F1 going to the dogs?

May 15, 2008

They were in the middle of their post-Turkish GP briefing when Penelope (Benenden), the quiet one in The Mole’s office, mentioned what she had been doing on Saturday night.

“It really is most extraordinary,” she said. “I stayed at home and was reading Mark Twain’s book Innocents Abroad and …”

“What?” said Penelope (Roedean), ever prodding. “No date?”

Penelope (Benenden) did not even blink. “Actually, I did have a date,” she said, and went back to her speech. “It was published in 1869 and there is some great stuff about Twain’s visit to Istanbul. Listen to this: ‘Mosques are plenty, churches are plenty, graveyards are plenty, but morals and whiskey are scarce. The great slave marts we have all read so much about – where tender young girls were stripped for inspection, and criticised and discussed just as if they were horses at an agricultural fair – no longer exist. The exhibition and the sales are private now’.”

“And?” said Penelope (Roedean) proudly. “Pretty women always attract money.”

“And are attracted by it,” added Penelope (Wycombe Abbey).

Penelope (Benenden) looked across the room, wondering why this was not true in her case. She had always been the bookish one of The Mole’s four Penelopes. She was tall and lithe, with black hair and dark flashing eyes. The only problem was that, for some reason, she seemed rather bookish, particularly when she wore her glasses. And yet, she smiled, it was obviously something that men found attractive, as she seemed to be turning down men much more often that the other Penelopes. She guessed that there must be something about her that suggested she would be a fireball when she took off her glasses, let down her hair and tore off the blue stockings. They had discussed this on occasion and it was concluded that the quiet character and the bookish look meant that men were not intimidated by her.

“Anyway,” she said. “There is this bit about dogs. Apparently Twain found Istanbul full of them and he wrote that ‘they eat anything and everything that comes in their way, from melon rinds and spoiled grapes up through all the grades and species of dirt and refuse to their own dead friends and relatives – and yet they are always lean, always hungry, always despondent. The people are loath to kill them – do not kill them, in fact. The Turks have an innate antipathy to taking the life of any dumb animal, it is said. Once a Sultan proposed to kill off all the dogs here, and did begin the work – but the populace raised such a howl of horror about it that the massacre was stayed. So the dogs remain in peaceable possession of the streets’.”

“I saw a couple of them in the downtown area,” said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey). “It is really not very F1.”

“That’s a bit of an understatement,” said Penelope (Roedean). “Having dogs running on a modern F1 race track is a disgrace.”

They all nodded.

“Mind you,” said The Mole. “If you leave the circuit and go into the nearby hills it is a bit like going back to the Holy Land, during the life of Brian. Nothing by sheep and a few craggy peasants. The race track is like a great UFO that has landed there.”

“The most bizarre thing for me was the response of the Turks when this whole dog thing blew up,” he went on. “It was outrageous really. They said that they take the matter of safety very seriously. Bla, bla bla. Regret the incident. Bla bla bla. Then they tried to defend themselves by saying that there are lots of dogs in Istanbul and some of them get hungry. And some might even bite. They even tried to blame the dog problem on the foreign caterers at the circuit and said that it is a really big circuit and very difficult to protect.”

“Yeah, I saw that,” said Penelope (Roedean). “It was like: ‘The circuit has a huge perimetre and the dogs are really smart. I would translate that as saying: the dogs are smarter than we are.”

“I wonder if there is a Turkish expression for ‘perception management’?” said The Mole to no-one in particular. “They don’t seem to understand it. Do they?”

“It’s a pretty hopeless response,” said Penelope (Benenden). “I mean if I was making decisions I would say that if Istanbul cannot control a few dogs, then the Formula 1 circus should not be going there.”

“That’s a fair point,” said The Mole. “If F1 does not want dogs, then they should not go to places were dogs are running wild. I mean you don’t get mad dogs invading the track at Silverstone, do you?”

“There was that Irish bloke who ran on to the track in 2003,” said Penelope (Benenden).

” I guess he was hungry,” said Penelope (Roedean), “and he had heard that they let anyone have lunch at the Red Bull motorhome.”

“Maybe the dogs heard that too,” said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey), from beneath the fringe of her honey-coloured bob.

The Mole rolled his eyes again.

“Well, I don’t expect to see any dogs running about in Monaco next week,” he said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Penelope (Roedean). “I know a couple of real bitches who turn up every year. All Botox, silicon and the rest of it.”

“I know one from round here,” said Penelope (Wycombe Abbey).

“Miaow,” said Penelope (Benenden).

“I think we have more cats than dogs in this office,” said The Mole