In early August 1997 Bro2 drove me all the way up to Stockholm, Sweden from Germany so I could start my term abroad at the Kunglia Tekniska Högskolan. Exciting times. I had been a big fan of Roxette for a few years by then and been to Sweden on (fan)-vacation before. Roxette and the Swedish music Per & Marie had released before Roxette was the reason I started learning Swedish in the first place.
Two of my closest friends (back then and still today) came up to visit at the end of August, before the new uni term started in Germany. Terms hadn’t started in Sweden either so besides the language class I had time to spend with my friends. Or maybe the language class had already ended? I can’t remember, it’s a fucking long time ago. I don’t recall in bright detail what the three of us did together during our visit. The classic tourist things to do in Stockholm. Gamla Stan, the old town. Skansen, the open air museum. The Vasa museum with the sunken ship recovered after it had been down in the sea for a few centuries.
There are two moments I recall well though. The first for unknown reasons. We had spent some time on the inner city island Skeppsholmen and ended up having some snacks sitting up on a cliff on the adjoning small island Kastellholmen. I was teaching my friends the Swedish lyrics to the few new songs Per Gessle (from Roxette) had released with his former Swedish band Gyllene Tider the year before. “Juni, Juli, Augusti” for instance or “Gå och fiska”. Easygoing popsongs.
The 2nd memory is from our day trip on 31st August to Drottingholm, the residence of the Swedish Royal Family, a bit outside central Stockholm. You can’t visit the palace itself – the royal family lives there – but the grounds and parks and such and it was a lovely sunny summer day. At some point during the day we noticed that the flag on top of the castle was flying half-mast and we wondered for a bit. Was it a sign that the family wasn’t in residence? Usually it’s a sign of mourning. But who could have died in Sweden? We didn’t think about it for too long though as I recall. When we came back to the gates to catch the bus back to the city, we passed a small kiosk selling drinks and newspapers. I think my friends might have went to use the restrooms there as well, because I’m pretty sure I was on my own when I saw the front of the Swedish tabloid Expressen with a photo of Lady Di and the headline that she had died in a car crash the night before. I bought the paper and tried to translate the story as best I could for my friends with my still rudimentary Swedish.
I don’t remember how much attention I paid to what was going on in the UK in the days following. My term started and I had to go to classes and start of term activities and get to know other people in my year and all. I’m sure I caught the gist of it. I do remember watching the funeral on my TV in my room the week or so later. I had watched all the royal wedding, anniversaries and such on TV with my mum up till that point, because she had a thing for it. So I did watch it in my room in Stockholm as well. On my floor at the dorm there also had been a guy from the UK. Alex? I don’t remember. I do remember that I thought he was one of the cool guys, a bit punk, but nice. British! I was not cool then. Neither now, but now I don’t care that much at least. We didn’t talk about Lady Di or the whole thing at all, I think. But he was watching the funeral on the TV in the common room and not in an ironical way. It did matter to him. I probably could have joined him, but like I said, I wasn’t cool and way to insecure and all that 25 years ago.
Weird the things you remember. The one other thing I still remember from that TV coverage – maybe because it’s been shown again and again later – was the sad, heart breaking visual of the small Prince Harry (and William of course as well) walking in the funeral procession. I had only been two years older when I had to bury my father eight years before that. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have the whole world watching you while you do that. Looking back on it all now, I feel a bit bad for later having judged Prince Harry for all the stupid things he did while he was getting older: the Nazi uniform at a dress-up party, playing strip poker in a hotel room in Las Vegas… He was messed up. He had gotten messed up with what happened to him and most probably also how his family – the firm – handled it all.
Anyway… that’s my memory of that day in August 25 years ago.