Sunday, 2 October 2011
A loss of liberty. Tan Dinh, Saigon: Vietnam memories 1965 1975
I thought it was about time I went off and saw some more action. I told KC that I would go off on a trip as a war photographer and I needed some connections. Her family new everybody that mattered. Her father was from a rich land owning family in the Delta. He had been a minister in the government that was established before the French took back power at the end of the war. In fact he had been imprisoned by the French authorities and sent off into exile in France which was rather lucky as he was a nationalist and sometime later the Viet Minh started eliminating them in a rather permanent fashion. The French sent Cambodian mercenaries to destroy their house. After her mother had died during the war from complications relating to childbirth and lack of medical facilities KC had been brought up by the Emperor Bao Dai's mother. The French war had cost the family a lot as what land was not taken by the Viet Minh was confiscated by the government, but that's another story.
Suddenly I was confronted with a blank wall. No help. Hostility. I was not meant to go off seeking adventure. I was in a foul mood. Everybody seemed against me. I don't think anybody understood me either. Perhaps they had had no dealings with my kind of upbringing. Introductions to the various command structures either in the army or at provincial level were very necessary. They should have been easy to obtain. Perhaps it was a step towards trying to domesticate me. If so it was doomed to failure. KC had asked me not to come home too late in the evenings. I often stayed out drinking with friends. We would do this in somebody's home as we no longer spent our time in bars etc. One evening I came back and found the door locked and as nobody would open it I took a stone, broke a window and forced my way in. This must have been before we stole the pavement and put up a secure wall.
KC was very kind, quite the kindest person I would ever know but very tough in her way. One night I went to the bathroom. It must have been after midnight. I didn't put the light on. Not finding a towel on the rack I put my hand below the basin into the basket where dirty towels were kept. I lifted one up and then it started wriggling.
I have mentioned earlier that I loathed rats. I'm not afraid of them, just revolted. Once in the Bahamas at the office I had gone into the toilet and had seen what I thought was a wire behind the pipes. Then it moved so I thought maybe it was a rat. I went away to find a stick and when I came back with an iron bar the rat was sitting on the front of the toilet. I gave it a mighty whack and knocked it into the toilet and then flushed it down the drain.
Anyway this time KC got a stick and chased the rat around the bedroom until she cornered it and killed it. Better than some women I've known who were afraid of mice. Relations remained a little strained as our two characters had different ideas about man's role in life.