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Pretty Princess Pancake


I’ll never forget the year and the approximate date Princess Di got creamed: it was shortly before my very first trip to Britain. That faded stamp at the top; that’s the trip. The “7” in 1997 got stamped over. If my flight had been before the funeral, I could’ve made a fortune scalping my tickets. Oh, well.

Her funeral was on the 6th. I got there on the 16th and we went downtown, near the parade route. Apparently the main funerary action was next door at Buckingham Palace, but even in Hyde Park they had to use bulldozers to pile up all the flowers. Some of them were still there; a huge, wilted mountain behind portable fencing. Still. Ten days later. There were great pools of candle wax an inch thick puddled along the walkways. It was like the morning after some creepy Medieval religious festival. Our Lady of the Photo Op.

I stared at the giant pile of tribute for a while. It was mostly flowers, some with extraordinarily personal notes attached. There were deflated balloons sagging off the iron fence. And legions of stuffed toys.

Stuffed toys? For the funeral of a grown woman?

The whole business was embarrassing and unEnglish. Grief is one thing. Lining up by the thousands along the funeral route, silently mourning — that’s the kind of outpouring I expect from Britons facing history’s sad bits.

Balloons and toys and candles? It was so…unseemly. It was like an outburst of folk magic; like that weird fusion of paganism and Catholicism that happens in very rural, isolated places in backward foreign lands. Like a Cute Overload Santeria.

diana's funeral tribute

That was the first time I noticed or really thought about the spontaneous death shrine. I swear we didn’t build such things when I was young…did we? I’m sure I would have noticed. Now they seem to be everywhere; ugly warts along the highway, simultaneously tragic and tacky. Death kitsch.

What do the toys mean? “Your death gives me free-floating protective feelings as if I were in the presence of a child.” I guess.

The practice seems so alien to both the US and Britain. Very un-Anglo. I can’t decide if it really is a sort of Catholicism by osmosis, or evidence of that vague paganism that spontaneously takes hold in the absence of formal religion.

Whatever. It creeps me out.


Comment from Jessica
Time: August 31, 2007, 8:03 pm

Yeah, it creeps me out, too – and I’ve said repeatedly, “If I die in a car wreck, please DO NOT let anyone build a tacky-ass shrine at the point of impact. Thanks.”

BUT, I have to say, in the case of Diana, while it was certainly very un_British and divinely un-Royal, I think that was the point. Everyone (except The Queen) mourned her death – from the poorest Jickey (I have no idea how to spell that properly – and I looked) to (most) of the Royal Family. Hell, even I cried, and I’ve never been an Anglophile or particularly interested in the royals.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 31, 2007, 8:15 pm

Awww…shoot, Jess! I had your memorial all planned. Lots of fru-fru and glitter and frilly things.

No? Now what do I do with all this shit?

I browsed your Flickr. Your new digs look nice…

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 31, 2007, 8:20 pm

I have an (English) relative who insists the roadside shrine phenomenon emerged during the 1970s, when Brits began to take their summer vacations in southern Europe, where such things are common. Does that mean they grew in the USA due to the influx of Hispanics?

Personally, I have absolutely no idea where it came from. I just wish it would go away again.

Comment from Gnus
Time: August 31, 2007, 8:38 pm

If I should be chased into a concrete whatever by paparazzi, somebody please tell Elton John, “NO.”


Comment from porknbean
Time: August 31, 2007, 8:45 pm

I thought the whole gooey mess of flowers and stuffed critters was over the top. Instead of buying flowers, donate cash to her causes for cripes sake. Mother Theresa sacrificed more for ‘the cause’ but didn’t get as much attention with her death or life for that matter. Guess she wasn’t as pretty.

In the local paper, Mothers Against Drunk Driving had a fitting tribute to her by taking out a whole page and adding her name to the list of ‘princesses’ dead at the hands of a drunk driver for that year.

That being said, I watched her get married when I was in highschool, I have a commemorative wedding or engagement mug of her and Charles (was given to FIL by his brother, who lives in the UK), a fashion doll put out by the Franklin Mint (always thought she would have made a great fashion doll), and several magazines ..’Royalty'(?) of her, early marriage.

Personally, I think the French screwed up by not getting her to hospital for a hundred minutes.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: August 31, 2007, 8:56 pm

Goodbye Good Gnus,
Though I hardly knew you at all
You had the grace to email me
While those around you stalled…

I was at Elton John’s ‘coming out’ concert, quite by accident. It was 1975, I was fifteen…I bought tickets to see a quiet, soulful piano player and I got a dude with 18″ glittered platform shoes and feathered sunglasses. I rolled with it. I drank a beer handed to me from the stage. Probably belonged to a roadie. With herpes.

Yeah, ‘bean…I watched the wedding from the little TV on my desk at work. I remember thinking it was like a window on another time and another place. That’s right…Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu died right before Di’s funeral, didn’t she? Talk about your unholy coinkidinks…Mother Teresa being upstaged by a squished princess.

Comment from Dawn
Time: September 1, 2007, 11:13 am

why do Brits say “to hospital” instead of “to the hospital”? Do they do that with other buildings like the bank or the flower shop?

Comment from jwpaine
Time: September 1, 2007, 12:02 pm

When the Puritans fled England for the New World, little did the Brits know that hidden in the holds of the departing ships was the country’s entire supply of definite articles.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: September 1, 2007, 12:07 pm

Vindictive barstids, the Puritans.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 1, 2007, 1:11 pm

Southerners must have made off with the prepositions, then, because yankees graduate high school.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: September 1, 2007, 2:04 pm

Yeah, but the puritans forgot to bring over the u in colour. Guess they were in a hurry. Or maybe it fell overboard.

Comment from Muslihoon
Time: September 2, 2007, 7:20 pm

I used to study Santería and was involved with it for a short time. (Simultaneously with Palo.) Such movements are…interesting. And they become interestinger when you bring in the quasi-New Age “we do it better and authenticer than you” crowd who are in it for a few bucks and to show off.

My perception of the death and mourning of Diana was colored by that of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. I never cried over Diana, but I did over Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

I was living in Pakistan at that point. I suspect the media were all the same in their teary breathless programming as in Pakistan. Di was fondly remembered; and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, despite being an infidel and one of India’s people, was very highly regarded in Pakistan. But then we only watched sattelite television: no one watched the local channel. So, obviously, Di would be at the forefront. And the print media simply followed along.

Whereas I do understand all the fuzzy, mushy reasons why Di was so much more lamented than Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, I remain a little bitter about the whole eclipsing of the latter by the former. And whereas I understand England’s demand that The Queen hono(u)r Di, I was quite offended by the pressure placed on Her Majesty. How much Her Majesty shall mourn is Her Majesty’s prerogative. (Actually, I think it is all subject to protocol. Same difference.) I, for one, see no reason why Her Majesty ought to have to break with tradition and especially honor a particularly troublesome *former* figure of the Royal House.

Were it the Iron Lady, perhaps. Even Churchill. But Di had no qualifications or standing to merit such attention.

Why, if Her Majesty went around with all Her Majesty’s peoples petty and peculiar emotional lamentations, she would mourn the Sheikh of the Taliban (good ole chap, standing up to imperialist aggression and all that) more than the Archbishop of Canterbury, yes?

And The Queen is supposed to be the symbol and icon of The Sceptered Isle’s stiff upper lip. Being forced to acquiesce to honoring the People’s Princess was hardly within such a rôle.

Em, I think I will shut up now. God save The Queen and all that. Pip pip, hurrah, and cheerio.

Comment from porknbean
Time: September 2, 2007, 8:31 pm

I agree with everything you said. It is ashame that Mother Theresa, doing the Lord’s work with the poorest of the poor, not to mention trying to teach them the value/appreciation of women, barely got a nod over the glamourous dysfunctional princess – big deal if she shook an AIDS patient’s hand – while Mother changed their bedpans.
It is ashame how the people and the media value their fluff over substance.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 2, 2007, 8:46 pm

Religion-hater that I am, I’ve always had a soft spot for Teresa. I think of her as the pain-in-the-ass nun, which apparently is how she made the Vatican do what she needed. She brought lepers in from the streets of Calcutta and believed they shouldn’t die without feeling human touch, which is the sort of spooky-courageous thing that only the very religious can do.

Comment from Muslihoon
Time: September 2, 2007, 10:43 pm

Wow. You guys made my heart garden garden. I was expecting to be burnt at the stake, so to speak.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta believed in a mission of corporal good works to show compassion to the suffering. Period. May seem simple, but if one observes how quickly we are wont to send some electronic numbers to “solve” or “heal” some “problem”, the actual human touch by Blessed Teresa does stand out.

And let us not forget the hundreds who, inspired by her, went to her missions in the hell-holes they are in and joined in the previously-mentioned changing of bedpans and sheets.

It is one thing to solve global warming/cooling/change, another to be involved in letting a poor, solitary leper die with dignity and compassion.

In Judaism, each locality has its “chevrah qadishah” (literally, “holy brotherhood”). These are people attached to a community, a group of women and a group of men. Their duty is to prepare the deceased for burial. This preparation involves washing and scrubbing the deceased, clothing him/her, and reciting Psalms as the deceased is prepared. Members of these groups never divulge their membership. In addition, the rules state that members may never disparage the deceased, men prepare men and women prepare women, and one may prepare only those whom one does *not* know. This is considered the ultimate act of charity, because the recipient thereof cannot repay the preparers. It is utterly selfless and, due to their anonymity, thankless. Only the rabbi, fellow-members, and perhaps funeral home members know who belongs.

Oh, and due to the rule in Judaism that one should be buried as early as possible, these people are on call.

Religion does seem to inspire the most intimate yet personal acts of charity.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: September 5, 2007, 8:30 am

I use definite articles all the time. To wit: ‘I can feel the weight coming on – better go to the shitter!’
Anyway, I think the disparity between the attention given to Diana and Mother Teresa (in the civilised world at least) was mostly due to the fact that Mother Teresa was a hideous old hag, where as Diana wasn’t. And to a lesser extent, apparently Mother Teresa was pretty cruel and nasty, aswell as a profiteer masquerading as a kindly, hideous old hag.
Anyway, I didn’t really give two shits when either of them bought it (why should I? – I never knew them). I didn’t know about Mother Teresa’s brutality back then and assumed she was a pious, saint-like figure like some people still seem to. But still, the most I could conjur was ‘oh dear – what a shame’. The same goes for Diana. Sure, it’s sad when somebody dies a violent death, but strangers die everyday. So she was a princess – big whoop.
Needless to say, I never went to Buckinghmam palace or watch the funeral or any of that stuff. I had my own problems; I’d torn my Penile Frenulum and the bastard wouldn’t stop bleeding.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: September 5, 2007, 8:39 am

Whoopsy – meant to include this interweb link. A thousand apologies…


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 5, 2007, 9:22 am

Okay, everybody who had to Google “frenulum,” raise your hand.

Right. Now. Everybody who didn’t click the youtube link for fear it was footage of a torn penile frenulum, raise your hand…

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: September 5, 2007, 10:32 am

I think that guy in the video should have his frenulum torn by Avy Scott – who I thought was Gibby. Sorry about that dude.

And…ya think Mother T has her name on a lot of places? Check out Senator Byrd sometime. He has no shame. And way more money.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: September 5, 2007, 11:07 am

Hey, I wish I was Avy Scott. I’d never leave the house…uh, I mean even less.
Hey Mother T (not Mr. T’s mum) may have been worthy of the plaudits, she may not have. She’s dead either way. And so is Diana. Let’s all agree that Diana was easier on the eye than Mama T.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: September 5, 2007, 11:17 am

Yep – Mother T was a skank and Di was a beauty. Both are dead now and need not be mentioned again, IMHO.

But “Sheets” Byrd is ugly too, and still alive, and should be given a hefty ration of shit whenever possible. I mean, he’s probably funded the Senator Byrd Home for Displaced or Torn Frenulums.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 5, 2007, 11:24 am

Uh oh. Now you’ve done it. I sense a “what is the plural of frenulum?” discussion coming on…

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: September 5, 2007, 11:36 am

I vote for the famous double “i” ending.

It would probably help if I looked it up and found out what it actually is, but I’m keeping the mystery alive.

Besides, it’s a little-known fact that uttering firm opinions while completely ignorant-to-the-point-of sandstonelike-unconsciousness – especially in writing – can get you a Pulitzer. Hope waxes eternal.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 5, 2007, 12:01 pm

I’m leaning toward “frenulæ” myself. I love that poncy æ doohickey. It looks so gosh darned smart.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: September 5, 2007, 1:18 pm

According to wiki, it’s frenula or frena, but bear in mind the cock people may have edited that pade to thow inquiring minds off the scent.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: September 5, 2007, 2:28 pm

I considered the ae doohicky, but stuck with the blunt declaration: frenulii.

I mean, look at it: the word Frenulii just drips “contageous”.

But it also evokes visions of Italian pastry, too. Or an obscure part of a scientific instrument. Sigh.

Comment from GoDsMaK
Time: January 5, 2015, 9:34 pm

im a very anti-religion chap myself,, though i see no problem with people worshiping and believing what they wish,, in fact living in america as i do,, this country was pretty much founded on freedom of religion,, at least in big part,,, as for god, i do not claim to know if there is one or not,,, i could not know that there is not one any more than religious people could know there is,, i’m a scientist and i believe in nature, the mother earth, the universe, and the wonderful and beautiful miracles it contains is all here because of the big bang, but how do we know what set that off? could very well have been god … we don’t know and likely never will… but as for religion,, well thats a big deal,, i think it is 100% the words beliefs, fears, hangups, wants, wishes and hopes among a million other things… i believe that anyone that has ever claimed to be spoken to by god,, whether to give them information to write for the bible, or commandments for the people to follow, or anything as far and in between were either hearing voices like anyone would with a chemical imbalance or mental issue of some type, are simply lying, or are fooling themselves. and when they become fanatical in their beliefs…. well we have all seen the results of that past and present. but if they simply choose to believe and use it to help them live a good life ,,, and if it helps them to cope with tragedies such as the death of loved ones by making them believe that they will be with them again one day then more power too them. faith can be a very powerful thing, it’s just obvious to some of us that any true help you might get from a true faith in your god is most likely simply a result of the faith itself… NOT any god. Faith is the true power,, and having a belief in something higher then myself or anyone else in this world is very easily accomplished without the need for any god. i also think that the world spent far too long assigning the unknown or the unexplained to the hand of god. wasnt too long ago that if you and your friend were walking down the sidewalk together… and he suddenly fell to the ground convulsing, eyes rolling up into his head , mouth foaming… you and everyone else around would have said he was possesed. Of course now we know it is a seizure…. good thing im sure several poor souls were locked away for life , killed, tortured, or some other horrid thing was done to them to exercise those demons. religion had its place in the beginnings of large society to sufficiently keep the masses in fear and under control. but id like to believe we have evolved beyond the need for that… unfortunately it seems as though i’m in the minority,,, so keep on funding those churches people to assure your place in heaven with the rest.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 5, 2015, 9:41 pm

I was going to biff this one, but the link doesn’t really go anywhere. I decided it was proper schizophrenic word salad, so let it be.

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