Shortly after the most celebrated drunk driving fatality in world history, people began to talk about the best way of memorialising the Queen of Hearts. Various journalists called for a statue of St Diana of the Underpass to adorn the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square (see Gilbert Adair’s not-very-good novel A Closed Book for a version of this plotline); and the not-much-missed Leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, for example, was one of those who thought that Heathrow Airport should be renamed. Private Eye came up with the excellent idea that “the whole of the M1 should be turned into a permanent flower garden” (Eye 933).
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown was given the job of chairing the committee to decide how to memorialise the late lamented. According to James Naughtie’s not-much-read book The Rivals, this was because – astonishingly – he was furious at not having been invited to the funeral. And, in January 2000, this committee announced that there we should get a fountain in Hyde Park.
The Eye again rose to the occasion, announcing that “a spectacular ‘Fountain of Drivel’ two miles high is to be the centrepiece of the ï¿½10 million Diana Memorial Theme Park in west London…”. (Eye 994). And now life is imitating satire again: Culture Tsarina Tessa Jowell today announced the final fountain design for the Hyde Park monument, and the drivel is flowing fast, with the evening news bulletins on the radio already filling up with inane opinions about this inane memorial. And the winning design proposal itself, from Gustafson Porter, contained this:
“Reaching Out / Letting In – these two gestures create a balance. Reaching out to those with whom one comes into contact and in turn being affected by their feelings, are both attributes associated with Princess Diana. These qualities of openness made her the ‘Peoples’ Princess’. We hope to create a water feature that can be associated in peoples’ minds with these qualities. We wish this spirit of inclusiveness to reach all those who come across it, whatever their backgrounds, culture or creed. We also hope that they leave having gained from the experience. We are considering the creation of an oval water feature, …. Its character could be historic and formal, contemporary and relaxed… On other occasions it will be a contemplative place, to ride the waves of a diverse world.”
Drivel, drivel, drivel, and much more to come, no doubt, in tomorrow’s papers.