It is nearly 20 years since Princess Diana died, and who doesn’t remember where they were or what they were doing on the day that news was announced?

“Dodi’s dead and Diana’s fighting for her life,” was the phone call I received from a friend that Sunday. We wandered along Chapel Street, Prahran waiting for better news that did not come.

Neil McMahon writes, The Age, GoodWeekend, 6th May 2017, about her five visits to Australia when she “dazzled and delighted audiences – all the while hiding inner turmoil.”

None of the men I have known care to discuss why Diana held such fascination – although I do remember men and women were pretty much equally represented at a party my friend Jane held to honour the Royal Wedding. We fancy-dressed up in our royal best and I escorted my family corgi as a symbol of royal office. To be honest the dog was only half corgi, the other half being dachshund, and my friend’s sister fed her French onion dip all night, from which she only just survived; but I digress.

It’s not that Diana was a princess; it was that she was real. It was hard not to be fascinated by her glamour, her shyness, her every move, as she coped with the wolves. And how she survived ‘the divorce’ to go on and develop a purposeful identity through causes such as AIDS and removing land mines  – which was inspiring. And when she found genuine love.

So when she died, I for one was truly sorry. I joined a friend to watch the funeral procession on television. It was one of the saddest things I ever viewed. Such was my grief that when the lone carriage-with-coffin passed through those private gates, my tissue pile on the floor had grown into a soggy pyramid teetering at my elbow.

We laughed about my tissues but something about that story of dashed dreams and wretched ending had tapped into my own romantic problems. Diana was about the same age as me and, through the media, I had followed her story from beginning to end.

McMahon does not try to explain why we felt so much for her but narrates a number of recollections. I was charmed to read that during the time Molly Meldrum was organising and hosting a Rocking With the Royals concert on the banks of the Yarra, Diana had prodded Molly to make a quick stop at his Richmond home. The story goes that Lynne Randell (an early rock n roll icon and late sister of my friend Scott) was making tea in the kitchen when they walked in. Molly said: ‘Your Royal Highness, this is my personal assistant, Lynne Randell,’ to which Lynne said, ‘You’ve got to be f…ing kidding me!’ and they all had a laugh.

Yes, she was real.

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