THE MOLE

The power of chocolate

For reasons known only to Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys), The Mole and Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College) had to go to Vienna on their way back from Istanbul. It was something to do with the fact that Penelope had started her journey to Turkey from Austria, where she had spent her holiday climbing mountains. The Mole did not really mind because going to Schwechat is always a nostalgic moment for an old Cold Warrier. Once upon a time in the 1970s, Vienna was the front line and he had spent many a day playing cat and mouse with the KGB boys inside the Ringstrasse.

As they wandered through the shopping malls in the airport, looking for departure gates, The Mole told Penelope about the old days when Schwechat had been a military base where Heinkel had tested its early jet fighters in the latter days of World War II.

"The first HE 162 buried itself out there on the airfield," said The Mole, with a vague wave of his hand. "One of the wings fell off and the poor old test pilot did not just buy the farm. He ate it."

Penelope shrugged.

"I'm hungry," she said.

They wandered on until they found a shop selling what Penelope was looking for.

Chocolate.

"There is nothing in the world better than chocolate," she said as she eyed a delightful-looking Sachertorte in a wooden box. "I need chocolate."

The Mole was going to suggest that Sharon Stone dipped in chocolate might be better but then concluded that Penelope would probably not see it in quite the same way. Chocolate was a complicated thing, he mused. It has all those odd neurotransmitters that make it so very attractive to young ladies: phenylethylamine, tryptophan and anandamide: useful words for crossword puzzles.

In the end he decided against explaining to Penelope that she needed chocolate because she did not get sufficient sex would probably not be a great idea.

"Nice colour," he said instead.

"Yes," said Penelope, looking almost lustfully at the cake. "There is something so soothing about chocolate brown, isn't there? You know, I always feel a little happier after I have seen a UPS truck."

The Mole rolled his eyes. Clearly, spending too much time in the mountains had affected the oxygen levels of Penelope's brain and affected her thought processes. The Mole had long ago concluded that it often happens to people in Austria.

"Well," said The Mole. "I may have some good news for you. I hear from my spies at Renault that they may soon be giving up sky blue and canary yellow and could be switching to chocolate brown."

"Really?" said Penelope, re-adjusting her headband. "Lovely."

"Well, I hear that UPS is thinking about a big F1 programme at the moment.. It is the world's biggest delivery company and its rivals FedEx and DHL are both pretty heavily into F1. UPS recognises the value of racing and is pretty big these days in NASCAR, sponsoring a bunch of racetracks and they've been very successful with the NASCAR sponsorship they have had with Dale Jarrett. He hasn't won many races but the TV ads they have are very popular. Jarrett drives a big brown UPS delivery truck around an oval, pretending it's a NASCAR. I heard the other day that Jarrett and UPS are both moving to one of the new Toyota teams next year."

There was a pause. Penelope was still staring at the chocolate.

"Anyway," said The Mole. "The thing is that UPS is also expanding really fast in Asia, particularly China, and there is a good argument that they might want to promote the whole "brown truck" thing on a global scale."

"I like the colour," said Penelope, shaking her head, as if emerging from a dream. "But brown cars are really ugly!"

"I guess it would be brown, white and yellow," said The Mole. "That is what Jarrett's NASCAR looks like. Just enough brown for the chocoholics and not too much for the fashion victims."

"I think the colour thing is very clever," said Penelope. "You see a colour and you know instantly what the product is. It is a bit like the yellow arches on a red background. That is a great brand. And I can see why UPS wants a billion and a half Chinese people to think the same thing as we do when they see something brown."

"When you put it like that," said The Mole. "An F1 sponsorship sounds pretty inexpensive."

"I guess that sort of recognition is what Red Bull is looking for with all its sponsorships," said Penelope.

"It's what they are all looking for," said The Mole. "A walking yellow man is Johnnie Walker; a dancing white lady on a light blue background is Gitanes; a blue Camel on a yellow background is Camel. The thing that is difficult is not the recognition. What they all want is that the recognition gives the viewers a good feeling."

"Do you feel good when you see a McDonalds yellow arch?" said Penelope.

"I have never thought about it," said The Mole. "I think I prefer the Johnnie Walker fellow. That has some pretty good associations."

"Anyway UPS has been really good at that," said Penelope. "People like the brown and they think good thoughts. UPS vans bring nice things. Presents. A smile. You know."

The Mole had lost interest and was back at the display cabinet, staring at the Sachertorte.

"Yummy," said Penelope. "These Austrians are so clever."

"What is it with girls and Austrians?" said The Mole. "Every girl I ever met loved Gerhard Berger. And even Christian Klien seems to be popular with the ladies."

"I think he's a bit skinny for the American market," said Penelope. "But I am sure he will do fine driving Red Bull-sponsored Champ Cars for PKV Racing next year. That Kevin Kalkhoven seems to be a sensible chap."

August 28 2006

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