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French Conversation Article

The Day Diana Died - Moorea, French Polynesia, South Pacific By Vincent Bossley

Carrying out some much needed housework instead of luxuriating in the hammock swinging in the shade of the awning, sees our valiants scrubbing the waterline. Then, onto polishing the stainless steel pulpit and pushpit rails, stanchions, and re caulking some wayward teak decking. During a break and downing a welcome cup of tea our captain is fiddling with the short wave radio trying to pick up Radio New Zealand, which he feels should be in reception range by now. Instead the BBC issues forth in their metallic and clipped tones;
'She was an icon of all that is British, admired by many, idolised by many more, and the most glamorous symbol of English royalty.......' He flips on, assuming the BBC is doing a programme on Princess Di's latest love affair. Something makes him go back and he spins the dial tuning into the news bulletin again:
'Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, died today in a motor car accident in France' These shattering words boom out from the speaker and our crew look at one another in stunned silence. Suddenly, the gloss has gone off this day and their work gets forgotten in the face of this sad event. Instead, they jump into the dinghy and go ashore to find a café where, in some sense they can share their grief with some other humans. Some hundreds of metres along the road theye across a dilapidated, but brightly painted and cheerful café beside the lagoon, and step through the multi coloured plastic fly strips fluttering in the breezes lazy draught . A small group of locals are clustered around a table, silent and staring at an ancient television screen. Our crew settle at an even more ancient table, saw dusty white with age. The soft grain of wood has been worn away over the years, leaving the dark, harder grain, standing up in wavy, parallel ridges. The greater cracks in the table top arefortably filled with innumerable dried out baguette and croissant crumbs - currently being nibbled on by several desultory black ants. This is taken in, in a second, but appears to be in slow motion - funny how the human mind can take in all this detail when focussing deeply on another matter entirely - there is truth that in times of extreme events, ones life can parade before ones eyes.
The locals at the other table are talking in whispers and the two girls have been crying, still clutching their tissues and occasionally dabbing at their cheeks. The screen is wavering, but fixed permanently on a grey scene at the gates of Kensington Palace, where already, there is a mountain of flowers. Transmission has been interrupted, and in the flickering image a hand is frozen in perpetuity, placing a bouquet onto the mass of floral tributes. The grey, colourless August day in England contrasts with the warm and sunny clime of Moorea, giving a surreal effect to the whole scene. Our crew are now on nodding terms with the other table and everyone points to the locked image on the flickering screen, shaking their heads and clucking sympathetically. Several French phrases are exchanged, but the limitations of schooldays' rememberings soon bring them to a stuttering halt and all eyes return once more to the frozen image. After a salutary coffee being drunk and departures made, our crew once more step out into the sunshine and walk along the foreshore, discussing this gloomy and heart rending event. They express their surprise that in this little outpost of French colonialism, the death of this iconic lady could have such a profound effect on their daily lives that they would sit for hours, staring blankly at an unchanging picture, talking in whispers only. The argument that because it happened on French soil, could be pursued, but seeing the state of the young ladies and the sombre tone of their table mates, it went much deeper than this. Diana is obviously revered for who she was, not just what she represented - the fortunes and misfortunes of the rich and famous being followed avidly in the tiniest corners of the globe and at some level overcoming international barriers and differences.
Dinner that night was a sober affair, with conversation continually returning to the tragedy, the how's and why's being filled in from time to time from the ongoing broadcasts from the BBC on the short wave radio. A toast was drunk so that she may rest in peace. In life, she was an enigma, in death she becomes something approaching a saint.
Extract from the ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Maona'. This can be viewed on my website sailboat2adventure sailboat2adventure
Vincent Bossley is a publisher and sailor and lives on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. He has is own website sailboat2adventure sailboat2adventure for cruising sailors, sailors planning their lifetime adventure, armchair sailors, virtual sailors and in fact anyone who has ever dreamed of sailing the oceans of this beautiful planet of ours. You can find him on sailboat2adventure sailboat2adventure
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