The White Stuff
DECEMBER 25, 2003
Mrs Mole was captivated by the latest edition of Hello! magazine.
"I was just wondering why people keep calling their children after suburbs," she said. "I mean first we had Chelsea Clinton and now we have Brooklyn Beckham."
"Well, it's better than Peckham Beckham, isn't it?" said The Mole. "Or Tooting Beckham, come to think of it."
Mrs Mole looked at the ceiling and concluded that her husband needed a holiday.
"It is time to go to Madeira," she said.
"Ah," said The Mole. "To the floating garden of the Atlantic."
In recent years The Mole has suffered more and more from aches and pains from his old injuries (bullet holes and so on) and so each November, when England is at its darkest and coldest, the Moles take off to Reid's Palace Hotel in Madeira.
Reid's Palace is just the place to warm the bones and to remember what the sun feels like on the skin. And yet they also have a proper English tea with cucumber sandwiches, scones and proper china. In the evenings one can partake of a little parrot fish, washed down with Vinho Verde. And to top it all Reid's has acres of beautiful gardens to explore thanks to old William Reid's mad desire to build the best possible hotel. This involved having hundreds of tons of beautiful rich earth dragged to the top of the cliff he had chosen to be the site of the hotel.
"He was a fascinating fellow," said The Mole, after reading the blurb in the hotel room, a couple of days later. "It says here that he came here as a cabin boy and made a fortune selling Madeira to the English and then moved into the hotel trade. But the poor old fellow popped his clogs before this place was finished.
"Very sad, dear," said Mrs Mole, admiring the bougainvillea.
Disappearing off in November may be all the rage in Formula 1 circles but in the Secret Intelligence Service it is considered to be bad form. The Mole, however, got the agreement of C but promising to keep in constant touch with the Motor Racing and Tinpot Dictator Department.
Soon after his arrival he rang his personal assistant Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) to see if anything important was happening.
"Not really," she said, sounding rather bored. "Unless you get excited about David Coulthard signing a deal with the Scottish Dairy Marketing Company."
"Are they starting a racing team?" said The Mole.
Miss Pringle-Featherby tittered as girls from the Home Counties tend to do.
"Who is in the office?" asked The Mole.
"Penelope (Roedean)," said Miss Pringle-Featherby.
"OK, said The Mole. "Put her on."
"Hello chief," said Penelope, in a rather jolly fashion.
"What's all this about Coulthard with a milk moustache?" said The Mole.
"He wouldn't keep it for long if I was around," she said. "I'd lick it off!"
And she giggled deliciously.
"It is actually a very funny story," she continued. "The milk marketing people have this campaign called The White Stuff."
"Any Colombians involved?" said The Mole.
Penelope ignored him.
"Anyway," she went on, "let me read you the story. I think you'll enjoy it. 'We are thrilled to have such a major sports personality's support for the campaign,' said Sandy Wilkie of the Scottish Dairy Marketing Company. 'David Coulthard is a real inspiration to Scottish kids and we are delighted to have him on board'. And then after that Coulthard says that milk is very important to kids and that 'they need to start making the right choices about what to put into their bodies from an early age'."
All Penelope could hear from the other end of the phone was laughter.
"Oh, how I love sponsors!" said The Mole when he could speak again. "I am sure that the milk people are delighted but can you imagine what is going to happen when Hermann the German in the West office in Hamburg reads that quote? Tobacco companies have spent 30 years telling the world that they are not using motor racing to target young people and that their involvement in Formula 1 is to get established smokers to switch brands and here come the milk marketeers telling us that a West-sponsored racing driver is a great role model to inspire children."
"The milk launch turns sour," said Penelope.
"David's going to be in the news a bit in the next few days," said The Mole. "McLaren announcing the signing of Juan Pablo Montoya is going to put the spotlight on DC because it is fairly obvious that he is the man who is going to be booted out at McLaren at the end of next year."
"I don't understand why Montoya is moving," said Penelope. "What reason is there to think that McLaren will be more competitive than Williams next year?"
"I guess it is all about money," said The Mole. "Montoya wanted more than Williams was willing to pay him. He was not happy that Williams was intending to keep Ralf Schumacher because the two men do not get along and then he had that big fight over the radio with Sam Michael at Magny-Cours. Once he had decided to leave his only real choice was to join McLaren.
"Try as I might, I just cannot see Monty and Ron Dennis getting on very well together. I know that Ron needs a new star to sell to the Germans because the team isn't winning, but I see the whole thing ending in tears."
"What will be really interesting is to see how long it takes Williams to do a deal with Rubens Barrichello for 2005. They really don't have much of a choice at the moment. They would go for Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen but they are all tied up until at least 2006. I suppose they could go for a youngster but at the moment there is no-one really outstanding out there. Rubens has done a really good job alongside Michael Schumacher and is ready to be the number one in a top team."
"So what do you think Coulthard is going to do?" asked Penelope.
"Drive for a lesser team," sighed The Mole. "Or go off and market The White Stuff."
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