The Geneva convention
NOVEMBER 28, 2003
Each year, try as he might, The Mole cannot escape feeling rather merry as Christmas approaches. The winds may be icy but there is something delightful about decorating Christmas trees, buying presents and going to lots of drinks parties. London is all aglow with pretty lights and the Penelopes are already talking about their plans for the Christmas break, when they will be rushing off to the Home Counties to see assorted Mummies and Daddies.
Penelope (Roedean) confided to The Mole that she is intending to be in The Palace Hotel in Gstaad on Christmas morning with her new beau, a rather successful middle-aged banker of dubious marital status.
"It he was married," she had told another of the Penelopes, "he would not be spending Christmas with me in Gstaad, would he? He'd be with wifey and the kiddywinks."
The Mole was not so sure but Penelope was old enough to make her own mistakes and would no doubt enjoy making them.
It had been a good week. The Mole had nipped off to Geneva for a day to keep an eye on the goings on of the GPWC and, for a brief moment, had wanted to stay to enjoy the Fete de l'Escalade. The shops were all full of the small chocolate cooking pots that the locals give one another to celebrate the anniversary of the victory of the Genevese over invading Frenchmen who tried to sneak into the city in the middle of the night and were caught out when a lady spotted the infiltrators and threw a pot of boiling soup on his head. He was kind enough to sound the alarm for her.
To celebrate the massacre which followed the people of Geneva each year have a big parade which somehow seems strange in a city which is famous for attempts to keep peace and spread international understanding.
But now The Mole was back in Mole Manor and had just enjoyed one of Mrs Batty's roasts. The Reverend O and assorted parishioners had finally toddled off home through the village and Mrs Mole was off doing something incomprehensible in the greenhouse and The Mole retired to his study for a glass of one of his spectacular collection of champagne brandies. For a moment or two he admired the bottles and then, moving aside the Erte decanter of Courvoisier and the Baccarat flask filled with Remy Martin Louis XIII, he picked out the 1875 Rouyer Guillet Reserve Grande Fine Champagne.
"Or perhaps I should have the 1914?" he said to himself.
Life is full of difficult decisions.
He settled for the 1875 and, having poured himself a glass of this heavenly fire water, settled down in front of a raging fire.
"Let us thank the good Lord for double distillation," he said to himself. "And drink a toast to the unknown genius who discovered that Limousin oak casks do not fully mature until they have been used for 10 years."
The Mole drank.
"Marvellous," he said.
It was time, he thought, to assess life. Things were good. Tinpot dictators around the world were gradually disappearing thanks to America's new-found desire to be the world's policeman.
The Motor Racing and Tinpot Dictator Department had, as a result, been able to concentrate on motor racing to such an extent that The Mole had even been considering asking C to change the department's name to reflect the work being done. Motor racing is such an important industry in Britain, he mused, that it would now be an acceptable change.
Motor racing was beginning to sort itself out. The CART and IRL mess was seemingly coming to a close, which could only be good news for British exporters and the commercial battles of F1 now seem to be on the way to being fixed as well. Bernie Ecclestone, the banks and the car manufacturers are all saying that they are going to get together to remove the uncertainty which has surrounded the business of Formula 1 in recent years. The Mole looked ahead to a new era of growth and expansion.
Every morning before he allowed Oswald the chauffeur to drive him to work, he leafed through the post to see if there was anything official from Downing Street, asking him if he might accept a knighthood in the New Year's Honours List.
The Mole has been very happy with the intelligence gathered in Geneva. Ecclestone it seemed had promised to give the teams more money (with a big payment up front), the banks had been convinced to hold on to the business until it was time to float it and recoup their investments; and the car manufacturers were going to be satisfied with four seats on a board of directors of 12. The stage was thus set for stability until 2007 and a new Concorde Agreement beyond that. TV viewing figures in F1 were rising.
There were a few bad apples left in the business who needed to be weeded out but, in general, the sport was moving on and working well.
"This is all very lovely," he said to himself, "but I am bored."
He had long since ceased to wade through the Sunday newspapers. In fact since the Philistines, downmarketeers and bean-counters had broken up the original Sunday Times Insight team he had not bothered. The most inventive journalism in Wapping nowadays, he reckoned, were the expense forms.
As he reached for his glass again, The Mole accidentally knocked a television remote control sideways and the TV switched itself on. Thanks to one of the bright young men of the IT Section, Mole Manor had been fitted with all manner of (probably illegal) satellite links which enabled The Mole to watch more than 200 channels, ranging from Al Jazeera to Canal Jimmy, including some rather saucy shows from Germany.
When The Mole was young, "zapping" was what happened when a chap was battling with invading Martians but he had learned that channel-hopping now had a new name.
It was all very fascinating, so fascinating in fact that he quickly dropped off to sleep.
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