Sihanouk: A unique voice falls silent
In Beijing in the spring of 1979, as China under its new leader Deng Xiaoping emerged from Maoism's long winter, the inconceivable jostled for space daily with the improbable.
Here and there a young woman in colourful clothing relieved the familiar blue or khaki monotony of the street scene. The People's Daily railed against such long- term friends as Vietnam and spoke almost warmly of Washington - well, of some Americans.
But the season's most memorable event was a party thrown by Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia and his beautiful Eurasian consort, Princess Monique. Images from that evening will always accompany my memories of this singular Asian monarch and politician, who died in Beijing on Monday.
Less than three months before the 1979 party, the couple had been confined to house arrest in Cambodia by the monstrous Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, the country's unimaginably ruthless communist rulers. Saved by a Chinese airliner from imminent capture by an invading Vietnamese army, the Sihanouks were making their temporary home in Beijing.