Bananas and sheep dips

The Reverend O was born innocent, as indeed we all are, but as he had grown he had managed, by some strange twists of fate, to retain this childlike innocence. He was by nature a dreamer and usually failed to notice if a young lady was sending him certain signals. He did not always see the truth, but he looked for the good in everybody and hoped that one day he might even find himself in a romantic tryst with the feisty Penelope (Roedean).

She was just the kind of outgoing, lusty Amazon that a young curate would one day need to help him win over a quiet country parish in the Mendips.

Penelope, for her part, was too keen on muscle-bound guardsmen to have noticed the shy affections of the doe-eyed clergyman.

"He seems very nice," she told The Mole one day, when he was trying - with much subtlety - to play Cupid. "But what he really needs is someone to stick a tongue down his throat."

"Perhaps you should offer the service," said The Mole.

Penelope wrinkled her nose.

"I think the expression seven o'clock service has a rather different meaning for him than it does for me," she said, with a very naughty giggle. "Besides my Mum taught me to never trust a chap who wears a frock. She had this distaste for Scotsmen."

"It is not a frock," said The Mole. "It is a cassock."

"I always get confused between hassocks and cassocks," she replied.

"The hassock is the cushion you kneel on," said The Mole. "During a service."

"Now there's an idea," said Penelope.

The Reverend had come up in conversation because of his confusions regarding the Stepney Affair.

"I just don't get it," he told The Mole on Sunday afternoon, as they were wandering around the garden after one of Mrs Batty's spectacular roast lamb lunches. "He said in The Sunday Times that the court would decide whether he was guilty. No guilty man would have said that. I have noticed that guilty men always say: 'I'm innocent'. They don't want to talk about the court."

"And?" said The Mole.

"Well, I just don't think he's guilty of sabotage. It is a ridiculous allegation. The white powder that everyone is talking about is probably talculm powder. They tell me that teams often put that in the fuel tank to make it easier to get the fuel bags in and out."

"The thing is that they have a weird way of dealing with allegations in Italy," said The Mole. "Once an offence has been alleged, the public prosecutor has no choice about whether to start proceedings or not, nor can he suspend or withdraw the action. It has to go to court. Imagine that you walked into a police station and said that Ross Brawn had eaten a banana that belonged to Ferrari. They would have to open an investigation into your allegation. The headlines would say 'Brawn under investigation in alleged banana theft'. He would say that he was hungry and had a right to eat a banana but could he prove ownership of that banana? If Ferrari did not agree, he would be in trouble."

"They have to investigate everything?" said the Reverend O. "They must be really busy."

"It is worse than that," said The Mole. "The investigators have not got a hope of dealing with everything. That means that lots of petty crime is never reported. What is the point? And a lot of what is reported is never investigated. It simply sits there on the books until the statute of limitations kicks in. If there is an investigation and sufficient evidence is found for an indictment then a trial will happen, but otherwise cases remain open. Whether there is any merit in the Ferrari action remains to be seen.

"The bad side is that if there are press reports about a case, they can create a bad impression," said The Mole. "I think that proving beyond reasonable doubt that there has been sabotage is pretty much impossible."

"So what is it all about?" said the Reverend O.

"There is no question that Stepney was overlooked for promotion when Ferrari was restructured last year," said The Mole. "He was not happy about the situation and annoyed Ferrari by speaking to journalists. In most teams one would have been fired for that, but Stepney was not fired. Don't you think that is odd? Stepney's contract with Ferrari runs out at the end of this year and he has made no secret of the fact that he is talking to other teams. The interesting point is that he is believed to have offered Honda not just his own services but also those of a group of engineers, most of them believed to be employed currently at Ferrari. This will not have gone down well at Maranello, but still they did not fire him."

"You are right," said The Reverend. "That is really odd."

"I guess he must know a lot of stuff," said The Mole. "Maybe the legal action is a way of doing a deal."

The Reverend looked bemused.

"Don't you see," said The Mole. "We will stop doing what we are doing if you promise to do this and that."

"Gosh," said The Reverend.

"I'm not saying that is what it is," said The Mole. "I just don't know. It is certainly a great big mess."

"The truth will out," said The Reverend.

"The best thing would be to put them all in a big sheep shed, stick the whole lot of them through a sheep dip, and then give everyone a shot of sodium pentathol and see what they all say," said The Mole.

"Astonishing," said The Reverend, open-mouthed.

"It probably would be," said The Mole.

"Oh well," said The Reverend. "Truth is the daughter of time."

"Oh, O," said The Mole. "You are such an innocent."

June 25 2007

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