Funding good ideas

Mrs Batty is now back from the coast and swears that she is now cured of her love for gin. She has sworn blind to Mrs Mole that she will not steal any more of the family silver to pay for her Gordon's and Mrs Mole, believing in charitable acts, has accepted the promise. Now Mrs Mole's mind is filled with Harvest Festivals and buying Christmas presents.

The Mole was delighted when he heard of Mrs Batty's indiscretions because now she is desperate for work and will accept less than the going rate for a top-notch housekeeper. A few missing trinkets never hurt anyone, The Mole argues. Besides, he has been buying back the silver from the local pawn shop.

Mrs Batty is worth it.

"A swift sermon, a sherry or two and then Mrs Batty's fabulous roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding and all the trimmings, followed by a big stodgy pudding with lots of custard," said The Mole. "That is heaven."

The Colonel disagreed, if only because The Colonel disagrees with everything.

"Autumn in England," he said. "That's the best thing. The stuff of poets. Log fires, the odd glass of whisky to warm the bones. Forget New England and all that foreign stuff. England is the place."

"Quite so," said The Mole, feeling a little mischievous. "All we need to do is to send you to see Bernie Ecclestone and convince him that England is a good place."

"What is he on about?" said The Colonel. "Talking about Britain and France sharing a Grand Prix? That's unthinkable."

"We are all Europeans," said The Mole.

"You may be," said The Colonel. "I'm most definitely not. I'm damned if I'm going to speak Polish in my own country."

"You have to if you want a good plumber," said the moustachioed dowager from down the road.

"Anyway," said The Mole. "You are too hard on Bernie. He is doing what he always does. He is seeing what he can get away with. It is not about money. It is about the thrill of doing a deal. If he can get $40m from the Chinese he is going to take it, isn't he? You would. We all would. The thing is that we are not brave enough to ask! Anyway, the Silverstone folk made some seriously blustery noises, as one would expect, and said there was no way that would happen. So if the French can't make their race pay they should come up with a new idea."

"A Rolling Stones concert?" said The Reverend O. "What can you do after Pink Floyd?"

The Mole smiled.

"That is not quite what I meant," he said. "Look, if people won't go to the race, you have to take the race to the people. You take it to Paris. They could do it if they really wanted to. They have this rather odd mayor, Bertrand Something or other, who was very keen on getting the Olympic Games in 2012. If I was running that race I'd look to see where the government was spending money. Maybe Corsica. That needs more tourists. Maybe even one of those foreign places that France still hangs on to. You know, French Guyana or New Caledonia. That way Bernie could have a French GP and have a new race in either Asia or the Americas."

"What you mean like having a British GP in Hong Kong?" said The Colonel.

"Hong Kong is in China now," said The Reverend O.

"Do we have any colonies left?" asked the moustachioed dowager from down the road.

The Mole shook his head.

"No," he said. "These days they are now called the British Overseas Territories. We have a whole bunch of small islands: Anguilla, Bermuda, Virgin Islands, Caymans, Gibraltar, the Falklands, Pitcairn, St Helena. Oh, and the sovereign bases in Cyprus. Maybe we could have a Grand Prix at Akrotiri and have the Turks and the Greeks fighting over the grandstands!"

"That would be like having a US Grand Prix at Runnymede," said The Colonel. "I think the Americans own that, don't they? We gave it to them."

"We gave Runnymede to the Americans?" said The Mole.

The Colonel nodded.

"What about Gibraltar," said The Reverend O. "That is huge compared to Monaco. And the Spaniards are very keen on F1, aren't they? They would come over the border."

"Yes," said The Mole. "But they might not go home.

"Anyway," he went on, "there is a lot of action going on in Spain these days. They are mad about F1 thanks to Fernando Alonso. It's like it was when Michael Schumacher was really big in Germany. The sky is the limit. There is the race in Barcelona and they can't build grandstands fast enough for that. The thing is that eventually some clever Spanish politician will point out that Barcelona is not in Spain. It is in the autonomous region of Catalonia and so they should really have a Catalan Grand Prix and the Spanish GP should be given to someone else. Valencia wants to do its own Monaco when the America's Cup packs up and goes way. They have spent a fortune making it an agreeable city and they want the tourists to keep coming.

"But I'll let you into a secret," he added. "There is an even bigger development being planned in Madrid. You know they used to have the Spanish GP there back in the days of Jarama. Now they have this huge plan for a MotorCity, a bit like the thing they are planning in Dubai. It is at some place called Pinto, to the south of Madrid where two motorways meet. They have a huge area of open land and they want to create jobs and boost the local economy with an automobile-themed city with an F1 track, museums, a university, a research and development park, a convention centre, hotels, cinemas, shops and so on. And they want to spend $1.2bn on it. The thing about Europe is that there are still big ideas. The problem is working out the funding.

"There is always a way," said Mrs Mole, as Mrs Batty came bustling in with the steam pudding.

November 13 2006

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