How to choose a name #dog #memories

How do you chose a name? Mine was apparently after Geoffrey Chaucer the medieval English author (my mother, pretentious… you could say) and my brother after our grandparents (Christian and surnames). We just went with what we liked except… both my grandmothers have, as one of their names, Grace and both my mother and mother in law also have Grace in their library of names so we slotted that in. Even Dog fell foul of this tendency by being named after the title of an album that we, but especially the Textiliste finds v popular. It was this last that triggered a recollection of this post from a few years ago when the Heir plus one and his missus gave birth to a daughter. There was a lot of speculation, and in time honoured fashion, a lot of betting on the outcome… this what I wrote and where it took me.

Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. The bookies had a field day with Charlotte. A lot of money went on Elizabeth. But Diana? That was so much a certainty it was almost unbettable. A name with a huge emotional component here in the UK. One to trigger the memory of a very personal journey.

When I qualified as a solicitor in 1981 my then flat mate (the Suit Borrower) told me to ‘get a better job’. I had struggled to secure my articles – now called a training contract – which are two years work experience covering various areas of the law that you need in order to be admitted to the Roll, the list of people permitted by law to practice as solicitors. Having done so in a small firm of solicitors in the West End of London, just north of Oxford Street I was content to stay there for a while.

The Suit Borrower was having none of it. I was ‘wasting my time’ and ‘missing the boat’. He nagged me for weeks as 1980 turned into 1981 and I approached April 4th the day my 2 years expired.

Eventually he won. I owe him thanks – much repaid over the years as he borrowed my dinner suits on a regular basis. After a round or three of interviews I chose to join the Scion of the Establishment, Freshfields, solicitors to the Bank of England.

Yes I chose. Unlike two years before when I had one offer – two if you count the creepy man with a lisp who held my knees throughout my interview and offered me a job on the spot with ‘I’m sure we will enjoy each other’s strengths’ as he squeezed my bicep. Now I had four offers from highly regarded firms in the centre of the action as the City of London deregulated in the lead up to Big Bang.  For several weeks I actually thought they chose me for my obvious skills, personal charm and get-go. In fact they needed bodies to cope with the flood of opportunities. Right place, right time.

My joining date, after giving notice and enjoying my first flight for a holiday in Spain, was July 1981. My new office was housed in a tower of ten floors which then formed part of a post war estate right behind St Paul’s. Coming from a cramped office in a dusty ramshackle building this seemed to be the height of luxury and sophistication. To say the least I was excited (as well as shit scared, if I’m honest).

And to cap this momentous week, just three days after I joined, the Heir to the Throne was to marry his fairy-tale princess, Diana Spencer, in St Paul’s.

I cycled to work back then (indeed I did most of my career) so as I finished work the day before the big event, a warm sultry evening with a hint of summer rain, I unpadlocked the bike (not that it warranted such security) and wheeled it across the piazza to the steps of St Paul’s.

Even before I reached the road, before I could see steps, I heard the noise, I felt the fizz of  happiness. The barriers were up and the campers were already three deep. Shirt sleeved policemen helped people into the gaps. Cabbies smiled and rippling cheers passed in waves through the audience. Food was cooked, sandwiches shared.

A bobby saw me. ‘You going to cycle the route, young’un?’ I hadn’t thought to, it was a bit out of my way in truth. He saw me hesitate. He turned to the nearest part of the crowd. ‘Should he ride the route?’ He had a stentorian voice that ripped the air.

‘Yes!’ They bellowed back at me. Someone started singing the pushbike song by Mungo Jerry. I couldn’t not, could I?

It was surreal, ethereal almost. The sun cast a sepia tint on the Portland stone of many buildings along the route. It made the facade of the Royal Courts glow. A breeze nipped at the bunting. If ever all was right with the world, all was right with the world that day. It took me an hour to cruise the Strand, and wend my way along the Mall throbbing as I’ve not seen it other than during the Olympics.

I peeled off at the Victoria monument in front of Buckingham Palace and headed for my flat. I smiled the whole way.

The next day I watched the wedding, the nervous, not to say panic stricken bride and the relieved mother in law to be.

Sixteen years later, over the bank holiday weekend in August 1997 I spent a lazy few days at my parents in law. On 31st August I awoke to ‘Diana is dead’ headlines. It was one of those moments when you remember where you were when you first heard, like Kennedy’s assassination and 9/11.  I was still with Freshfields, looking back towards my fortieth birthday with two young children and a wife. Life was good but inevitably rather more adult.

During the following days the tension was palpable. A country used to its own stereotype of stiff upper lips and understated emotions began to let go. Tony Blair had a job on his hands ensuring the Royal family adjusted to that mood and, generally speaking he did a good job. The plans for a funeral gathered pace. This time it was to be held in Westminster Abbey.

The night before the funeral was chilly; I remember earlier rain and a lassitude but the ache in my bones might have been all sorts. My days were longer in 1997 than in 1981, the year was turning towards Autumn so it was dark as I wheeled my bike up the slope from the garage of our offices off Fleet Street.

Home was south across the river but I hesitated. I had seen on the TV in the office the build up of the crowds along the route, up the Mall and down Whitehall. I was cold; lycra doesn’t suit me and it is a poor insulator. I needed to get going and yet, as I once did before, I hesitated. There were no crowds to pull me on but I turned my wheels towards St Paul’s and set off up Fleet Street, up Ludgate Hill to the dark and empty steps.

No police, no barriers, no bunting, just ghosts. I swung around. Traffic was thinning – the next day was a holiday and people were heading home  early but absent the customary spring in their step.

Slowly, humming that stupid song I retraced my previous steps. At Trafalgar Square I joined the funeral route and the crowds. They were three deep. Some cooked, sandwiches were shared. The police helped people across the barriers though it was eerily quiet in places. A few waved at me as I peddled slowly past watching them. There were signs this time hanging on the barriers, painful, demands for understanding, the crying need for some sort of rational explanation for the utterly irrational.

Once again I reached Buckingham Palace; from about half a mile away I began to smell the flowers. Up close the scent was nearly overpowering. A well ordered line was waiting to add yet more bouquets. I watched for a bit and then with the Victoria monument behind me I set off home.

And now we have another Diana, Princess. Yes,  she’s Charlotte but she carries, in her third name, the memories of a woman who changed a monarchy, who in both life and death made it face itself and ask and be asked questions for which it was unprepared.  Diana Spencer’s life in the public gaze was tumultuous and ultimately tragic. I hope her grand daughter has a much quieter time and I have no cause to get on my bike again.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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37 Responses to How to choose a name #dog #memories

  1. Ritu says:

    She was something, was Diana Spencer. I was in infant school when they married, abd the newly wed couple did a drive by in Solihull. I remember us all being shepherded to.the roadside by school, flags in hand, so we could greet them with a sea of red white and blue waving at them.
    She had a serenity about her, that’s for sure.
    And, that August morning in 1997, I remember that so clearly, too. Pops came into mybroom very early and gently shook me awake.
    I knew in that instant, that there was bad/sad news.
    Thinking it was the demise of a family member, I sat up and waited for hum.to tell me.
    Pops sat on my bed, hand on mine abd said “Princess Diana is gone.”
    Her death announcement was like that of a family members. It affected us all, because, somehow, she had entered the hearts of us all. She was a part of our family. Maybe royal by marriage, but down to earth, kind, and a woman of compassion.
    Beautiful woman, beautiful soul.
    I hope Princess Charlotte will make her grandmother’s name shine, in the future. 🙏🏼💛

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      my parents found the national outpouring of grief hard to fathom and, to an extent, felt it insincere. It didn’t help that as ardent royalists they loathed the attacks on the Queen, especially. But, even they were changing, becoming more open with their emotions, more tactile generally and this event more than any other changed a national reserve, removing the sclerotic restrictions of the past. Dad, more than Mum began to see how hiding your emotions could damage people; his father was a classic case where proper treatment post WW1 would have made his life and that of his family so much easier. It’s no surprise there are so many mental health, sex abuse and other scandals when you think how closed in we were expected to be about anything considered shameful. It’ll take a generation or two to put ourselves in a better place.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. joylennick says:

    An inspired piece, Geoff, Very nicely; evocatively… written. So very sad, especially for Diana’s two little lads. x

    Liked by 4 people

    • TanGental says:

      I know; after the death and the national outpouring of grief, which my parents found hard to take at the time – it just jarred – my dad came to see that, had his father, esp but also his mother had outlets for their feelings their lives could have been so much easier and better. Like many men, my grandfather’s WW1 experience left mental scars that were visited on her and my dad and it took mum all her skills (and subterfuge) to keep him from slipping into depression. That extraordinary horrible period freed up something that was long needed.

      Like

  3. Pam Lazos says:

    What a beautiful post, Geoff; it plays like a piece of music. I watched the wedding. I was still in college so I had a college kid’s easy enough (didn’t know that at the time) routine. Like the rest of the world I was enthralled by the beautiful princess who managed to find her way in the world to not only leading an exemplary life but showing the rest of us how. She walked the razor’s edge daily yet still transformed us all, demanding without saying a word about it, just by doing, that we live heart-based lives and take care of those who need it. The world is poorer because she’s gone. Pretty sure it would be better somehow if she were still here doing her good work and smiling her shy smile. Thanks for the flashback. 😘

    Liked by 3 people

    • TanGental says:

      I agree 100%; both her compassion for AIDS patients was brilliant. Her boys wouldn’t have had to deal with such rubbish and I expect Charles would be more settled. Mind you, Camilla would have had even more rubbish which would be unfair. If there was any good out of it, it was how we as a nation stopped paying so much lip service to the idea of the still upper lip as a good thing and not a recipe for long term mental health issues and exploitation such as with children/vulnerable adults and, more than ever and at last, women. Keep calm and carry on, was too often Keep quiet and carry on and it feels as if Diane’s death and the outpouring of grief broke the dam

      Liked by 2 people

  4. trifflepudling says:

    A very affecting piece. I just wish the media would leave the whole thing alone (another doc this weekend) and I especially deplore ‘The Crown’ putting words in people’s mouths who can’t speak back (I’ve never seen it but the vast majority must be scripted).
    We don’t really know what went on and how much or whether she played along with the media but it’s just tragic that they didn’t allow Charles to marry Camilla in the first place – so obviously well suited. And if only Diana’s family had allowed her to pull out. Every August must be traumatic to William and Harry.
    The current Duchess of Kent, though, doesn’t get enough credit for doing Diana-type things before Diana did and William and Kate are carrying on in this country where Diana left off; and I very much admire Harry’s Invictus Games. I hope he and Meghan will have a good marriage.

    Liked by 3 people

    • trifflepudling says:

      When I say just tragic re Camilla and Charles I mean it in the sense that the whole dreadful and damaging chain of events would never have happened if they had been allowed to get married in the first place.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It is speculated that the two grandmothers had a great deal of influence in almost forcing Charles and Diana into a relationship and marriage. The fairytale princess was very much a media manufactured thing and put great pressure on the couple. I feel sad that the consequences were so devastating, and long lasting, for everyone concerned.

        Liked by 3 people

      • TanGental says:

        I know; I’ve come to appreciate that monarchy is a form of societal and cultural abuse; these people are born to suffer in gilded cages and if they try and leave are vilified. Goodness alone knows why anyone would marry into it

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure that their reign (ho ho) will come to an end soon after the death of Charles! I have always been a staunch royalist, having served Queen and Country, but I think that William is not robust enough to maintain the necessary gravitas and regal separation required.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I expect they’ll reinvent themselves as the first organic monarchy

        Liked by 3 people

      • TanGental says:

        I understand

        Like

    • TanGental says:

      As usual you write a lot of sense. The Crown was enjoyable when it dealt with periods I didn’t know (the 50s and 60s) but as it approached the 70s it became more a fiction to me. I understand your antipathy but, ignoring the personal stuff, the politics was great.

      Like

      • Yes, not having seen it I hadn’t thought about how it included politics!
        Re. the Grandmothers (@ Peter’s Ponderings), apparently her maternal grandmother advised her against it as the whole set up wouldn’t suit her, but the Queen Mother may have been less understanding: after all, she had managed to fit in etc etc. I think William & Kate will be fine – Kate is very strong and will support him and they’ll be ok. Some of the younger royals, by that I mean a generation on from the Queen, are much better at being demonstrative and touchy feely: Charles in particular has never been one to not express feelings. But the whole Diana period helped put an end to the stiff upper lip as you say, although a little stiffness is perhaps required in order to keep going at all and avoid turning to mush!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A great many memories stirred for you here Geoff, very well recounted and linked to your own circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well done, Geoff. We scruffy Americans can’t hope to understand the Monarchy and all its machinations. We got out and I think for good reason. Your memories of Diana were magnificent.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. JT Twissel says:

    To me, Diana was just a pawn who wanted off the chess board – she figured her immense charisma would save her but it just locked her in a different game. But I love your story! My husband also biked to work every day.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. noelleg44 says:

    Well said, and well-written, Geoff. She brought personality and humanity to the monarchy.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Erika says:

    Diana has always been a name I really liked a lot. That was even before anyone knew Lady Diana. I think we all know exactly what we did or where we were when we learned about the saddening tragic news. Beautifully written, Geoff!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. An interesting and poignant piece, Geoff. I echo John’s comment that Americans don’t really understand the Monarchy, though at times we are also obsessed with it. I do remember Diana’s story well and how sad it seemed, especially splashed across the tabloids. Her death was tragic.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. V.M.Sang says:

    Naming children is a terrific responsibility. It’s what they will be known by for all their lives.
    Giving little Princess Charlotte her grandmother’s name helps preserve it, and will hopefully remind her of what that beautiful lady stood for.
    But some are so unkind, trying to be clever, like the parents of a boy called Rocky Shaw. My aunt taught a Pearl Button, and also Olive, Myrtle and Laurel shrub!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. willowdot21 says:

    Yes indeed Geoff may she and her brothers have happier lives than those who have gone before them.
    May they be more ,human, humble and honest too.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Widdershins says:

    I remember following the whole thing from afar (Australia) and thinking even then, ‘don’t do it, Di’.
    A beautifully written piece though, Sir Geoff. Got me all teary, it did.

    Liked by 1 person

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