GLOBETROTTER

Spook words, the black men of St Emilion and civil wars

Jacques Villeneuve, Monaco GP 2001

Jacques Villeneuve, Monaco GP 2001 

 © The Cahier Archive

On the front door of my new house there is a small plaque on which the sun is depicted above the words "carpe diem". I would like to claim that I knew what it meant because I am so well educated, but Latin was never a strong point and I dropped it as soon as I was allowed to do so.

And so I had to cheat and nip on to the Internet to discover that "carpe diem" is Latin for "seize the day" and comes originally from a poem by Horace: "Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero". Seize the day, trust as little as possible to the future".

It is a good motto in life. And if there was a motto which was made for Grand Prix racing, it is carpe diem.

The other reason I wanted to know about the motto was because someone told me that the house was formerly owned by a gentleman once employed by James Bond's Firm, the Secret Intelligence Service (known to the world as MI6) and suggested that this was MI6's motto. It seems that the gentleman in question was heavily involved in such activities as he had the great misfortune to have died in a helicopter accident on the Isle of Mull in 1994. English readers will have heard of the accident. For those who do not know there was a disastrous crash which claimed ALL the top secret intelligence officers who were working in Northern Ireland at the time.

Anyway, the house was then sold to a man who had pictures of himself on the walls, in battle dress behind the lines in Iraq during The Gulf War. He also had a wooden truncheon hanging by the back door. I thought it rude to ask why.

Anyway this is why I ended up surfing around the shadowy corners of the Internet. Holy Moses, what a lot of conspiracies there are in the world? I read some very unlikely stories about Princess Diana and the like. Finally, having failed to discover the motto of MI6 (How can an organization have a motto when it does not exist?) I stumbled upon a website which listed "spook words". These are words or expressions which activate government computers so that any e-mail featuring such a word is recorded and analyzed by listening services. It made fascinating reading. One can understand it with words such as "flashbangs", "Semtex" or "mole" (That bloke on ITV-F1.com needs to watch out!) and it is not surprising that any e-mail with the address 64 Vauxhall Cross would excite interest (as it is the headquarters of MI6). One can imagine that complicated acronyms such as NAVELEXSYSSECENGCEN or SIGDASYS mean something to someone somewhere. But why in the world are the expressions "Daffy Duck", "Mickey Mouse" and "Bugs Bunny" included on the list?

The world has gone mad, I thought and set off to visit Bordeaux. My views of global insanity were then enhanced as we trolled along the road which passes by St Emilion. This is God's own country with the finest vineyards in the world on either side of the road. And every now and then there is a black man standing beside the road. A black man? Yes, a life-sized two-dimensional figure standing spookily beside the road. Sometimes there are two together. Once I saw four.

What could it all mean, I wondered. The other day in Austria we hurtled through a village, saw a policeman and stamped on the brakes. It was only then that we realized the policemen was two-dimensional and designed to slow down drivers who did not know better. It works once. I guess that once in a while the Austrian cops come along and switch the wooden man with a real one to catch the locals.

It turns out that the black men of St Emilion are also there to slow down people who drive too fast. Each black man represents a person killed at that spot. It is terrifying, although one has to admit that there are times when you are left wondering how the hell someone managed to kill themselves in that location.

After a while I began to wonder if any racing driver would ever race if they had such things on race tracks. Monza would have a bigger crowd of black men than attend the average club race. I doubt there would be a place on the old Nurburgring where one would not be able to see a black man. Monaco, on the other hand, would have very few. I would think that more people have got tiddly and fallen in the harbor than have been killed racing cars around the streets. Every year we go to Monte Carlo and worry about wheel-over-wheel accidents and how the race is living on borrowed time but every year we go back. It is at Monaco that the deals are done. It is the time of year where it is useful to know what executives in massive corporations actually look like because you might easily bump into a serious heavy-hitter and brush them off, thinking they were tourists. Monaco always has a few renta-stars to attract the cameras but putting faces to names can be much more rewarding.

This is the one time of the year when Formula 1 needs to be at peace with itself. But this year we have the manufacturers spouting on about how they are going to start their own World Championship. The quest for money has ruined many things in the history of the world and it seems that mankind has not learned much from all of this. Compromise creates growth, division creates collapse. It does not take a genius to work this out but obviously there are not many geniuses employed at the top end of the European automobile companies at the moment. One can hope - as we all do - that it is all posturing which will lead to a compromise but when people get into such situations anything can happen. To set up a rival World Championship is so dumb that there is simply no justification for it. Yes, perhaps the car companies will make some more money and perhaps the damage can be repaired within 10 years but is it really worth it? Of course not...

Bernie Ecclestone and Leo Kirch did not get to where they are today by being fools. They know that they will have to settle for less than they are currently squeezing out of the sport. But they want to get as much as they can. Now is the time for compromise rather than confrontation.

Or, in the words of my front door, seize the day. Get a deal done before the fools rush in and destroy everything that has been built up with such care over so many years.

"Quam minimum credula postero", as Horace used to say.

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