cinderellas and rapuntzels.

So we grow up wanting to become a princess or something close to it and are so disappointed to find out that the chariot has turned into a pumpkin and the prince, a toad.

:)

Annamanila said...

Gypsy!

You should still be believing in fairy tale endings. :)

Pero you have learned to be cynical? Good for you ba? :)

Annamanila said...

Major Tom!

I think you're right -- royalty and personal happiness seem like a contradiction.

"Noblesse obliges" kasi .. lalo na nung araw. But nowadays, even the royals rebel out of their fishbowls.

auee said...

You're a royal-fan din pala like my hubby. He would have loved to be there during their wedding. He actually cried when Diana died.

What a nice memory. You can actually say "I was there".

MrsPartyGirl said...

that was an amazing opportunity for you! wow! :)

i'm not much into the british royalty, i'm afraid. i was more into the japanese royalty at one time - it was masako owada's wedding that caught my fancy. pero we can't really ignore those "freeloaders" (as they were called in the movie "the queen"), kahit papaano their twisted existence makes mundane life more bearable for the rest of us regular people.:P

Jap said...

Lovely write. I could almost hear the fireworks =)

The greatest fairytale in this story is not Diana getting married to Prince Charles, but Diana becoming the People's Princess. The overflowing love from the people is more than enough reward for whatever grief she faced.

SexyMom said...

we all thought it was for real, we all thought it was a fairy tale come true, the wedding of the century. we even shed a tear or two on the emotional occasion. then the drama, the scandals, still we did not want to believe, then the death. afterwards what seemed to be true love ensued, not all were happy, why oh why we asked was the lovely princess used. anyway 2 charming princes are growing up. and it seems that the two are really in love--why not? even at their prime age, they stood by each other, against all odds, got married. is it love? many would not agree, but me--i think it is.

what you think Annamanila?

gibbs cadiz said...

you went to uk on a british council grant? awesome! kainggit. :) i should get you as a reference when i make my own application--if i do get around to submitting one. plans, plans! :)

Gypsy said...

Anna, cynicism keeps my feet on the ground and from being delusional..or maybe cynicism is such a negative word, I should say I am just realistic..:)

lazarus said...

i am not exactly a fan of royalty.
But I do believe in happy endings. Diana and her lover met a tragic death. And prince charles got his princess Camilla.

vernaloo said...

uhhhhmmm you were in England the year I was born hehehe cool!

slim whale said...

you were actually there when they got married? wow, that was something! at that time, all i cared about was my rubber ducky and my pacifier.

you described your experience like it happened just yesterday. great memory you have!

rowena said...

Hi Anna, am really so fond of Princess Diana. Have collected books, mags and her pics. When I gave birth, I wanted to name my first-born Diana but my hubby didnt approve. I really cried buckets when Diana died.

Annamanila said...

Auee!

Diana was so well loved not only in England but in most of the rest of the world, ano? -- including the Philippines. Yes, I know a lot shed tears ... pero, wow iyakin pala twitheart mo. I like that i a man. hahaha serious

Annamanila said...

Mrspartygirl!

Princess Masako -- is she the one who's undergoing psychological counseling? The one who keeps trying to give the crown prince (o emperor na ba?) a male heir? Goodness, what pressure she is under. What a life. Swerte na tayo ano?

Annamanila said...

Jap!

I hope so .. I guess life has a way of evening out ultimately.

How true is it that the royal family was jealous of Diana's popularity that overshadowed theirs? Babaw naman ano?

Annamanila said...

Sexymom!

Are you referring to Charles and Camilla? Yes, I admire them for that .. though grudgingly sometimes. They must really be in love ... they got married against all advice ... mala 'you and me against the world.' You know I was thinking Camila must have fine inner qualities that the public do not see.

Annamanila said...

Verna!

Oo nga di ba di ka pa nagde-debut?

Annamanila said...

Gibbs!

Ay naku, I can imagine you in London. Like duck in water. Baka hindi ka na kumain -- manunuod ka na lang ng theatre. Mahal kasi eh.

Tagal na ng grant ko with British Council ... but I will do whatever I can. Sige apply ka na. Dami nilang study opps duon.

Annamanila said...

Slimwhale!

I bet you were just a baby then, like Verna.

I forget a lot of things; I have forgotten what I ate yesterday or why I got apoplexic with my daughter the other day. But even if i get alzheimer's (knock on wood) that night in Hyde Park will always be a twinkle-twinkle star in my memory.

Annamanila said...

Rowena!

I brought a lot of Diana souvenirs -- mugs, books, magazines, stamps, even a commemorative coins. but only the books and mags remain. Keep your collection.

Pero you know what makes me want to give myself a conk on the head? I had a picture taken against the backdrop of the wedding diorama at the Wax Museum. I cannot find it now. Should have published it in my piece. :(

Abaniko said...

When I started reading this post, I thought you're the one who's getting married in London. God, I'm so muddled. I better get some sleep na. Hehe.

julie said...

Was just 12 at that time. Couldn't remember much about the wedding but I did watch it on tv. Diana was so lovely and I think everybody wanted to be like her. Or maybe not.

carlotta said...

somehow i just could not imagine prince charles being called charlie. parang hindi bagay. ^^

Annamanila said...

Abaniko!

Kaantok ba story ko? joke.

Annamanila said...

Julie!

I know most of you were girls or even babies at that time. :) But I guess you grew up on Diana stories and pictorials. And lapped them up. Kasi naman, she was so beautiful and gracious and truly appealed to the masses.

Annamanila said...

Carlotta!

They called him Charlie , those women. Promise! :)

chateau said...

Wow! you were at that fairy tale wedding? Must have been wonderful.
I was in Grade 1 when the fairy tale wedding happened. I remember loving the horse-drawn carriage of Diana. I only read in fairy tales about princesses, and there on TV, all over the papers were photos of a real-life princess marrying a prince! Imagine how amazed I was.

I was close to naming my first daughter, Pat, after Diana because at the time of her death I was waiting to give birth... :D

pining said...

Anna,the queen is still the queen (although I much prefer the rock group)
the queen mother died years ago...

Annamanila said...

Chats!

For years, I loved to brag I was invited to the wedding. :)

Nowadays, it seems more like an unpleasant memory.

But all in all, I was happy in England when summer was there. :)

Annamanila said...

Pining!

I think Queen Elizabeth will die with her crown on ano? Years before, there were talks she would step down in favor of Prince Charles. Ayaw na yata.

Oo nga, wala na pala si Queen Mother. But I knew she was up and about 10 years ago when Diana died .. right? I have images of her marching during the funeral.

Who's the most popular of the royals now? Still the Queen, I suppose. Is she happy kaya? No breath of scandal about her ... and the Duke of ...... whatever her husband's title is.

Annamanila said...

Gypsy!

Look at me .. still a hopeless romantic ... still believing in possibilities in spite of statistics. hahaha

Leah said...

Oh so you did post about this. Now I understand those "women crying".

Annamanila said...

Leah!

Yup. You assured me it was okay to write about it, didn't you?

Heart of Rachel said...

Wow, you were there! Must have been nostalgic.

It was a fairytale wedding just like what Chats said but it's so sad that it didn't end with a happy ever after.

My Uncle who lives in London sent us a commemorative plate with the couple's wedding picture years ago. My mom gave it to me before she left for the States. I used to display it at home. After Diana died, I wrapped it with newspaper and put it in storage. I don't like seeing it because it reminds me of her tragic fate.

Annamanila said...

Rach!

Ah the heart of Rachel couldn't take that tragic and intriguing ending. Oo nga. I just wonder what really happened, to the marriage, the cause of her death. Ang dami speculations. We may never know.

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