Before Princess Di there was Princess Anne, Charles’ younger sister. And in 1973, long before Prince Charles and Lady Di’s wedding in 1981, there was the wedding of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Philips. Anne was a decent type, albeit quintessentially horsey (she even rode for the British Olympic team). Her wedding to the gallant captain whipped up a decent amount of excitement among the British people, or at least, among a certain segment of them.
A representative of that segment lived in our house in Tufnell Park. I can’t remember his name or I would tell it to you, but he was a postgraduate student friend of our housemate-landlord Nick, and a nerd before the word had entered the vocabulary. He guarded his private stock of bacon jealously in the common fridge, passed mildly sardonic comments on the savage tribal customs of the string of young hippie types who either hung out or lived there (this in reference to nail-painting and ear-piercing), and he was in love with Princess Anne. He hung a nearly lifesize poster of her on the inside of the lavatory door as wedding fever mounted, and adored it with utter absence of irony. As she was quintessentially horsey he was quintessentially English in a vague, dishevelled, tolerantly narrow-minded kind of way. He wouldn’t have hurt a fly, but I don’t think he ever thought of us as anything but curiosities passing through.
Nevertheless, his observation about savage tribal customs stuck with me, and I have often found myself repeating it as my own when people ask me why my ears aren’t pierced.