When vice is the spice of life

March 10, 2009

You could have heard a pin drop at Mole Manor. The only sound was the gentle rustle of The Mole’s FT as he turned the pages. Mrs Mole was sitting at the breakfast table, nibbling on a piece of toast without making a sound. One needed very good ears to have heard a low chuntering noise emanating from the kitchen, where Mrs Batty, the somewhat eccentric cook, was fussing over some sauteed kidneys. She took an occasional swig from a gin bottle that was hidden behind the cornflakes and smiled with rather unfocussed eyes. The sherry bottle behind the porridge box was almost empty.

The Mole bit into a piece of toast and the crunching noise seemed to echo through the house.

“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,” he said. “I mean look at all this disastrous news. The Dow is at 6.6, the FTSE at three and a half, the DAX is much the same and the CAC 40 lives up to its name.”

“Yes dear,” said Mrs Mole, who was thinking about jam jars that were needed for one of her charity activities. The financial world was far too difficult to even consider and she was happy that The Mole seemed to understand what was going on.

“It is all just terrible news,” The Mole said, as Mrs Batty swaggered in with the kidneys.
“They should hang the lot of them,” she said, to no-one in particular.

The Mole looked rather surprised.

“Bankers!” said Mrs Batty. “They are the ones that have caused all this. With all their dubious schemes and their never-ending credit facilities.”

The Mole concluded that it was best to agree with her and then she might go away.

He nodded sagely.

Mrs Mole did the same.

“Maybe they should be hanged, drawn and quartered,” Mrs Batty mused. “That would make good TV. And I bet they’d sell lots of ads. People like a bit of violence, don’t they? I mean, you’re not allowed to say it, but that’s what’s wrong with motor racing these these days. Not enough crashes!”

The Mole winced.

“Oh, how lovely,” he said, hoping to change the subject. “Sauteed kidneys, my favourite.”

“And jolly good marmalade,” said Mrs Mole, joining in.

Mrs Batty looked at the pair of them with a look that said “you’re mad!” and felt a sudden urge for a swig of gin and so retreated with a smile towards the kitchen.

When they felt it was safe The Mole and Mrs Mole looked at one another and rolled their eyes.

“I think she may be on the sauce a little bit,” hissed Mrs Mole.

“It’s eight o’clock in the morning!” said The Mole. “That’s a bit radical, isn’t it?”

“Not in the current financial climate,” said Mrs Mole. “Someone said to me the other day that one should always head for the drinks companies when times are hard. They make more money. That and gambling.”

The Mole nodded.

The kidneys were very good indeed and after a final cup of coffee and another piece of toast The Mole wearily headed out to the driveway, where Oswald the chauffeur was standing next to the Toyota Prius, stamping out a cigarette on the gravel.

“Mornin’. Bleedin’ horrible, innit?” he said, with his usual poetic touch.

The Mole nodded and thought back to the days when important government servants had Jaguars rather than environmentally-friendly Japanese devices.

As he settled into the back seat, he reminded himself that actually he was very lucky and that Oswald might one day he laid off and the car sent to a crusher and he would then have to either drive himself to work or face the horror of public transport. Like most motor racing people, the idea of a train was almost as appalling as a war crime.

“We’ll be havin’ trouble in Tooting,” Oswald grunted.

“C’est la vie,” said The Mole.

Normally The Mole worked in the car, but today he was not in the mood. He was thinking.
Motorsport has to change. Things are really bad. Yes, Honda has been saved by Brawn, but is there going to be money to support Renault when ING departs. And will Williams find the cash to replace RBS in 2011? How much longer will Dietrich Mateschitz go on with two Red Bull teams? Will BMW and Mercedes and Toyota go on if they keep getting beaten?

And what will Ferrari do when Marlboro finally admits that there is no more to be gained from sponsorship. Even the tobacco stocks are dropping.

Booze and gambling, he thought, that is the future. And perhaps some more of those cross border currency exchange people, who are making loads of cash as currencies go up and down. BMW Sauber has a deal with one of them. Money-changers and debt-collectors, they are the boom industries at the moment. Maybe credit card companies. They are desperate for people to take on more debts.

He looked out the window at the passing suburbs and felt rather depressed. These are hard times.

Brawn GP is rumoured to have money coming in from online gambling, he thought.

Human vices are always good earners in troubled times. Booze and gambling. Things that offer either escape or hope, but don’t cost too much. Casinos maybe. Alcohol.

Yes, he thought, alcohol is a good fit. Booze may not be a perfect fit with F1 but Johnnie Walker seems to be doing all right in F1 and there are a load more booze companies involved in NASCAR. Casinos are good too, he thought. The big chains have new places opening in Asia, in Singapore and places like Macau. They want the world to go there and dump their cash on the tables.

And maybe President Sarkozy could stop loaning taxpayers’ money to Renault and instead tell the lottery company to sponsor Renault. The state runs the whole business, takes around a third of the cash generated, which is about three billion Euros and pays out less than 10 percent of that to support French sport. There is even a good reason to do it because the French are not really into sports betting, and half of those that are, do not gamble with the state company. And there is the question of European expansion. Thus there are opportunities to expand. And at the moment the company is supporting a cycle racing team which is not going to do much for the French economy.

“Not a bad idea,” said The Mole to himself.