The Monaco of Britain

This year The Mole concluded that he did not need to be in Monaco for the Grand Prix and so sent left the joy of partying on monogrammed boats to his three delightful Penelopes; all girls who never look out of place on a poop deck, and who all have very nice feet so it is not embarrassing when boat owners ask them to remove their shoes. Each was given a specific task: Penelope (Roedean) was ordered to find out about the future of Ralf Schumacher.

"Or the lack of it," she said.

Penelope (Wycombe Abbey) was told to check out the future of Michael Schumacher, specifically in relation to any deals with the Todt Family and Scuderia Toro Rosso.

And Penelope (Cheltenham Ladies College) was told to ascertain the extent of the meltdown in various departments at Maranello and to find out exactly who is on "gardening leave".

The Mole was going to go to try and make sense of the 2008 calendar but that is only slightly time-sensitive and can wait a week or two.

With all the big issues covered, The Mole thus decided to spend the Bank Holiday Weekend entertaining Mrs Mole. For once, there were no garden fetes to be opened, no jumble sales to organise and no good deeds to be done. Mrs Mole declared, as only the English can do at this time of year, that it was a good moment for a picnic and so she and Mrs Batty spent a goodly amount of time in the kitchen, making all the latest chic picnic recipes from their supply of home-making magazines, and a lot of clucking noises at the same time.

Finally a basket was ready and The Mole looked forward to Chicken Parcels, Cheese and Ham Scones and Butter Tarts.

There was even some ginger beer.

They had no route planned, The Mole deciding to turn whichever way took his fancy at every junction. After a certain amount of wasted time, trying to find his way out of a sewage farm somewhere in East Sussex, they arrived in Bexhill on Sea as lunchtime approached.

Bexhill is one of those places where old folks go to wait until the Grim Reaper calls round for tea, and where their grandchildren are frustrated by the fact that there are more pebbles than there is sand.

"Do you know, dear," The Mole said. "When Adolf was planning Operation Sealion, his main assault was going to be right here."

"Well I guess resistance would have been light," said Mrs Mole. "Little old ladies versus the blitzkrieg."

As they rolled regally on Mrs Mole noticed a signpost.

"Bexhill," she read. "The birthplace of British motor racing."

"It's very un-Bexhill," said The Mole. "But it is true. There was this chap called the Earl of De La Warr who wanted to turn Bexhill into the Monaco of Britain. He didn't know he was doing it because they did not have races at Monaco back then but his family had gradually turned Bexhill into quite a chic resort and decided to use automobile racing as part of the campaign to promote the place. Thousands of people turned up to watch these thumping great monsters in action. It was 1902 so they were pretty huge, rather noisy and definitely very smelly. Leon Serpollet brought over one his steamers from France and Lord Northcliffe, of the Daily Mail, raced his Mercedes. They even had old Selwyn Edge in a Napier. It was all a bit unfortunate really. The race was a big hit, but the following year road racing was banned because of a big racing disaster in France. Bexhill started planning to build a permanent race track but then discovered that Brooklands had beaten them to it.

"All frightfully modern," said Mrs Mole, trying to sound interested.

They had parked overlooking the sea but it was too blow-y to go out and so they munched on the chicken parcels and crumbled their ham and cheese scones in the car, in the finest traditions of the Great British picnic. It was all rounded off with a nice cup of coffee from a Thermos flask and then Mrs Mole put on one of those headscarves that ladies used to wear back in the 1960s and declared that it was time for a walk by the sea.

"My goodness," The Mole shouted. "It's like being in a wind tunnel."

"I've never been in a wind tunnel," Mrs Mole shouted back. "What do they do?"

"Never mind." said The Mole. "They use them to make racing cars."

"How thrilling," said Mrs Mole. "You know I am not much of a fan but I must say I do like those handsome boys. Particularly that Italian chap, Fisichella. He's awfully pretty and looks utterly charming. Just the sort of Italian that a girl could fall for."

"He's a bit short," said The Mole, in a rather churlish fashion.

"Fun-sized." said Mrs Mole. "They are all a bit short those racing fellows."

"Webber is tall," said The Mole.

"Oh yes, and rather fetching too. Good manly face. How are they doing? All you ever hear these days is Lewis Harrison."

The Mole considered correcting his wife, but decided that it was probably not worth the effort.

"Yes, he is doing very well," he said. "Indeed Fernando Alonso is looking rather slow. And the Renaults are not that good."

"Oh poor Trulli," she said. "Such a scrumptious name."

"He left Renault," said The Mole.

"Who's there now?" she asked.

"Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen."

"Sounds like a nasty stomach complaint," said Mrs Mole.

"Yes, well the poor chap is struggling a bit and if he's not careful they will be sticking Piquet in the car."

"Don't be silly," said Mrs Mole. "Piquet must be nearly 60."

The Mole paused for a moment but decided not to even attempt to explain about Nelson's children.

"I expect they will put Webber in one of the Renaults next year," he said.

"But Webber's at Williams," said Mrs Mole.

The Mole rolled his eyes.

"Well, maybe not for much longer."

June 1 2007

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