Charlie Whiting is back from Korea

I’d sent him off to Kimchi or whatever it’s called, incognito, ahead of the official inspection. He went there straight after Singapore. Took him a day and a half to find his way back home.

How did it go, I asked him. Did the Inspector Frogleg outfit work? “Like a charm,” he said. “Nobody recognised me. One person asked me if I was Mr Bean. They all seem to love Mr Bean over there.” Well, that would explain the construction delays, then. So you could find out how they’re doing without being noticed?

“Oh no,” he says. “I said they didn’t recognise me. But they did notice me. Of course they did. How could they not? I stuck out like a sore thumb. Literally. This is some backwater deep in South Korea, you know. I was the only Westerner for hundreds of miles around.”

“But I did find out how they’re doing. Took me awhile, though, because nobody speaks English. Well, almost nobody. After a few hours a friendly chap took me under his wing. Spoke a tiny bit of English, introduced himself as Mr Park. Said somebody’d told him Mr Bean was sniffing around the premises, was I really Mr Bean and was there anything he could do for me?”

“By that time I’d seen quite a bit so I was happy to find somebody who could explain it all for me. Well, most of it. So I told him no I wasn’t Mr Bean, I was Mr Clouseau, and yes he could explain some things for me.”

Are you sure he wasn’t a plant? Sent out to pull the wool over your eyes? “Don’t think so. Can’t be entirely sure of course but he seemed a reliable sort of chap. But if you want to be certain, have him checked out. His name’s Park. P-A-R-K. Should be able to find him, it’s not that big a place.”

“Anyway, first thing I noticed they all seemed to be panicking all the time. So I had Mr Park translate a few of the exchanges and it turns out they weren’t panicking. It’s just how they act. They’re being Koreans, as if it were. They shout a lot but they really work hard. Arrive before dawn, press on until late evening, using every last bit of daylight. Only thing is, and this may sound funny given the pressure they must be under, but at noon they all drop whatever they’re doing and run off to have lunch together. Like clockwork. At dinnertime, same thing. Make a lot of racket while eating, too. Like a bunch of school kids.”

Oh dear, I say. Sounds a lot like the French. We can kiss the Korean race goodbye, then. “Like the French? Well, yes and no,” he says, “I can see why you say that, but the difference is, they’re always back in half an hour or so. Not like your usual French twenty hour work week. So not to worry, they’ll probably beat the deadline. Not by much, but they’ll beat it.”

Told him I was still worried, what with the crane accident and all that. “Yes I heard about that. Happened after I left. But I also heard it crashed into the main grandstand. If it’s only that, then I’d say there’s no need to worry about further delays.”

Why not? I asked.

“Obvious,” he says. “They can just leave it as it is and get on with the rest of the circuit. The grandstands won’t be needed anyway. Believe me, nobody’ll be able to find the place.”

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