No lunch for Annabel

Now that the kids have grown up and left The Mole's nest, he sometimes likes to have one of the Penelopes around to brighten up Sunday lunches at Mole Manor. The Colonel and the Reverend O are all very well and the moustachioed dowager from down the road was really too much of a curmudgeon. Mrs Mole has always been rather wary of Penelope (Roedean), who she felt was not a girl who could be trusted with an automatic pistol, but she had warmed to Penelope (Benendon) after one day discovering, while they were in the garden picking flowers, that her heart was set on the unlikely conquest of Max Mosley.

Since Penelope (Benendon) was transferred out of the department, the Sunday lunches had not been nearly as much fun. Mrs Mole had wanted to invite Annabel, "the new girl", but The Mole admitted finally that he just could not face.

"Annabel is a jolly nice girl," he said, "but she too green and far too keen. She is always volunteering for every job and that has been annoying the other girls.

This was proved the following day when Annabel volunteered to go to Birmingham for the big motorsport show.

"First time I met someone who volunteered to go to Birmingham," said Penelope (Roedean) and then paused. "Unless there was a man involved."

Annabel blushed.

"Don't we have any jobs going in Baghdad?" Penelope (Roedean) went on.

"I might have something in Tel Aviv," said The Mole. "But otherwise it is pretty dull. Silverstone, Jerez, Salzburg. All the usual stuff."

"And I took this job because I wanted a glamorous life!" laughed Penelope (Roedean).

"I was thinking about our strategy the other day," said The Mole, "and I think we have to get someone on the inside at Prince's Gate."

"Spying on Mr Eccelstone?" said Penelope.

"I'll do it," said Annabel.

The Mole and Penelope sighed.

"Thank you very much for the offer," said The Mole. "But we need you to do a little work with Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes."

"Super!" said Annabel.

"Yes," said The Mole. "We need you to find out how the engineers are all getting on. It is a little overcrowded down there in the technical management."

"Right-ho!" said Annabel.

"Penelope," said The Mole. "You get Silverstone this week. We need you to look into MF1 Racing."

Penelope (Roedean) winced.

"I shall pose as an inspector from The Health and Safety Commission," she said. She paused for a moment.

"Is it just me," she asked, "or does everyone think about people buying cheap leather couches in furniture stores when they hear the name MF1?"

Annabel looked mystified.

"Mullard Furniture Industries," said The Mole. "MFI, you know."

"Is that what is stands for?" said Penelope.

"Started by a couple of likely lads buying government surplus stuff after World War II," said The Mole.

The girls nodded, impressed at The Mole's knowledge of cheap furniture outlets.

"There are a couple of things which we do not understand," The Mole went on. "First of all Midland announced that it was going to use the team to raise its profile around the world. Well, a complete unknown brand like MF1 does not do that. So we really want to know what is going on and whether Midland is really behind it or if Alex Shnaider is doing this on his own, which is what I think."

"And?" said Penelope.

"And, we need to understand why on earth MF1 agreed to sign to allow Super Aguri F1 to join the World Championship despite Aguri and his mates having missed the entry date," said The Mole. "It makes no sense at all for MF1, the smallest team in the paddock these days, to have agreed to allow a stronger operation to come in and push it out of the top 10 positions in the Constructors Championship. That is very likely to happen this year, which means that three years down the line, MF1 is going to be struggling."

"Yes," said Penelope. "But three years? That is an eternity. And there will be a new Concorde Agreement by then."

"There must be something in it for MF1," said Annabel.

"A sensible conclusion," said Penelope.

"What we need to know is what that deal is," said The Mole. "It is clear that the team will need to get engines at the end of the current season when Toyota confirms its expected deal with Williams. The fact that Honda was asking teams to support Super Aguri F1 might hint that perhaps Honda has agreed to supply MF1 with engines in 2007 but frankly I don't see that."

"So what could it be?" said Annabel.

"That's why we need someone inside Prince's Gate," said Penelope. "The incentives must have come from the Formula One group."

"Do you think Mr E said he would pay more than 10 teams?" said Annabel.

The Mole and Penelope laughed out loud.

Too green, thought The Mole. No Sunday lunches for her just yet.

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