October 12, 2015 by Doug Coutts
- With several WWNews staffers on assignment in Dannevirke and Norsewood and the only other team leader with a pen away on Ebola leave, we asked celebrity blogger and car buff Mike Hoskings for a special guest report, filed he tells us from Pyongyang.
Hello, and it’s good to be here First of all, let me clear the air. – I am not a journalist. Never have been, never wanted to. I’ve never had the sort of flair for using long words, apart from pejoratives, or complex sentence construction and clear thinking that sets great writers apart from me and journalists. I prefer plain talking, saying it how I’m seeing it and taking the cash, and then moving on.
And let me say at the beginning, I’m glad to be working for the WWNews team. They’re something of a rare bird, a rare avis as Jim Mora might say during an interview about takahe, in the field of internet news reporting – they’re the only outfit called WWNews. There’s no one else like them.
From the start, I have to say it’s great being here in North Korea. I love the place – the officials have done a tremendous job, especially with the temperature. Right now it’s a balmy 47 degrees, or 112 in the old money, and it’s only 3am. The best is yet to come.
Before we kick into the report proper, I need to let you now that anything you may have heard about North Korea simply isn’t true. I’ve been spending a bit of time in the town centre and I can confirm that I have yet to see any senior army officer tied to a stake and mortared to death. It could just be the bricklayers are on strike, but I doubt it. It just doesn’t seem to be that sort of place.
From the get go, I must admit there are a lot of cars about. More, in fact, that you’re likely to see on the streets back home, or even in my garage. Of course, I’m a car fanatic. I’ve lost count of the number of times my wife has said, after I’ve arrived home with another Maserati (or Lambo if not all the cheques have cleared), “Mike, have you been using my hair frosting gel again?” And we laugh, have a pinot grigio and I go back to Prestige Autos de Ponsonbie for another one.
At first impressions, the wildlife is fantastic. There are things that fly about, squawking in a raucous but at the same time melodic way, and there are things that scuttle about in the gutter, uttering the most mournful cries – men and women the locals call them. Luckily, for I suspect they might be poisonous, my rooms here at the Hilton – yes, posh digs do exist here to the surprise of many but not me because I know a bit about the world – are hermetically sealed. And guarded day and night.
Before we go too far, I should say that I can’t remember much of the actual journey here, apart from the helicopter trip from my patio to the limo at the front gate. It’s been a blur since then, but I have an unerring sense of direction, so I can find my way around at the drop of a GPS.
One of the strange things I’ve noticed about North Korea is that it’s full of Australians, particularly here in the capital. I’m not normally a fan of Australians – they’re a bit too brash and outspoken for my liking – and today is no exception . They’re everywhere – on the beaches, on the freeways, crowding out the trams.
And the money… it’s really odd but the North Korean coinage is all out of whack. For instance the one dollar coin – and don’t ask me when they adopted the American currencial system, it must have been while I was dashing between the radio job and the other one – the one dollar coin is bigger than the two dollar coin. It makes no sense. But that’s North Korea for you. If you want it.
As for me, I think I do. It’s got a lot going for it, this country. Nuclear supremacy notwithstanding, they’re a hard-working smiling bunch of people. And they speak a type of English which helps. Tomorrow I’m heading off to see more of the country, a charming place just across the harbour called Ji Long apparently. I’ll keep you posted.