Sunday, 11 September 2011
More faces from Saigon: Memories of Vietnam 1965 1975
When I was down town I sometimes came across this fellow in a bar. He was usually drunk and addressing all and sundry about I don't know what. Somebody told me he had been a general and then an ambassador, to South Korea or somewhere like that. Then he had got on the wrong side of the authorities and had been put in prison and tortured until his mind had gone. I was also told who had done it but as I only heard it second hand it is better not to say who was responsible. I was told somebody accompanied him and paid the bills.
One day I was really shocked when he stood up in this café and started shouting at me, first in Vietnamese and then in English 'Victoria Station', ‘London Bridge' and words like that which he kept repeating. He then overturned his table in a rage. I felt I was the object of his tirade; rather frightening. Did he know I was British?
In the Saigon market one day I noticed this woman begging. Not unusual, but as I passed her I looked back at her and for a moment was utterly stunned. The half of her face I had seen as I passed was normal. That of a quite good looking peasant woman in her thirties. A certain resignation in her look but nothing unusual. As I now saw her full face, I saw that the left side, and the line between the two halves was straight down the middle of her face, was twice the size it should be, had no hair, skin or skull bone, and looked to be some horrendous growth; which is what it probably was. She was there for two or three days and then disappeared. I don't know what the name for her medical condition was nor if she had had it since birth. Nothing to do with the war. Just unlucky in life.