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People: Short shark shock at Fiji funeral

HE WAS SAID to be a direct descendant of the shark god Dakuwaqa, so it was fitting that a school of sharks appeared suddenly in Suva Harbour on Wednesday to accompany the funeral flotilla of Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau out to sea.

The sharks surfaced during the ceremonial 21-gun salute in front of the Tovuto, which carried the president of Fiji's coffin to his home island of Taveuni, where he will be entombed in the village of Somosomo tomorrow. Hundreds of cattle and pigs will be slaughtered to feed the expected 6,000 mourners, who have also taken traditional gifts of food to the people of Taveuni.

Mourners in Suva had anticipated that sharks would appear as the flotilla left the harbour, and their appearance as escorts reaffirmed Ganilau's bloodline from Dakuwaqa. Sightings of even a single shark in Suva Harbour are rare.

FOLLOWING in the shoes of Chelsea Clinton, who danced the role of the favourite aunt in the Washington Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker, Magda Walesa will dance the title role in La Gitana when the Ballet de Nancy et de Lorraine performs in Warsaw tonight.

Magda, the 15-year-old daughter of the Polish President, Lech Walesa, will dance the role of Loretta, kidnapped at the age of 14 by Gypsies and who returns home 10 years later. The production, headed by Pierre Lacotte, the ballet company's choreographer and artistic director, will remain faithful to the style and tenor of the 19th-century ballet created by Philippe Tagloni. In 20th-century style, Lacotte will meet Magda's dad after the show.

FOR HIS 'spirit of forgiveness in the face of adversity', Reginald Denny was named the best-mannered person of 1993. The National League of Junior Cotillions, an etiquette and social training organisation for teenagers in North Carolina, bestowed the honour on Mr Denny 'because of the unforgettable compassion he showed for his assailants', who dragged him from his truck during the 1992 Los Angeles riots and bludgeoned him. Denny forgave his attackers and, at their trial, hugged their mothers.

Second to Mr Denny in the Cotillions's annual selections was George Bush, for 'honouring the office of the president with dignity'. No mention was made in the citation of a certain dinner in Japan or the cleaning bill for the prime minister's suit.

NOT ALL of the Mao clan has been happily savouring the nostalgia surrounding the 100th birthday of the Great Helmsman. One grandson, Wang Xiaozhi, told the China Daily: 'I wish I had been born into a different family. That way I would have had more freedom and no worries about what other people say.'

Mr Wang, 21, was born to Li Na, the daughter of Mao and Jiang Qing, his notorious third wife and Gang of Four leader. After three years at a vocational school, he worked for two years in a joint-venture hotel where he kept his family history a secret from his co-workers. Mr Wang resigned from the hotel this year and headed to college, where he says his work experience has proved invaluable. 'Now I understand why my mother wanted me to work first,' he said. 'Without the two years on a job, I wouldn't understand a thing.' His mother had insisted on the job, citing Mao's dictum that it was better to gain experience in society than read books.

Mr Wang plans to go into business, rather than pursue a political career, but the shadow of his grandfather remains a demanding influence on his life. 'I won't let my grandpa down,' he said.