Deborah Orr: A dreary, joyless tribute to a woman who supposedly was full of laughter

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The Independent Online

One of the weirdest things about yesterday's service for Princess Diana was that the BBC kept banging on about how it had been organised by "the boys". By "the boys", they meant a 25-year-old man and his brother, who at nearly 23 is an officer in the Army, and therefore in charge of a bunch of people, quite a few of them younger than he is.

Whatever they might do with their lives, in matters pertaining to Diana, it seems, William and Harry are to be wreathed in innocence for as long as is possible, for ever the tragic children who lost their tragic mother. Will they ever be allowed to be men, who are allowed to hint at some understanding of what their mother was really like? Maybe they will, one day. But yesterday's signals were not auspicious.

I was never what you'd call an uncritical admirer of Diana, but one of the sweetest things I ever heard her say was that when the children asked her why Charles had chosen Camilla she told them that "the heart wants what the heart wants". Whether you agree with this romantic vision of marital infidelity or not, it's still the kindest thing to say to your children about your husband's affair.

We are told a lot of bilge about Diana's "goodness", but it really did show character that she resisted the temptation to use William and Harry as little stealth bombers of hate against Camilla and Charles. All those who intervened to stop "the boys" from having their stepmother along to the service could be described as having intervened to sabotage one of the most loving legacies their mother bequeathed them. Nice memorial gesture, people.

I dare say that it was the unseemly wranglings over the guest list, and this one in particular, that inspired all the clerical warnings that "this service should mark the point at which her memory rests in peace". If they really wanted that, though, the clerics should have made a better job of invoking her memory. The Diana memorialised at yesterday's ceremony was basically the one that the Queen and Prince Philip can just about stomach. It wasn't the one who really existed.

Prince Harry struck the most personal note in a service notable for its leaden joylessness. Even so, his few words were utterly banal, as bereft as all else in the whole miserable event, of any truly personal memory of the woman being commemorated. Like every other person who spoke about Diana, he simply told us what fun she was, how loving she was, and how great she was, without seeming able to actually convey any of this at all. At no moment in the service was there any laughter, even though there is laughter at all the best funerals, never mind laughter at an event 10 years on from the death of a woman whose life was supposedly "full of fun".

Maybe Harry feels that the truly private memories that he has of his mother, and cherishes, should not be traduced in the sharing, as so much of the rest of her life has been. If so, then that's miserable, because it means that even "the boys" have fallen in with their grandmother's wishes and have acquiesced in the use of their mother's memory as fodder for the establishment and the Firm.

Harry did describe his memories of Diana's "hysterical laughter", though without pointing out that this may have been because she was a hysteric. The word everyone else speaking at the service chose to describe Diana's psychological problems was "vulnerability". Diana's"vulnerability" was referred to only in positive terms, as a marvellous gift that helped her with her charity work.

But I believe the observation of the American writer Alice Munro, that we love people as much for their faults as their gifts, is true. No one at yesterday's memorial service was prepared to declare their love for Diana's faults. They were either ignored or mentioned only as base metal that had been turned into charity gold. The suspicion was that it was like that for her in her life as well, and that the ghastliest thing about yesterday's ghastly ceremony was that it summed up her time with the Royal Family only too well.

She's one of us, our Keira

One might imagine that Keira Knightley is a typically English young actress, scampering around playing characters from Jane Austen books, and hanging out in London with floppy-fringed English boys called Rupert.

One would be imagining wrong though, since a trip north of the border to the Republic of Salmondland reveals that Knightley is actually one of the most significant Scotswomen to exist since Betty Burke hit Skye. She makes no move without the Caledonian media becoming mad with joy at the success of one of their own, even though she is from the home counties.

This week the Hibernian press was beside itself, because it had procured pictures of Knightley standing on the red carpet at Venice beside James McAvoy, her co-star in the film of Ian McEwan's Atonement. He really is from Glasgow, so the Scottish Daily Mail lost no time in advising its readers to "meet Scotland's new golden duo".

Sadly, though, there was no further info on the Scottish connection, only disappointment by the Mail's London-based film critic that Keira's English accent wasn't up to much. Well, no wonder. With a mother called MacDonald, how could it be otherwise?

That's no way to treat an addiction

New figures pointing to a steep rise in deaths from drugs overdoses have at long last prompted a re-evaluation of the wisdom of offering methadone as a way of treating addiction to heroin. Methadone treatment has been heavily promoted by the Government and is now seen as the gold standard in treating heroin addiction. But it is utterly mad.

Every time I watch a television documentary that deals with some hapless addict, there comes a point when the terribly serious voiceover intones that Janice or Wayne or Whoever is now receiving counselling, and has been clean for however many weeks or months now. Then Whoever is wheeled on, only to gaze at the camera with empty eyes and mutter disinterestedly about how much their life has changed since they've been given a fridgeful of methadone.

And every time I think, how can people seriously condone this stuff? Don't they understand that it's like saying, "Mark used to drink a bottle of vodka every day. But now he necks back a bottle of wine instead"? Except that Mark is probably selling his free wine so that he can buy some vodka. Even if he isn't, he's still an alcoholic, just as a person who needs regular doses of methadone is still an addict. The people who believe methadone is a "cure" are as deluded as the addicts themselves. Though it is certainly true that delusion and drugs go hand in hand, even if you are not taking them.

The Times yesterday reported, in reference to the same set of figures, that a drop in deaths from temazepam offered "a glimmer of hope". Not really. Policy in the part of Britain where "jellies" were most popular first tackled the problem of street abuse of this prescription drug by moving from injectable capsules to non-injectable tablets. But addicts continued to crush up the pills and inject them, with fatal results.

Some NHS trusts don't prescribe the drug now, to anyone, even the most innocent of patients, so that there is no chance of it falling into the wrong hands. You can get methadone on prescription if you can't face up to the idea that you'll have to ditch your drug habit. But you can't get temazepam on prescription if you're a bit anxious about your inoperable cancer. A glimmer of hope indeed.

* I do hope that the person who has snapped up Damien Hirst's diamond skull for £50m will do it more justice than I did. Walking into the darkened room where the geegaw was displayed, and seeing it twinkling dementedly away, all I could think was: "I must get my diamond cleaned." Haven't managed that yet. Glad I don't have all those other ones to fret about.

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