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Sunday, 6 May 2007

An oasis of calm. Saigon: Vietnam

The Cirque Sportif in Saigon was a remnant of the French colonial era. Situated behind the Presidential palace it was an oasis of calm. Very difficult to join. Not really I think from any effort at snobbism but purely to keep numbers down.
The food was so so but not too bad. The tennis courts could only be used by doubles because of the number of people wanting to play. One had to wear white which was very good. I should have played squash but never seemed to have the energy. The swimming pool was excellent and so was the air conditioned library. There I read accounts of Vietnamese history. It was most interesting to discover that at one time in the past there had existed a regiment mounted on buffalos. How effective or disciplined the beasts were I never did discover. Many people played bridge. I have always thought what an unsocial game it is. Groups of four people huddled over cards when there were lots of pretty girls around. The pretty girls played chess. I also played quite a lot of chess.
A member of KC's family was vice-president so I had to be fairly well behaved. He had held the top legal post under the French colonial administration and was considered so honest he was kept on by the Vietnamese after independance. A year or so after the fall of Saigon he died more or less from despair at the state of the country.
The main salon was very colonial in style and rigid in its maintenance of good behaviour and correct etiquet. There were a number of French there who taught at schools such as Marie Curie. The French had this curious notion of being able to do their military service in some such capacity as teaching abroad. The teaching was fine but they still called it military service which I found strange. I never did get on with them. The older generation left over from the colonial period were alright though. I wasn't really conscious at the time but I was becoming more and more estranged from the United Kingdom. The few encounters I had with the English went off very badly. I had become very ex-pat and had completely missed out, thank heavens, with whatever changes were taking place in British or European society.

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