A visit to my dentist does not always leave me with a happy memory, but thinking back to a cold and chilly January morning certainly brings a smile. Like all the best stories its beauty lay in its surprise and, unfortunately for me, its brevity.
I was living in London at the time and was heading to my office having earlier been for my annual dental check-up. After a filling and polishing, and the inevitable admonishment from the dentist, I boarded the Tube and headed for central London.
As I had missed the main morning traffic I was able to get a seat and relaxed as we rolled towards town. I flicked my tongue across my clean teeth, unfolded my newspaper and started the crossword. I quickly filled in a few clues and then paused and looked up. Across from me one passenger was reading the sports section of a tabloid paper, while a girl sitting beside him was engrossed in one of those glossy magazines that are always full of pictures and gossip. As usual, the cover had an image of none other than the most photographed woman on the planet, namely Diana, Princess of Wales. She appeared on the cover of so many magazines and was the subject of countless articles about her style and love life, and to a lesser degree, her good works. She was beautiful, no doubt, and when the train next stopped I returned to my crossword and filled in some more clues.
A cold, sharp breeze met me straight on as I exited from Green Park station and turned onto Berkeley Street. I kept my head down, my chin stuck firmly into my chest, and headed along the empty pavement to my office that was about a two-minute walk away. Papers and other bits and pieces flew aimlessly about the street as the chilly wind whirled past me.
It was mid-morning and the pavement, which was usually a busy and noisy place, was almost empty. It was a slightly strange feeling, and when I looked about I only saw my reflection in shop windows as I walked by. The wind continued to whip at my ears as I crossed the street, and I felt the numbness in my jaw slowly disappearing. Dentists, I thought, and stepped onto the pavement, while down the street a large, black car slowed quietly before stopping at the kerb.
A gust of cold wind knocked me sideways and I cursed once more under my breath. It seemed as though it was going through me and I could not wait to get into the warmth of my office, now only a few hundred yards away, and have a cup of hot coffee.
Looking up I saw the large, black car drive past, its passenger now walking along the pavement. The woman was wearing a bright, blue coat that was the colour of the clear sky above. It stood out against the drab, dark colours around her and I could not help smiling at the woman’s sheer exuberance. Even on such a cold winter’s morning it was easy to see that she had style, and her casual, elegant stride, as we approached each other, made her all the more interesting. I noticed her blonde hair was cut short, but with her chin buried into her coat against the wind I could not get a full view of her face. However, as the distance between us closed I had the odd and pleasant feeling that I knew this person, but who was she?
Was she an old girlfriend who I had not seen in years; or a former work colleague, maybe? Perhaps an actress or singer that I liked? All these thoughts ran around my mind until we were about six feet apart, and her bag suddenly fell to the ground. Without hesitation I stopped forward, bent down and picked it up. The woman also stopped, and thanked me as I handed the bag to her. For the briefest moment the most photographed woman on the planet smiled at me, a smile so natural and warm that I was lost for words. The surprise of the situation was tingling and I finally heard myself utter, dry-throated, ‘Mam.’ For a few seconds she smiled, disarmingly, her eyes beautiful and enchanting. Then, in the time it takes for a couple of heartbeats, she gave me a friendly nod of thanks, turned and walked off in the direction of Piccadilly. And so, in the blink of a slightly watery eye, the vision in blue, Diana, Princess of Wales, was lost in the breezy London morning.