It's a Royal Knockout

Omigod it's twenty years this weekend since Charles and Di got married. I mourn my lost innocence, her untimely death and the bad-haircut-blue-eyeshadow era of the eighties, where we thought we looked so cool and a badly conceived dynastic marriage could sweep away the ills of the nation.

And in 1981 all my Mum could talk about was Princess Grace of Monaco or someone else who used to be a film star and reading about their wedding in the papers when she was still at school. Still at school! Still wearing white socks when Princess Grace or whoever was walking up the aisle! (subtext: was presumably going to have sex). Before celebrity matches were ten a penny and just a way of maximising your fifteen minutes and before newspaper front pages showed Chris and Billie (child bride) going to Sainsbury's like it was news.

The excitement of Actually Being Able to Watch it Live; my paternal grandparents had borrowed their first TV for the coronation in 1952, and my (wealthier) maternal grandparents had bought theirs. I imagine a street-party atmosphere around their crackly black and white TVs straining for a glimpse of the young Elizabeth.

See my Mum's a Royalist in the way that people who grew up just after War are. And she loves a spectacle, especially a public one, so in July 1981 when I was fourteen she expected me to share her excitement. It epitomised everything she loves: warm weather, royalty, a wedding, a fair sprinkling of international broiguses (can you believe they didn't ask the Greek Royal Family? Shocking) - an Occasion.

"What do you mean you're not watching The Wedding?" It was outside her realm of possibilities that I wouldn't share her community-singing-on-a-chara approach to the forthcoming nuptials.

"I'm just not interested. Thought I might go out for a bike ride." Any kind of physical exercise was anathema to my parents. They still think it's a long walk to the kerb.

I knew then that I was destined for a life of watching everything on TV - the Gulf War, Waco, famine in Ethiopia, Mandela's release, peace in the Middle East, war in the Middle East, American sitcoms with Jewish characters mimicking the very life I was having then, Live Aid, reality TV.

But now I've seen a trailer for the wedding video rerun this weekend, and I feel nostalgic. For a time when I had no cares except getting the right frilly shirt and hoping some geeky bloke would ask me out. For the lost perfect innocence the see-thru Diana represented on that sunny day.

Di may be caught in a time warp - forever smooth skinned, slim, shyly stylish - she'll never grow old and wear Van Daal shoes or get a little heavy of hip or saggy of boob. She's the James Dean of the Royal family. But I'm not… I'm older, heavier, wiser in a world weary way and genuinely surprised at the way things have turned out.

Like the rest of the nation, I thought Diana and Charles were a love match. I didn't know that he didn't have the guts to marry Camilla and was using Diana for a strange public humiliation ritual. I didn't know that my Mum and Dad would stop knowing all the answers and not even understand some of the questions. I didn't know from mobile phones. I didn't know that I wouldn't ride off into the sunset with a nice local boy from a good family and replicate my Mum and Dad's life. I didn't know that I would frequently go shopping to New York for the weekend. I didn't know that my entire (Jewish) generation would suddenly find out where the gym is. I didn't know my Grandma was ahead of her time in her regular trips to a health farm. I didn't know that me and my friends would still be searching for meaning and purpose well into our thirties. And I really didn't know that TV would be so bad.

Like if I knew in 1981 that twenty first century TV would be made up of MDF'd household renovation shows (breathe and the whole house falls down), daytime chatshows (My Dad's a Woman! My Dog Ate my Homework!) where no-one ever finishes a sentence, repeats of repeats, seeing people younger that me reminisce about what a great year 1993 was, and tuning in on E4 to watch a bunch of Big Brother contestants SLEEP, maybe I would have paid more attention to the historical spectacle of it all.

The sadness of living in the post-TV generation is there's nothing to look forward to. We were told that technology and media would change our lives, and they have. But changed them to a series of freeze-frame almost-interludes, a value-free environment where we know relationships don't last, marriages are a joke, everyone wants to be famous even if they don't know why, you can get a Celebrity Body (magazine) for £2.75, there's no free lunch and there are no Cinderella stories.

So Saturday I'll look back more in sorrow than in anger at everything that might have been, for us all.

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