“You must have been very proud of her,” said the hotel owner.
I never knew her.
“We’re all proud of her,” she continued. “This is just my little tribute.”
“That’s nice,” I said. I didn’t mean it, obviously.
There mounted on the wall of the sitting room was the subject of our awkward conversation – a shelf on which the hotel owner kept her prized collection of “individually authenticated” Princess Diana dolls.
“She would have been so excited about Will and Kate’s wedding, don’t you think?”
The hotel owner certainly kept them all in good condition, there was no disputing that. I pictured her on a step ladder on her tip-toes, reaching out unsteadily as she tries to grab a doll to bring down for its once a week dusting. I had noticed the collection as I left the hotel bar for my room and on the way passed the sitting room. Surely, it couldn’t be, I thought, but true enough it was and I now found myself staring intently at the collection. It seemed to me such an odd thing to find in a New England hotel. The elderly owner of the collection appeared by my shoulder.
“They get lots of admirers,” she said.
“Yes, I’m sure.” On hearing my accent, she was doubly keen to talk to me about the “People’s Princess” and politeness forced me to stand there listening as she told me about the many, many Princess Diana books she owned, and how upset she had been when learning of Diana’s death (“We couldn’t believe it”), but I found it hard to concentrate on what she was saying as ten doll’s eyes stared blankly back at me.
“Has anyone ever said that they find them…” I was unsure how wise I was in broaching this, “…just a little unnerving?”
“Are you one of those,” she said, her tone frostier. “Did you not like her? Well, I like you,” she said, addressing her collection.