Retiring abroad

"Oh, saints preserve us," said Mrs Batty, as she looked out of the window as the rain beat down on the gardens of Mole Manor. "It's all very well if it's cold and crisp but this rain is just too much for my old bones. I never used to worry about such things but now I am a little older it gets harder and harder."

The Mole, who was standing nearby, nursing a glass of whisky, nodded sadly.

"I think I would like to retire to the Cote d'Azur," he said. "The weather is so much nicer."

Mrs Batty bustled about, tidying something up.

"Well, you'll never get that dream to become a reality," she said. "Mrs Mole loves England far too much for that."

Indeed she did. The Mole remembered only too well the day he had suggested retiring abroad. The reaction had been much the same as if he had mentioned that he intended to run away with a schoolgirl. Mrs Mole had been horrified at the very idea of deserting her home country and started babbling about fireplaces, crumpets and Guy Fawkes, although The Mole struggled to work out why he had any great significance in the conversation.

"I absolutely refuse to live anywhere where one cannot drink the water," said Mrs Mole. "And as far I am concerned the problem starts at Dover."

"So you would not live in Evian-le-Bains then?" said The Mole.

"Switzerland is nice," Mrs Mole replied. "I mean they talk that awfully funny language but it is nice down by the lake. Anyway, Evian is too cold."

"And in France, as well," said The Mole.

Mrs Mole growled.

"The decent bits of France have been invaded by far too many English," she went on, "Spain and the Bally Erics are just so nouveau riche and if you even suggest Germany I will find the shotgun and shoot you."

"Dead?" said The Mole.

"Absolutely dead," said Mrs Mole. "I'd be out after three years."

The Mole chuckled.

"Well, there is America," said The Mole, but the howl that followed this suggestion indicated to him that Mrs Mole was not quite ready for the United States.

"Australia?" said The Mole.

"Good Heavens," said Mrs Mole. "The very suggestion! And don't even think of New Zealand. I have no desire to go back in time."

They quibbled over the West Indies, which Mrs Mole seemed to think were peopled by drug dealers and money launderers. She then skipped over the subject of South Africa with a grimace. Asia was dismissed with the remark: "And I don't like spicy food" and so The Mole finally reached the Middle East.

His father had always called it "The Levant" but things had changed a great deal since the British lost the Suez Canal.

"Beirut used to be lovely," said Mrs Mole, apparently forgetting about drinking water. "But then they started that awful civil war and now it is just a mess."

"What about the Gulf states?" said The Mole.

"You don't like Bahrain, do you?" said Mrs Mole.

"Perhaps we could buy an island off the coast of Dubai," The Mole went on. "They are making a bunch of new ones. They cost about three million quid for a six acre island. We could have a nice big house and ..."

"... make sandcastles until we die of thirst," said Mrs Mole.

"We could go shopping," said The Mole.

"Oh, do they have Sainsburys in Dubai?" asked Mrs Mole.

There was a pause.

"And tell me what happens when some local tyrant decides he wants to invade The World," said Mrs Mole. "Are the US Marines going to fight their way through the islands and save the day?"

The Mole sighed but accepted that his wife had a point. The Middle East is not a very stable place.

"If the Reverend O was here," she went on, "he would quote Matthew, Chapter Something or Other about wise men building things on rocks rather than sand."

"Yes, but these days they have so much money down there that they can shore it all up with concrete," said The Mole. "It is amazing what they are doing down there. The other day I was looking at developments in Abu Dhabi."

"Why?" said Mrs Mole suspiciously.

"For work," said The Mole, a remark that usually stopped his wife in her tracks. His work was secret so she did not ask. "Anyway, they are going to build this great new development, complete with everything you can possibly imagine. They are even building an F1 race track.

"Why ever do they want a race track? said Mrs Mole.

"Well, they are going to have a Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi in 2009. They are going to announce it in about a week or so. The track is actually very interesting. It is a sort of a Mock Monaco - without the rock. The paddock will look out over a marina and the track will head off from there into a sort of parkland area - a bit like Albert Park I suppose. Then it will go up to this hairpin which will be next to the new Ferrari theme park. From there it will go down a long straight with grandstands all the way down, overlooking the whole parkland area before some wiggles which will take it into a section of town, along a long curving avenue (like Monaco) and then it will turn into the marina area, which will be just like Monaco. I think it will be really good. It is very clever because they have divided the town and marina section from the rest of the track so that they can use the parkland bit all the time."

"And you think we should live there?" said Mrs Mole.

"It's near the airport," said The Mole.

"Good, well you can come and visit me sometimes," she said and stomped off to the kitchen.

January 23 2007

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