"So 'the nation went into shock', did it (Editor's letter, 23 June)? Give us a break. Actually, the media went into overdrive after the death of Diana and some people, in lan Hislop's priceless phrase, were 'grief-surfing on a wave of emotion' (RT, 23 June).The sub-editor used the same heading for this letter as I used for the blog entry I wrote in September 2005.
My mother (and probably quite a few other people's mothers) died a few days later, and one was vividly aware of how the frothy unreality of the public reaction to Diana contrasted with the ugly reality of dying at the hands of a drunk driver while snogging with one's boyfriend on the back seat. If Saint Diana had been a typist from Twickenham, we'd have found her post-divorce behaviour ever so slightly tacky.
I may be a republican, but I'm with the Queen (at least Helen Mirren's film version) on this one. I got fed up with being told at the time what 'everybody' was feeling, and surely it's time a lot more people came out of the closet and admitted they were so baffled by the whole business that they were tempted to turn their radios and TVs of for the next fortnight - I suspect they are the majority. My theory is that few really surprising common experiences happen in most people's lives; the 'grief-surfers' would be the descendants of those people for whom the Second World War had provided the only real excitement in their lives - except in that instance the grief was only too likely to be real rather than 90 per cent vicarious."
We were subjected to the same sort of mass hysteria, orchestrated by the media, when the Queen Mother died and we were told 'the nation is in mourning'. No it wasn't. The Queen was in mourning, and so were the rest of her family and her mother's friends. What can we expect when the Queen dies? They'll have to crank up the emotion to outdo the Diana effect, or maybe they'll be more restrained? I heard that when the Queen Mother died the BBC got lots of complaints about the blanket coverage on BBC1 and BBC2, so they were forced to go back to scheduled programmes on BBC2, to appease irate listeners.
Postscript, 16 July
Now the BHA's joined in. On its website, someone's written, "BHA mourns George Melly". No it doesn't. The BHA is an association. An association doesn't mourn. I'm a member of the BHA and I'm not mourning George, however much I liked him. I met him once. Most BHA members have never met him. The people who mourn George are the ones who knew him best.