The Cannes do

Penelope (Roedean) took her top off to reveal that she was entirely topless. The Mole spluttered slightly and did what all Englishmen do when they encounter topless women. He tried to look the other way. The only problem was that there were topless women in all directions on the private beach at Cannes, where they had gone to waste an hour or two before going to Nice to check out Max Mosley's secret meeting with the Formula 1 drivers.

It was a nice beach with proper sand and not the uncomfortable pebbles one finds elsewhere on the Riviera.

After a moment or two of panic, The Mole decided that there was only one way out of his predicament and opened his copy of The Daily Telegraph and began reading. It really was a bit much of his deputy to expose herself in this way, he thought, before taking a little peek to admire the scenery.

"Nice here, isn't it?" said Penelope, scratching her breast, entirely aware of The Mole's discomfort.

"Yes," mumbled The Mole. "It's awfully nice of Max to hold all his summer meeting on the Riviera."

Penelope stretched out on the sunbed and The Mole decided to talk about the weather. The great British redoubt in moments of crisis.

"At least it is a bit cooler than in Budapest," he said, "although I cannot say that I am sure what we are going to gain from being here to keep an eye on the meeting with the drivers."

Penelope giggled.

"We will get a tan at the taxpayer's expense," she said. "Besides what else is there for the department to do? Everyone has gone on holiday now and so we should do the same. I know that Ferrari is going to go on testing but I'm not sure it is really making that much difference. Michael was running very light in qualifying and the BARs and Renaults were not handling very well. Ferrari certainly looked good for a bit but we shall have to see if the same thing happens again in Turkey."

The Mole considered the argument.

"You could be right," he said, desperately trying to keep his eyes on an article about Uzbekistan but finding his glance drawn inexorably elsewhere.

"Max is all loved-up with the teams and the manufacturers," Penelope was saying. "Jordan has scraped together the roubles to get the Toyota engine deal done. We know that the world has gone completely mad because Johnny Herbert is back in F1 and talking about being a NASCAR driver in the future. Jenson Button is going to Williams next year but has not realised it yet. His place at BAR will be going to Rubens Barrichello, who has had enough of playing second fiddle to Michael Schumacher and wants to show the world that he really wants to be a winner before he retires to enjoy the Ferrari millions. The second Ferrari will go to Felipe Massa and the little Brazilian will be very happy about that. And his place at BMW Sauber or Sauber BMW, or just BMW, is going to go to Nick Heidfeld because the suits in Munich love Germans, even if they say they don't have to have one and Sir Frank Williams has nothing to offer Nick because Mark Webber and Jenson Button are under contract."

"Nick would prefer to be at BAR," said The Mole, trying not to whistle like a naughty little boy as he noted that Penelope was a very well-formed young lady.

Her eyes were closed as she nodded sagely.

"And that is it for the driver market this year," she said. "I am really not bothered about the rent-a-car teams down at the back. There will be at least one Dutchman, Narain Karthikeyan is bound to find some more cash because India is a big place and Heikki Kovalainen will probably get a chance next year and the other available seat will go to the highest bidder. If Chanoch Nissany can drive a Minardi in Hungary, well, there is hope for all of us."

The Mole sighed.

"If we are not careful the Motor Racing and Trade Development Department is going to have nothing to do apart from talking about inward and outward missions," he said.

"Which is why I thought it best to head for the beach in Cannes and take my top off!" said Penelope.

"Yes," said The Mole. "You did."

"The big problem I have at the beach," Penelope added, "is that when one wears a bikini, one simply has nowhere to hide a pistol."

"True," said The Mole, turning to the sports pages with a suitable rustling noise. "It would spoil the lines of the bikini."

"You should not be looking!" said Penelope, enjoying the fact that he was.

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