THE MOLE

Gone fishing

The Colonel had called the previous evening and suggested that the weather was perfect for fishing. It was true. England was at its most splendid with the sun shining down on a world of a thousand shades of green. The Mole was suddenly transported off to those unforgettable and timeless afternoons of his childhood, when the sunlight filtered through old oak trees and squadrons of starlings floated lazily against the hazy blue backcloth. He agreed immediately.

"We'll go up to Chilworth and bag some of the Duke of Northumberland's trout," The Colonel was saying. "Fishing at a fishery may be cheating but it is a damned sight more interesting than standing there all day pulling out bicycle wheels."

The Mole was still in a bit of a daze when he hung up. Going fishing was a lovely idea, but he did not really have time for that sort of thing. He was an important civil servant, trying to hold back the tide of evil foreign empires as they aimed to destroy Britain's motor racing industry. And yet, it was just one day. And he did work very hard most of the time.

He pondered for a moment ringing The Colonel back and saying that something had come up but instead he called the answering machine in the office and left a message saying that he had an urgent clandestine rendezvous and that he would not be in the office on Monday.

He asked a bustling Mrs Batty if there was something she could "rustle up" from the pantry for a picnic.

The result was a mix-and-match basket of food but neither of the fishermen worried too much as they enjoyed the moment. The pork pie was surprisingly good and it was not at all bad with the bottle of Beaujolais she has chosen. This did not work quite as well with the coronation chicken sandwiches but they enjoyed them nonetheless.

"Don't you love Coronation Chicken," said The Colonel. "Reminds me of my childhood."

"Which took place before Coronation Chicken was invented," said The Mole.

"A fair point," said The Colonel. "I think we used to call it Jubilee Chicken back then. But I am damned if I know which jubilee it was celebrating. It must have been something to do with the empire. You know, what with the curry flavouring."

The Colonel launched into a story about the things he used to eat in India but was cut off by The Mole.

"You're too young to have served in India," he said. "We pulled out in 1947, 60 years ago. You would have to be 80 by now."

The Colonel smiled.

"I didn't say I served in India," he said. "I was there with my father. He was in the Somerset Light Infantry. Marvellous regiment. Dated back to 16 hundred and something. Fought in all the decent wars. We were the last to leave Bombay. It was early in 1948 and we sailed for home on the Empress of Australia. If the truth be told I didn't like India much. It was a smelly place and I was much happier in Hampshire."

The Mole nodded.

"I hear you chaps are off there soon," said The Colonel.

"In theory," said The Mole. "The word is that Formula 1 has decided to get into the Indian market but I am waiting to see how long that will take."

"It's all down to numbers," said The Colonel. "You go to China because they have 1.4bn of them. They all ride bicycles but one day they hope to buy cars. There are hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians, Russians, and so on who will all become middle class in the next five years. I was reading somewhere that there are 1.6m scooter riders in China who think they will have a car within five year. And so all the car companies are now rushing into the mega-cheap sector because they have seen Renault's success with the Logan. Do you know that Renault has sold 450,000 of those things?"

"They don't make much money," said The Mole.

"No, the thing I read said that they make about a tenth of the profit of the big luxury cars but if you sell 10 times as many it amounts to the same thing and as they are all having trouble selling more cars in the US, Europe, and Japan they need to look elsewhere to keep the shareholders happy. They also know that if they don't grab the new markets, then the locals will do it and that really frightens the big guys because once they let that happen, it is only a matter of time before the Indians and the Chinese start selling cheap cars in the US and Europe."

The Colonel paused.

"The thing I don't understand is how they are going to run an F1 race in India," he said. "The bureaucracy over there is frightening. They've got eight million bureaucrats and getting them to give the necessary clearances will be a longer job than building the Taj Mahal."

"Well, I think they probably figured that out," said The Mole. "From what I hear they have given up on the idea of a fancy big stadium like in China and now they want to do something cheaply on the streets of Delhi. I had the research people look into it and it seems that there is a plan to tidy up the Rajpath and build some permanent grandstands there to save money because each year they put up tons of the stuff for the Republic Day Parade and then march past all the latest missiles and tanks, followed by dancing school children, elephants and floats from all the different states. It is a big event and obviously if they have permanent grandstands they would want to use them for other things as well. The whole thing is currently stuck in arguments between various government ministries and departments with a whole bunch of them wanting to be involved. They even put $15m aside for the work but they have yet to spend it."

"Yes," said The Colonel, "but think of the bureaucrats. And it is probably a green belt area too."

"Mmm," said The Mole. "I think I need a snooze."

And as The Mole drifted off into a gentle sleep, the Colonel fussed over the fishing rods and they stopped thinking about India.

April 23 2007

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