Between 1995 and 2000, my family and I were living in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. I had a job there with one of the banks. It was August 1997 and I was to travel from Riyadh to Glasgow in Scotland to visit with a company there.
It was a three stage flight. The first stage took me to Bahrain, where there was an eight hour stopover until the next flight. Fortunately for me, the airline provided a hotel room for the duration of the stopover, so I was able to rest and freshen up. While I was in the dining room having my dinner, I realised that I could only see out of one eye. That was odd and had never happened before. I also realised that I couldn’t decide what food to choose from the self-serve. That wasn’t so odd, so I realised that I was entering a hypo. I quickly pushed some food down my neck, keeping in mind that I could only see out of one eye, so had the other one closed. I must have looked a bit strange. I made my way back to the room where the hypo got steadily worse until I had eaten enough of my emergency lollies.
Through this I had missed the airport shuttle bus, so was late for my flight, which was stage two of the journey. Luck was on my side and it had been delayed, so I was able to get to London OK.
We were sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow, waiting to take off for Glasgow, when I heard the people near me mention something about Princess Diana and Paris. I could tell by their tone of voice that it was serious, so I asked them what was the news. They told me gravely that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris overnight. I think like the 11th of September 2001, everybody remembers where they were when they heard about Diana. I was in a British Airways plane on the tarmac at Heathrow, ready to fly to Glasgow.
When I got to Glasgow and had set myself up in the hotel room, I went downstairs to do what I always do in a new city; buy myself a bag of emergency groceries. I got in one of the taxis waiting outside and asked to go to a supermarket. The driver turned around and looked at me, then shrugged his shoulders and literally drove around the corner. That was the closest supermarket and it suited my purposes beautifully. Funnily, the driver spoke to me the whole time during the five minute journey and I didn’t understand a single word he said, with the exception being a reference to Princess Diana. That was the only bit of the conversation I understood.
For the next five days I went about my business in Glasgow. Each evening I would go for a walk around central Glasgow, seeing as much of the city as I could. One of the central features is George Square, where people were starting to leave bouquets of flowers in memory of Diana. During this period, every station on the television in my room was devoted 24 hours a day to Diana related news. It was all quite overwhelming.
On the day of departure, I chose not to take the booked flight back from Glasgow to London; instead I decided to take a train ride. While sitting in the main concourse waiting for my train to leave, I saw a wonderful sight. A fellow who was dressed as a traditional highlander with his kilt, walking staff, a tartan cloak and a small dagger tucked into the fold of his sock went striding past me. I was in seventh heaven.
After arriving in London I was oblivious to what was going on around me. I was catching the tube to Heathrow, so needed to kill a couple of hours before it was time to leave. After checking a map, I decided to head to one of the palaces to have a look. I determined which tube station was closest and proceeded to get to that station.
As I emerged from the underground, there were many more people around than I would have expected. Eventually I asked someone what was going on and they looked at me like I was from another planet. “The funeral procession for Princess Diana has just finished”. Then the penny dropped for me. I was dumbfounded, and furious with myself for not realising. I wandered off through the gardens and came upon one of the entrance gates to the palace and there was a sight I will never forget. The sea of flowers and cards that was there was astonishing. It radiated out from the gate for at least 25 metres and was almost a metre deep. And this was just one of the palaces.
The people’s princess had died and they were showing the world what she meant to them.
The rest of the trip was in a daze, to be honest. It was almost like I was in a trance, so overwhelmed was I by the sights I had seen. I got back to Riyadh without any further drama and my wife told me that it was not only Great Britain that had been overtaken by Princess Diana, but it seemed the whole world.