A comforting moment for The Mole

The Mole was looking out of the window, humming "Good King Wenceslas" and admiring the snowy scene when The Colonel and The Reverend O hove into view.

"We have guests, dear," The Mole said to no-one in particular, blissfully unaware that Mrs Mole was in the attic, looking for pullies for freezing old folks.

The Mole opened the front door and The Colonel strode straight in, without even pausing his monologue.

"Everything seizes up," he expounded, nodding to The Mole. "They closed the A3 for half the morning because some twit jack-knifed his lorry at Hindhead. A few inches of snow and all the schools are shut. All the roads blocked. Whatever happened to Britons who used to just muddle through? Nowadays everyone gives up and goes home to watch telly."

"Hello, Mole," said The Reverend O. "Are you well?"

"Passably," said The Mole. "A drink gentlemen?"

They settled in the drawing room and The Mole could not help but think that it was no coincidence that they had paid a visit just before dinner time. The Colonel liked a Scotch and The Mole guessed that the Reverend had come to enjoy the roaring fires that Mrs Batty was busy stoking in various rooms. The meagre stipend of a country clergyman does not run to crackling logs and Mrs Battys. There were times when the good reverend needed good samaritans to look after him.

Mrs Mole wafted in some time later, politely greeting the guests, and then silent as an angel she slipped away to do something else, worrying about the poor unfortunates who would be cold that evening.

"You'll be staying for tea, I suppose," said Mrs Batty as she swept past The Colonel, a poker in her hand.

"Well, um" said The Reverend.

"Lovely," said Mrs Mole, who popped up at just the right moment to save embarrassment.

And it was settled.

"Shepherd's pie!" said Mrs Batty.

"Perfect for the weather," said The Reverend. "Marvellous."

"I've often wondered," said The Mole. "Where does the apostrophe go?"

The Colonel, who had not really been listening, was the first to speak.

"Doesn't he sit behind the choir," he blurted out.

The Reverend O decided that it was best just to ignore the remark and continue the conversation.

"I suppose that there might have been a group of shepherds who came up with the idea," he said. "They do tend to turn up in threes in the Bible. Perhaps there is a National Union of Shepherds."

"While I think of it," said The Mole. "I've never been able to work out the difference between a Shepherds Pie and Cottage Pie?"

"You mean a bit like a Toro Rosso and a Red Bull?" said The Colonel.

This time The Mole ignored him.

"Perhaps it was to get around the apostrophe problem," he mused.

"Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb," said Mrs Batty, with a look that suggested she considered herself to be sane and everyone else to be batty. "Cottage pie is made with beef."

"Splendid!" said The Mole. "And thank goodness no-one has reinvented Shepherd's Pie with escargot and celery roots."

"Not here they haven't!" said Mrs Batty, and she departed the room, waving her poker.

It had been a good week for the Motor Racing and Trade Development Department of the Secret Intelligence Service and The Mole was content.

"Why are you so dashed smug?" said The Colonel.

"It's the Donington thing," said The Mole. "I cannot imagine anything better from our point of view to have new owners at Donington. That gives us some hope for the future of the British GP. Either the new lot at Donington will spruce the place up and grab the race or they will force the bods at Silverstone to wake up and get their house in order."

"Who are these new Donington people?" said The Reverend O.

The Mole shrugged.

"We are checking them out at the moment," he said. "I guess they are either friends of Donington owner Tom Wheatcroft, friends of Bernie Ecclestone or friends of both. It is possible they are just a couple of businessmen who think that there is potential to be exploited but you have to be seriously wealthy to start buying 700 acres in Leicestershire these days. And I really cannot see why a bank would loan money to people with no experience running racing operations. That would not make sense. So they say there is also a property company in the background. Who do we know who owns property companies?"

"Bernie Ecclestone," said The Reverend O.

"And Wheatcroft too," said The Mole. "The thing is that even with the land you still need a whole lot more money before F1 comes to visit. It is not so long ago that Wheatcroft said that if he was given a Grand Prix he would invest $80m in the circuit. That is a lot of cash but he is 85 this year and The Birmingham Post recently estimated that he is worth $240m and that is probably only a fraction of the real number so money is not the issue. Remember this is the guy who wanted a Bugatti Royale but would not pay the $20m being asked to buy one of the cars and so he built one himself, using original drawings and expert craftsmen and engineers. When Tom wants something, he usually gets it. And, he is big mates with Bernie so for all we know it might be the two of them working together but being fronted by these new people. It is actually a pretty good place for the race to happen if the roads were a bit better in the immediate area. There is an airport next door and two motorways converge right there too so if they stuck in a few new roads it could work really well. And, who knows, perhaps those theme park people in Dubai want an F1 theme park in the UK. It is a logical place to put it, isn't it?"

"And if nothing else the people at Silverstone will have to pay attention," said The Reverend.

"Precisely," said The Mole. "Britain may grind to a halt when the snow comes but the F1 wheeler-dealers don't stop for anything."

February 9 2007

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