If you're the sort to entertain romantic notions of Grand Prix racing, despite its inevitablecommercialisation, then Monza in early Autumn is the place to do it. On Sundaymorning, as the mist rises slowly over the Royal Monza Park, it's a time to reflect thatwe're leaving the charms of the Old Continent behind for another year, before headingoff to the Orient and South America…
While those far flung destinations have their good points, and for some media typesthey are actually home, the European press corps will be pining for what we leavebehind. Like chewing gum, for example, which is illegal in Singapore (except on medicalgrounds), whereas in many European countries it is considered the perfect accessory toleave on your seat on the train or the sole of your shoe. And speaking of trains, how dullis it to go to Japan, where you can set your watch by the fact they run on time, that youactually get a seat of your own and there's very little chance of tripping over a beggar orgetting stabbed? Where's the fun and frisson of danger in that?
In China, you will be praying for a nice safe train as you watch your taxi driver bury hisright foot on the accelerator as he heads for the back of a stationary queue of traffic,completely unaware that the pretty red lights mean the brakes are on.
We'll miss the fact that in Europe you can watch people take their dogs for walks in thepark, unlike the next few races where you might see people put their dogs in the wokwith some pork. It's the same with fish, because over here, if it's swimming happilyaround it belongs in a tank with a miniature treasure chest and anchor, not flapping itsfins on your plate. Come the end of the year, having overdosed on raw fish, yourcholesterol levels will be nice and low, until you get to Brazil where being a vegetariancarries the death sentence and eating three pounds of beef a day is a legal requirement.
Coming from politically correct and health conscious Europe, the lack of smoke-freezones can be disconcerting and remember, you won't be allowed through JapaneseCustoms unless you're carrying at least 400 Duty Free Larks cigarettes.
While it's nice to have thousands of crazy Japanese fans confused by the desire to mobyou, while also keeping a discrete distance, it doesn't convey the same sense of deep-seated affection that you get from being showered with broken glass by adoring tifosi atMonza. At least in China they don't even try to hide the fact that you could be eatinglethally dangerous seafood, while the restaurateurs of Monaco go to a great deal oftrouble pretending the refrigerator hasn't really been broken since Tuesday. As forSingapore, all that chrome and steel in Changi airport is just so devoid of any emotionalcontent. Surely we all prefer the dark, distressed and homely charms of HeathrowTerminal 3. And how can Mt Fuji hope to compete with our Milton Keynes factory?
And a final word of warning about Brazil: When you hear a gun shot in Europe it'susually on the television, not in the street outside your room.