Regional poets honoured at the 2007 SEA Write Awards
Thai poet Montri Sriyong joined his fellow laureates from eight other Asean countries
recently for the 2007 SEA Write Awards Presentation Ceremony and Gala Dinner at The Oriental.
Gracing the event was HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, daughter of HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Along with past SEA Write laureates, guests at the dinner included noted members of
literary circles as well as representatives of diplomatic, business and social communities.
While guests waited at their tables, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana granted a private
audience and photo opportunity to the SEA Write laureates and the keynote speaker, Sarah
Bradford, Viscountess Bangor, in the adjacent Embassy Room, where the writers presented
copies of their books to the princess.
The group then joined the other guests in the ballroom where dinner was served.
After dinner, official proceedings began. The laureates accepted their awards from the princess before giving a speech. Most spoke of the role writing played in their lives, and how their poetry served not only to free their imaginations and ideals, but also to record social and historic events in their countries. Without exception, they reflected on the role of literary works
to create better understanding, harmony and peace in global society.
The highlight of the evening was the keynote address by Sarah Bradford, who has written biographies of Benjamin Disraeli, Princess Grace of Monaco, King George VI, Sacheverell
Sitwell, Queen Elizabeth II, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and most recently Diana Princess of
Whales, who was the topic of her speech. To open Bradford spoke of a letter she received from
a Muslim writer based in Kowloon telling her of his experience meeting Diana. “He wrote how
he had told her about his ‘striving days to achieve some dreams’ and how, at the end of their
conversation she had very affectionately and tenderly shaken his hand, saying ‘Have faith in
God and yourself, my dear Muslim brother.’ Upon this, he had burst into tears of emotion:
Diana took out her handkerchief and dried his tears telling him not to be a crybaby, to be
strong and believe in himself.”
This incident noted the Viscountess, “conveyed a message of compassion and humanity
which transcended borders and races”.
She went on to tell the audience about the mystique of Diana who was “exceptionally resistant to formal education… her favourite reading was to be the novels of Barbara Cartland, hardly the ideal handbooks for a modern marriage.
“She was beautiful, charming, witty but when her dark side was uppermost even her
friends would admit she could be a fiend.”
Her mother’s departure when she was only six years old, and her parents subsequent
divorce had a profound effect on Diana remarked the Viscountess. “More than most people she longed for love and protection and an unbroken family. Charles’ rejection of her fulfilled her deepest fears, provoking suspicion hysteria and even at her worst moments, paranoia,
specifically the notorious BBC, Panorama interview in which she intimated people were out to
get her and famously declared that ‘she won’t go away’.”
Yet in the end, noted Bradford, it seemed to be Diana’s almost palpable compassion and empathy with people of all cultures and races that made her unique.
To round off the evening, general manager Kurt Wachtveitl gave his own Diana anecdote. As further proof of her international appeal, he recounted how the hotel welcomed Prince Charles and Diana during their visit to Thailand. Never before had there been so many
people milling around the hotel lobby, he said, and at one stage he was afraid their combined
presence would cause the wooden bell chandeliers to fall down.
The reference to Barbara Cartland in Bradford’s speech also spurred Wachtveitl to note
that the hotel had a Barbara Cartland suite, which currently was not decked out in her
trademark pink for fear the Japanese businessmen staying there would flee in shock. Wachtveitl said he had once admitted to Ms Cartland that he had never read any of her 600-odd books and was curious to know what they were all about. “Oh, all my books are the same,” she answered as quoted by Wachtveitl imitating her shrill voice, “on the last page the virgin always gets married!”
As a final gossip offering to the audience, Wachtveitl noted that the royal couple must
have still been close at the time of their visit as only one of the bedrooms in their suite was
used. The hotel boss had immediately gleaned this bit of information from the butler the next
We will be waiting in anticipation for the publication of Wachtveirl’s memoirs. After 40
years at the hotel, this Charles-Diana titbit must be merely the tip of an iceberg!
From : Bangkok Post, Outlook. October 21, 2007