“Do you remember going to the Golden Valley in the Malvern Hills with the Cheltenham crowd?”
I did remember, but the memories were patchy, unclear. We had parked in a grassy field and had spent the afternoon in a nature reserve, but what had we done?
Perhaps there had been a walk, my own family together with my uncle and aunt and five cousins.
Perhaps there had been games, although that would have been unlikely. It was 1972 and the four girls among my five cousins always dressed in the height of fashion. The fashions in 1972 were flared trousers and platform shoes, not ideal for outdoor games, even if they had been inclined toward such activities, which they were not.
The photographs from that distant Worcestershire afternoon are in colour. It must have been a time of relative prosperity for my family, for in that single year my parents had bought their council house, had electric storage heaters installed, and bought a tent and taken us on a camping holiday to Westward Ho! in Devon. To buy colour film and have it developed and printed was a new luxury, earlier pictures are monochrome.
Having holidayed in North Devon, we must have gone to Cheltenham for the August bank holiday weekend, an additional indulgence and one that would have been less likely in earlier times when there was little to spare in the weekly budget.
To be able to recall that it was the bank holiday weekend and to know exactly the date on which we went to the nature reserve does not conflict with having very hazy memories of the day. When we returned to the car, my father switched on the radio and the BBC bulletin brought the news of the death of Prince William of Gloucester in an air crash in the Midlands.
To the ears of a boy who would start secondary school later that week, the news on Monday, 28th August 1972 seemed strange.
It is hard to explain how such a belief may have developed, but I somehow assumed that members of the Royal Family could all be kept in complete safety. I struggled to imagine how the Queen’s cousin had been in a small plane at a small airfield.
Rather than the day out being the context of the story of the death of Prince William, it is the death of Prince William that has provided the reference point for the day at the Golden Valley.