Authors: Libby Hathorn
To the girls of
Sydney Girls’ High School
past and present,
and in particular to
Margi, Suzanne, Patricia and Lisa Erin
Dear Princess Diana,
I can’t believe I’m actually writing to a real live princess who has two sons who are princes and a mother-in-law who lives in a palace and is the Queen of England!
A good friend of mine by the name of Babs Walshe put the idea of writing to you into my head.
I know you are very important, a princess and all, and I’m just a random girl in a country on the other side of the world but I just looked at one of the many pictures of you that are stuck up above my desk and thought, why not give it a go? One of my best friend’s grandparents wrote to your mother-in-law the Queen to tell her that they’d been married for fifty years and they received a letter
of congratulations. So I figure maybe this letter will get through as well.
I already know a whole lot about you so I think it’s only fair that I tell you a bit about me.
My name is Diana Moore and I’m fifteen years old. I guess I’m an ordinary kind of girl, one who doesn’t stand out in a crowd. Average height and average brown hair which is far too curly to control. I used to be very, very fat but not since last year. I’m probably more average weight these days. My best friend Zoë reckons I’m skinny and that I have beautiful brown eyes, but she likes to talk me up.
My mum’s name was Cherie. She died very suddenly of a blood disease over a year ago now. She’s left me with Graham, my stepfather, and my stepbrother Marcus who is a real bully. Both of my mum’s parents are dead and I don’t know my dad so that just leaves Graham and Marcus.
Graham is a computer nerd with his own business so he’s not at home much. But Marcus is. Marcus never stops paying me out. He’s the same age as I am but we have nothing in common. We can’t stand each other.
Marcus has a habit of leaving reminders of his presence, his ‘calling cards’, in my room. Once it was a dead mouse tucked under my pillow, another time it was a rotten banana in my shoe—you know the kind of things I’m
talking about. And he has this innocent face so that whenever I accuse him he smiles sweetly and tells me I’m imagining things. He says I’m screwy and that I put the things there myself to cause trouble. He likes to call me crazy at any opportunity because I did see a counsellor for a while after Mum died. Graham is no help at all. He’s never around much and if he is, he’s as weak as water when it comes to the Marcus battles. I’ve learnt to just shut up because Graham generally takes Marcus’s side.
Graham thinks I’m obsessive about things, especially jogging. Lately he’s been giving me a hard time about going for my daily jog because it’s winter—as if he cares whether or not I get wet! Anyway, I have to get out of this house and jogging keeps me away and keeps me fit.
Mum and I came to live in Graham’s house, which is a few streets away from Bondi Beach, five years ago. It was fine while Mum was alive because she had a way of talking to Marcus and keeping us apart. But Marcus never really liked me and these days it’s turned to hate! (To tell the truth, I’m not exactly in love with him either.)
My own father, well, I’ve never known my real dad. He’s supposed to be this famous guitarist who Mum had a fling with. She didn’t like to talk about him but I gathered from what she said once that he lives in Spain, and that’s a world away from Sydney. Maybe one day …
I have only two other close-ish relatives in the world as far as I know. A second cousin with the ghastly name of Aronda who is six years older than me. And her mother, my Aunt Ingrid, who I can’t stand. She’s pretty free with her comments about me. She used to go on and on to Mum about how advanced, pretty and super-intelligent Aronda is. Luckily, Aronda and Aunt Ingrid live in Melbourne which is far enough away from Sydney for me not to have to worry too much about either of them.
If it weren’t for my best friend Zoë and for Babs Walshe, I think I’d be really lonely. Now that Mum’s gone, Babs tries to protect me, especially from Marcus. Babs is tall and thin and a bundle of energy. She’s much older than Mum was and has grey streaked hair which she pulls into a bun at the back of her head. Her eyes are a beautiful pale blue; honest eyes. She often gets her words mixed up, like calling the ‘electoral roll’ the ‘electrical roll’, and Mum and I used to get a laugh out of collecting Babs’s expressions. But I don’t mean to mock Babs because I love her very much. She’s like a grandmother to me.
Babs cleans the house for Graham so she’s here at least once a week. I think she does it just to keep an eye on me. I love it when Babs is around. After she’s finished cleaning and is having her coffee, we always talk.
Babs’s husband, Martin, is a roly-poly guy who loves his
beer and his Bible. Marcus calls him a bloody religious nutter. He does go on a bit about Jesus but he’s a kind man so I just have to put up with that side of him, I guess.
What else can I tell you? I love dogs and I used to have a dachshund called Claret. He was black with brown trim. But when things were going bad for Mum and me, we had to move into a boarding house and we weren’t allowed to keep Claret. We tried like mad to find an owner, but in the end Mum took Claret to the pound. I understand it now but at the time I couldn’t forgive Mum for giving him away. I still get sad whenever I see a dachshund.
Look, I know all of this is a bit random; sorry. I don’t even know the proper way to address you. I know they took away your HRH title. It really sucks that you can’t be called Her Royal Highness just because you and the Queen’s son, Prince Charles, are divorced. I mean, your kids are still next in line to the throne of England! Surely you should have a title—that’s what Babs says anyway. But maybe you don’t even care. Title or no title, I feel I can talk to you. Blame it on your open face—and the fact that you’re alive.
I know this might sound funny, but a counsellor I went to after Mum died suggested I should write to my mother! Write to someone who is dead? I just couldn’t do it. Would never do it. That’s just plain eerie.
One of the reasons I’m writing to you tonight is to tell you how I began collecting pictures of you and how great that’s been for me. It first started when Babs brought me a picture she’d cut out of Woman’s Day.
‘There you are, love,’ she said, ‘the Princess has the same problem as you. She’s been thin as a stick too with this eating illness thing, but she’s come through it all. Look at her now!’
I glanced down unwillingly. I hate it when Babs says I have an eating disorder because that’s not how I think of myself. But she insisted I look at the picture and seemed so pleased with herself that I just couldn’t say no. I saw your eyes smiling directly into mine.
‘She’s stunning!’ I blurted out.
‘And she’s going through hell, poor little thing, with the press onto her about her private life. Talk about problems. She’s as unhappy as a cat in water. It’s disgusting what they’re doing to her!’
Crazy as it sounds, I immediately felt that I could trust you. Or maybe I could trust myself to trust you. You are a fairytale princess in one way and yet to me you also seem so real. Your problems, more than anything, make you seem real to me.
I put that first picture on my bedroom wall and then another and another—and I’m still collecting. I read
everything about you. I don’t care how much loser-boy Marcus sneers at my ‘Diana Gallery’, I just keep on with it.
Babs approves. The other day she came into my room with a new picture for me.
‘That Diana,’ she said, ‘she can go into a leper colony or a minefield with the same grace as she goes into a ballroom! Never mind that Martin says it’s all just publicity stunts.’
Babs explodes when Martin says that kind of thing.
‘A photograph of Princess Diana hugging a kid who has AIDS can do more to change world opinion than a hundred lectures on the subject,’ she shouts at him. And I agree.
So that’s it for now. I hope you don’t mind if I write again.
With best wishes from an Aussie fan,
PS. I don’t actually have a problem with eating. I just have to keep an eye on calories, that’s all. And I have to keep working out so I don’t ever get fat again. I run at least five kilometres every night and I do push-ups to start the day. I try to increase the workouts to counter the food, ‘specially all the fatty stuff Graham serves up. But it’s just to keep fit, really.
My mum started going to the gym when she put on a
bit of weight a few years back. We all thought it was a joke at first because Mum hated physical exercise of any kind. But no, she was serious and even had a trainer. A really super-fit young woman called Rhonnie. I sometimes went with Mum but I was such a pudding then and I was embarrassed to be around all those skinny people.
For a while we ate much healthier in our house, even though Graham complained constantly and Marcus bought take-aways whenever he could. But after Mum got sick we slipped back into the old ways. It’s ironic that that was when I started to lose weight big time.
I’m not extreme about my weight, just careful. And I’m not like these girls from my school who dieted so fiercely they ended up in hospital. So that’s what I’ve explained to Babs because she’s started nagging me lately about the fact that I avoid Graham’s food. I’ve told her the problem but she just says I should cook non-fatty food for myself.
Anyway, all this focus on food is driving me crazy and I’m sure you’ve been through it all yourself. Your figure is perfect. And I bet you do workouts. I’m determined to keep fit because I never, ever want to be called ‘fat arse’ again! Excuse the language.
That was my very first letter to Princess Diana. I knew it was a beginning of some sort for me because I felt so good when I’d signed off. It was as if I’d talked to a friend. I knew I’d need to edit it a bit, but I didn’t want to leave a whole bunch of pages on the desk for when Marcus came snooping, so I put them inside my English assignment folder and labelled it
The Diana Papers.
The only person I told was Babs and she said I should send it off straightaway.
‘A letter to a princess. Fancy that, love!’ She said she was sure
would forward the letter to Diana for me. But I explained there was more to say, a lot more, and I’d know when I’d finished, and then I’d definitely send it all to Princess Diana. Babs seems to understand because she’s left it at that. She knows that I’ve had a secret ambition to be a writer since I was a little kid. And she’s so encouraging. More than
my mum was, really. Books bored Mum and she didn’t really understand why I was such a reader. It amused her and she didn’t try to stop me, but she never shared books with me either.
Babs is different. She really admires anyone who writes. Mum used to say Babs had an unhealthy admiration for writers, ‘as if they know something we don’t!’ Maybe that’s true about Babs because yesterday I saw her in my room (which she’s not supposed to clean at all) dusting down my desk and
The Diana Papers
in a way that shows she thinks what’s inside the folder is very special.
My best friend Zoë’s not much of a reader, either. She reckons she has a reading problem so I’ve always had to read our school novels out loud to her, but I reckon she just can’t be bothered. She loves it when Mr Tyson says he thinks she’s dyslexic.
‘Absolutely,’ she agrees, so relieved to have her problem labelled at last. On the other hand, our English teacher, Miss Pate, calls it ‘a disinclination to concentrate’, or ‘just sheer laziness with a girl as bright as you are!’ Whatever, Zoë has no trouble reading the TV guide or menus in restaurants or labels in shops—or fashion magazines for that matter.
And she doesn’t have too much trouble answering exam questions either. She helps me in Maths and I help her in English. She says it’s great that I come up the top of the year for English and I say the same for her in Maths. But we’d both like to outdo each other and we furiously compare our marks at exam time.
Zoë’s a good friend even though she’s really hard on me sometimes. She understands how disgusting it
is at home with Marcus. I can tell her all about the constant teasing and the way Graham is so piss-weak when it comes to his own son. But I can’t explain how I feel adrift and alone, in a way she never could—what with her cosy family and her outgoing personality which always draws people to her. I can’t explain to her that just a passing remark can take away my confidence. I don’t know why. Sometimes she second-guesses me and manages to cut right to the point.