JULY 25, 2004
The Mole and Mrs Mole had gone to Cambridge for the day. It had been years since he had been back to his old university and he had been keen to see how things had changed. But within minutes of their arrival the rain came thundering down and the streets were awash. They repaired to The Little Tea Room, hidden up an alleyway opposite St John's, and waited for the storm to pass. They decided that tea and a sandwich would be a good idea and soon The Mole was expounding on the subject.
"High tea is a marvellous institution," he said.
"Yes dear," said Mrs Mole, looking at the china.
"It was invented by the Duchess of Bedford in 1830 when she ordered a light meal to stave off hunger pangs between lunch and dinner and within a few years the whole of London was serving wafer thin cucumber sandwiches, platters of light sponge cakes and pots of tea were being served all across London. Tea became a time for ladies to gossip and show off their china to their friends."
"Lovely," said Mrs Mole.
"Things aren't what they used to be," said The Mole. "The Times is a tabloid and the best British restaurant is called The Fat Duck and serves snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream."
"Yes dear," said Mrs Mole, nibbling on the edge of her sandwich as her mother had taught her to do.
The Mole paused, took a deep breath and said: "Ah well, but at least we still have Cambridge! One can still go punting on the Cam."
"I don't think that's a very good idea, dear," said Mrs Mole. "Just look at the rain. It's beastly."
"A British summer," said The Mole.
"Never mind dear," said Mrs Mole. "These sandwiches are jolly good."
The Mole grunted. His mind slipped back in time to the bad old days of the Cold War when they were forever chasing their tails, trying to hunt down Russian moles from Cambridge but then his thoughts wandered to his student days when he had been a wild rover. He remembered some of his old girlfriends: enthusiastic skinny girls who rodes bicycles. They all had names like Barbara, Patricia and Audrey and they had made his education such an amusing time in the days before tie-dye came in for the first time. He remembered how they had struggled with the extraordinary feminine upholstery of the time and smiled a small smile.
They would all be matrons by now and their daughters would be tubby, pierced and tattooed.
The Mole sighed. Sometimes he wondered what it was that he was fighting for in the Motor Racing and Tinpot Dictator Department of the Secret Intelligence Service. Tinpot dictators had been keeping a very low profile since George W sent to troops into Iraq and motor racing seems to be on the road to destruction.
"You should go berserk and run around the paddock with a gun," Penelope (Roedean) had said a few days earlier when they were discussing the same subject. "I'd come to the trial and be a character witness. You could single-handedly save the sport from itself."
The Mole had smiled.
"Yes, and I could spend my dotage in one of Her Majesty's fine hostels surrounded by evil-doers."
"Well, it is free," said Penelope. "And that way you wouldn't have to worry about the pension being enough. I would come and visit you."
"You know," The Mole had said. "We don't need to worry. The sport will take care of itself. It will twist and turn and change but in the end this age will pass. We will get new people. The current lot are colourful adventurers but there are not many educated men. And what the sport needs now is education. If you look at what young Tony Purnell is doing, you can see that there is hope. But of course he's a Cambridge Man, one would expect him to be intelligent. I do very much like his idea about qualifying races. I think it's really quite brilliant. As far as I am concerned anyone who argues against it has either not read it or does not understood it. Or they are opposed to it because they didn't think of it. I think it's splendid and the best thing is that it is the solution of a purist. The racers are rewarded for being good racers."
Mrs Mole was saying something. The Mole shook himself back from his reverie and looked at the remains of his sandwich.
"You weren't listening, were you?" said Mrs Mole.
"No, I was thinking about something," said The Mole.
"Work, I suppose," said Mrs Mole.
The Mole nodded.
"Well, not really," he added. "I was thinking more about passion."
"Really?" said Mrs Mole. "Well, I hope I figured in your thoughts."
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