May 23rd  Seoul

Jeju See The Match?

South Korea 1 England 1 [Seogwipo May 21st]

Just a quick late message this week after our mini-break....

What can I was a game of two halves.

In the first, Eddie and Jim were incredibly excited, had more photos taken of them than Beckham himself, who was cowering in the dugout, and the small and frankly motley English contingent shouted occasional indulgent comments while the team themselves toyed with the Koreans like big uncles playing beach soccer with a toddler. Saint Michael scored and all was well with the world. In the second, the England second team came on and were predictably, well... predictable. The poshest ever England football crowd went quiet, except for about two who were drunk, Eddie was still incredibly excited, but Jim had resorted to breastfeeding, which may have distracted the England B Team who let in a soft goal, and the 40,000 Koreans raised the roof.

Well the roof is actually already raised, along the lines of a traditional sailing vessel, used by the famed women divers of Jeju, and the crowd raising it further was unlike any I have ever experienced. There is no long history of football as a working class man's game, to be lived and breathed, but the Koreans have typically vigorously committed themselves to replicating the form. So a vast array of chanters, all dressed in red uniforms, has rehearsed Korean words to the greatest hits of the terraces, and a band of traditional drummers in full costume bizarrely banged out dum dum da da dum da da da da 'Hanguk!'[Korea]. The mood was fantastic, and the Koreans were clearly bemused by the behaviour of the England fans, who had either come all the way for the World Cup early, or were ex-pats over from Hong Kong, Singapore or Seoul. There had been great preparation for the threat of the 'hoodlums' as one man told us, and the collection of forty-plus business people and diplomats in unflattering white nylon may have been something of a disappointment.

The trip to Jeju overall was fantastic. It is a beautiful place, a great relief from Seoul. A cross between the Isle of Wight and Lanzarote, we thought. Part Sun City, part Dubai and part Sardinia, said the press photographer we met on the plane, slightly more exotically. Volcanic, with black dry stone walls, but very green, with tangerine trees, and wild jasmine everywhere.

We swam in the South Sea, saw [at a distance] the women divers, who dive without masks and hold their breath for two minutes while catching octopuses, we visited a dolphin show, a waterfall and a traditional village, and we saw lots of people on their honeymoons - they traditionally dress the same, and so are easy to spot.

Love to you all. More on Sunday.....



Letter Eleven