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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Too many stupid accidents: Vietnam memories 1965 1975


Too many stupid accidents. Tan Dinh, Saigon


The Vietnamese were always good to children although I think they used to spoil the boys. Girls were expected to get married and move into the husband's house and become an extra servant. At least in the peasant classes. In the more well off they were not expected to work, but to live at home. There was off course a lot of change at this time and girls were studying and taking up careers. The boys went off to become soldiers and return home as corpses.

My son had no shortage of young girls to look after him. An older cousin of my wife who was almost like a matriarch in the family often visited us. On arriving she would push the bell and keep her finger on it until somebody opened the door. Very authoritative. She did not approve one day however when she discovered my son sprawled out on the living room floor with his nanny, both reading Playboy.

The Vietnamese were also very careless and domestic accidents were many. Three toddlers died in and around our house in silly accidents. In one a three year old swallowed a bottle of sleeping tablets he found by a bed. The maid seeing him on the bed thought he was asleep. He died of an overdose. In another house a youngster of about eighteen months fell into an indoor goldfish pond and drowned. There was perhaps only six inches of water in it. In another, a member of the People's Self Defence Force accidently discharged his firearm. The bullet went through the ceiling and killed a baby sleeping above. All these I considered stupid avoidable accidents.

At one time there were rumours that Cambodians were kidnapping young children so a special eye was kept on them for a while. Cambodians got blamed for most things. The town was always full of the wildest rumours. Once a pupil of mine, I never did discover who, telephoned to say that I had collapsed drunk in the street near the school. I must have offended her one day. Our maid had answered the phone and within five minutes the whole street knew. When I returned in the evening stone cold sober I had a hard time proving to KC that it had never happened.

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