Friday, June 18, 2010

Makassar, De Gaulle and Tuak

Apparently it is 70 years to the day that two of the most memorable wartime broadcasts were made those being Churchill's finest Hour Speech and De Gaulle's first broadcast to the Free French from the UK. The impact and galvanising effect of these pieces of spoken word is as we know immense and once again reminds us of the power of the human voice to inspire and affect us is so many ways and in so many parts of our life.

I have to say these pieces of historical magnificence are such a contrast to the rather poor quality of speech and debate we heard yesterday at the Congressional inquiry at which Tony Hayward was pilloried. Now let me say for the record I have no sympathy for big corporates that do wrong and ride roughshod over ethical standards in pursuit of profit, and BP looks as guilty as hell so they deserve all they get. But it is the hypocrisy and arrogance and rather poor rhetoric of of the interrogators that got me. If only there had been such outcry over Bhopal. But of course there are some memorable appearances before the committee- George Galloway springs to mind.

On a more personal note the reminder of the French Government in exile took me back to a time some 20 years ago when I spent a good deal of time travelling in Indonesia. I travelled alone and reached some pretty interesting places – notably staying with a Dayak group in central Borneo. But my self satisfaction at being something of an intrepid traveller was rather punctured when I met a Dutch lady called Nina in central Sulawesi. She was in her late 60's, diabetic and had some difficulty walking having been run over by a bus in an earlier expedition. Her sight was not all that it might be – as a result of her diabetes – but she was not to be daunted in her desire to travel. Nina was full of fascinating tales having spent part of her childhood in Indonesia, and being part of the Free Dutch group in exile in England during the war. She could tell many a fascinating tale and we dodged the torrential rain and potent red Tuak rice wine in tumble down bars as nasty creepy crawlies climbed the walls and occasionally our legs. She spoke of the occasions she had met De Gaulle as well as part of the community of exiles in London at the time all in her quiet and soft English tempered by the Dutch accent. We lost touch and I have no idea where she is now or even if she is till with us, but it is a fond memory and if you read this Nina, yes I did look for the Makassar Schooners – did you find that Captain?