Death of a Princess - Diana, Princess of Wales
I was driving a taxi the night the news came through about the death of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales.
I think it was a Saturday night, and the city was full of revellers. Everybody it seems was drinking.
I wasn't. I was as sober as the day I was born; likewise the other 4,000 odd cab drivers in the city. That is something that 20 years experience can tell you, no-one who drives for a living drinks before going on duty, or through their shift.
You hear about the odd one, but they are very few and far between. When your livelihood depends on your having a clean driving licence, you just don't do it.
Remember I said that, because it becomes important later on.
Anyway, there I was, merrily driving away in my black hack, the same type of taxis the London cabbies drive, picking people up and dropping them off, when a news flash came over the radio.
It said that Lady Diana, or Lady Di as she was affectionately known as in the UK, had been involved in a car crash just outside Paris, and that her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed had been killed.
What? That was shocking news and I immediately felt for Diana. This was her fella that she had loved and lost, and now he was dead.
I remember I had no passengers in the cab at the time. Still driving, heading back to town to see if anyone required my services, I probably drove past waving hands trying to flag me down. My concentration was elsewhere, listening out for more news.
About an hour later, the same news was repeated but with no updates, except by this time RTN had been speaking with witnesses who said they saw Lady Di walk away from the crash scene, and she seemed to be OK.
I was surprised how uptight I had been over news of the crash. Lady Di's appearance in every single copy of every daily newspaper we bought had become a standing joke in our house.
Whatever page Lady Di was on was relegated to the cat litter tray at the first available opportunity. Hey she was OK but her life had nothing in common with our lives, and we disliked having stories about her rammed down our throats all the time.
I put what was happening with the car crash out of my mind and got on with my job. Occasionally , on quieter spells, I fiddled about with the knob on the radio and tuned into other stations. Everyone was talking about the crash. Witnesses were interviewed. Diana was in hospital and expected to survive. Shame about her boyfriend.
It must have been around 4am when the news came over the radio that Lady Di had died. Now I was truly shocked and saddened. Earlier news reports had stated she was walking and expected to survive. Now she was dead. Just a young lass really.
I was stopped at traffic lights. A police van pulled alongside.
I rolled my window down and signalled to the officer nearest me to do the same. He did. "Lady Diana has died", I said.
The middle-aged rotund policeman looked shocked. "No", he said, "she's been in an accident but she's going to be OK".
I told him I'd tuned into Radio Clyde and they had announced her death. I saw him getting on his radio to call base just before the lights changed to green and I was heading back into town again, in a real daze.
The nightclubs were unloading. I was busy for a while. I kept the radio on. They had started playing funereal music which was dull and old-fashioned, and I can honestly say that before that night I did not know what funereal music was.
I hope I never hear it again. But left it on I did, because between intervals of music, there was talk of nothing else but the death of Lady Diana.
Revellers heading home after their night out were in floods of tears in the back of my cab. People were stunned.
This is the same people, who like me, complained daily that there was hardly any real news outside of the Royal marriage which we got to hear about all the time. We were fed up to the back teeth hearing about Lady Diana this...Lady Diana that.
But to hear she was dead felt like losing a family member. I can't explain it any better than that. We hated her, but we must have loved her too.
At the end of my shift there was talk with the other drivers about the rugby due to be played that day, and the big football game due to be played in the city either that day or the next.
"It'll be cancelled", I warned.
And it was. The football, the rugby, all big events cancelled while the country mourned.
Flowers were laid at George Square in the heart of the city of Glasgow. I even bought and laid some myself. There were so many flowers the square got roped off - the flowers piled high in all directions.
It was the same in all the cities of the UK, and in smaller townships countrywide.
The whole country went into a period of mourning such as I shall probably never see again in my lifetime.
Anyway, I digress...I was, and still am to a certain extent, an avid news watcher. When I went home that morning, I switched on the TV. It must have been 6am. BBC News24 were discussing nothing else. ITV were discussing nothing else.
Between first hearing the news that Lady Di had died, and now, it had been clarified by several people that the car in which she was travelling had entered a tunnel in Paris. Witnesses described how the car was not going that fast - maybe 60mph. Fast enough but not 'silly fast' on a freeway.
The car had apparently crashed in the tunnel. There was talk of another car chasing the Royal car, news reporters looking for a story. Lady Di and her entourage must have been well used to that scenario.
This woman was never off the news. She lived her whole life in front of news reporters.
All the TV channels talked of nothing else. It must have been a nightmare for the presenters, trying to find words to fill in gaps; to keep repeating what news they had; to try to make sense of it all while informing the nation.
I'd got home about 6am, and all the stations repeated everything I'd heard through the night, about how all those eyewitnesses saw Diana step out from the wreckage, about how the car was not going that fast when it entered the tunnel.
I was still in a state of shock. Tired yes, but I didn't want to miss anything so I kept watching even though everything was repeated ad infinitum.
It was around 7am when I noticed a change in the news reporting.
Suddenly, the car was travelling really fast. It was going at at least 100mph. Diana was unconscious when the ambulance crew reached her. The media were looking for someone to blame. The prime minister was interviewed. The Cabinet had awakened and the news changed.
History tells us now how the chauffeur Henri Paul, got the blame. They said he was drunk, yet CCTV footage showed the man acting completely normally just before he drove his clients away.
Professional drivers who work for a living, do not drink and drive.
He was dead, yet they said samples of his blood showed he was over the legal alcohol limit. I later asked a pathologist I had in the back of my taxi if it was possible to add alcohol to someone's body after death to make it look as if they were drunk, and he said yes.
It's a shame I didn't write this all down at the time, but I knew, because I was listening to all the news channels on both radio and TV ALL that night, that the story changed the next day.
All the reporters knew too. So did every othertaxi driver/policeman/nighthawk that was awake that night.
Is it any wonder there has always been talk of a conspiracy theory?
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