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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Incorrectly dressed for a funeral. Tan Dinh, Saigon: Vietnam memories 1965 1975


Incorrectly dressed for a funeral. Tan Dinh, Saigon

The father-in-law had wanted to be buried in his ancestral village. Whilst this was possible if not very practical there was the question of visiting the grave for the necessary respects to be paid over the coming months and years and his wife decided Saigon was easier. This was in fact his second wife the first having died during the Japanese war or occupation, whatever you like to call it. The second wife had been his secretary. There were five children by the first and five from the second. Relations between the children of the first wife and the second wife were often very strained although I got along with all the offspring well enough. The family situation was far too complicated for me to get involved with.

At the start of the funeral procession I found myself highly embarrassed by a small incident. KC had arrived in white with a white handbag. One of her cousins told her she couldn't possibly carry a handbag so she gave it to me. I then found myself in the long procession behind the coffin, dark grey suit, black tie, trilby, furled umbrella and carrying a white ladies handbag. Somewhere I remember seeing a photo of myself. I can no longer find it so I imagine I must have destroyed it at some time. There are times when women can never understand the dignity of man.

The Vietnamese are highly efficient at burying people and everything went off smoothly. The Chinese had professional wailers I believe but not the Vietnamese. Tears were very restrained.

I have always been fascinated by visiting old cemeteries, particularly military ones. Although one can fully understand the bringing of loved one's bodies back for burial the former habit, of necessity, of burying soldiers in foreign lands left I felt everlasting monuments to past conflicts.

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