Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 28 August 2009

There's Gold in Them Thar Tears


As the emotion-addicts of Britain stock up on tissues and flowers for this year's Dianniversary, I am reminded of a bizarre manifestation of business acumen I witnessed in Paris some years ago.

In the mid-nineties, the Spouse and I spent an enjoyable week in a quintessentially Parisian family-run hotel. Situated in a side-street north of the Jardin des Tuileries, it occupied the upper floors of a large 19th-century building. Guests would enter through a shared courtyard and climb the elegant staircase past the dressmaker's atelier on the first floor to arrive at Reception on the second.

In the Spring of 1998, finding myself in Paris on business, I decided to drop in to the hotel and enquire about booking a stay in the near future. The receptionist was apologetic; 'I'm sorry, but we are fully booked'.

I mentioned that we had stayed there a couple of years before and she looked thoughtful. 'I think I should tell you', she said, 'that the prices have gone up a little since then.' And so they had - by at least 50%. I asked her why and she drew aside the net curtain from the window beside her desk. 'Voila!' she said.

Seeing me none the wiser, she helpfully explained. We were looking down on the back door of the Ritz Hotel. Since the death of Princess Diana, the smaller hotel had been inundated with visitors wanting to stay as near as possible to the scene and many of the guests had booked to take the 'Diana Tours' along the route of the car journey.

Even had we wished to pay the inflated prices, the company of grief-tourism ghouls would probably have put us off our breakfast so I thanked the receptionist and left her to preside over the money-making machine that had sprung from the car accident of a few months before.

3 comments:

  1. "Since the death of Princess Diana, the smaller hotel had been inundated with visitors wanting to stay as near as possible to the scene and many of the guests had booked to take the 'Diana Tours' along the route of the car journey."

    Oh. my. god.

    I'm glad I had breakfast hours ago. That's the sickest thing I've heard in a long time. What's the matter with people...?!?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's like a plague really.

    We were crossing the road towards the Seine in Paris in 2007 and saw a crowd. Being nosey we went to see what was what and it was the entrance to 'that' tunnel.

    There was emotionally incontinent graffiti all around it, flowers and people stood sobbing.

    We legged it pretty damn smartly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 'What's the matter with people...?!?'

    Some things are just beyond comprehension - but I bet more than a few of them have bought a nice book of misery memoirs to read on the way home.

    'Emotionally incontinent' is the perfect description - wish I'd thought of it!

    ReplyDelete