Sins on SundayJanuary 10, 2012
Sunday is a sacred day at Mole Manor, The Mole’s residence in a leafy (but secret) corner of Surrey. It comes with the job (which is good reason not to retire) and features a rather exotic bunker at the end of the garden, which one enters through the garden shed. This has an aerial disguised as a tree. It was all built back in the day when Englishmen all thought that the Russians would soon be shopping at Harrods, without realizing that this would all be achieved without the need for all the guns, planes and missiles that existed in the days of The Arms Race.
These days The Mole rarely goes into “The Hole” and it is left to spiders of grand ambition to fill the facility with webs of outrageous proportions. As the spiders do their business, above ground, Sunday is a sacred day at The Manor. It is a day of rest (unless there are any coups d’état going on) and everyone except Mrs Batty, the cook, enjoys a little down time. Mrs Batty spends her morning creating the traditional roast lunch – with all the relevant trimmings. She is an artist in the kitchen, and like many artists has her weaknesses, notably the haft-empty bottle of sherry that hides silently behind the box of Scott’s Porage Oats. She swigs from this now and then as she works.
The local vicar – the Reverend O – is also at work, tending his flock at St Christopher’s, like the good shepherd that he is. The Mole is a man of some standing in the local community, although most people think he is a tax inspector, and so he goes to church on Sundays and occasionally discusses morality with the Reverend O.
“One must always try to battle sin,” O said one day, in discussion with The Mole.
“But what is the definition of sin?” said The Mole. “If one does bad things to beat the bad guys, is that really bad? Is it, for example, bad to pay someone money to sweeten a deal and make it happen more efficiently? People call that a bribe and it is illegal, but it gets a deal done more quickly. It is efficient.”
“Yes, but it is wrong,” said The Reverend. “If it says so in the law – then it is wrong.”
“So if the law in a country bans women from driving then that is OK, is it?” said The Mole.
“Oh dear,” said The Reverend. “Why do you always make things so complicated?”
“You see,” said The Mole. “One man’s bribe is another man’s incentive. I’m not sure how you tell the difference. I guess it is about who knows what. If an incentive is involved I guess all parties involved should know about it. A bribe is, by definition, a hidden payment.”
The Reverend looked bemused.
It is arguments like this that have gradually convinced The Reverend to keep his sermons short when The Mole is around. The Mole helped this process by adopting the cunning plan of inviting The Reverend to join them for lunch each Sunday, but warning him that if the sermon dragged on too long Mrs Batty’s famous lunches would be ruined.
“Religion is all well and good, but causing Yorkshire Pudding to go soggy is definitely a sin,” The Mole said. “A swift sermon, a sherry or two and then Mrs Batty’s fabulous roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding and all the trimmings, followed by a big stodgy pudding with lots of custard. That is heaven.”
The Reverend nodded.
“We all have our different concepts,” he said, rather weakly.
Last Sunday The Mole, Mrs Mole, the Reverend O and The Colonel (The Mole’s next door neighbour and a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party) headed back to the Manor, where Mrs Mole’s friend, the venerable dowager from down the road (with a rather impressive moustache) was awaiting them. She had fallen out with the Parochial Church Council many years earlier and no longer graced St Christopher’s with her presence, despite the very best efforts of Reverend O, who continued to try to round up his flock, like a young sheep dog.
Afterward a splendid lunch, The Mole, The Colonel and The Reverend took coffee in the drawing room, leaving the girls to chit-chat.
“So what’s happening in the motor racing world, Mole old boy?” said The Colonel.
The Mole shrugged.
“Oh, the usual stuff,” he said. “Nothing very exciting. I am sure you have been following the Williams business. They need to figure out a driver, and I have a nasty suspicion that all the talking Qatar is not going to produce a deal. It has been going on for too long now, and the Qataris are famously difficult to get an answer from. I also hear that a lot of the other teams have been sending people down there and offering them the world.”
“Let’s face it,” said The Colonel. “Williams can only offer maybes these days.”
“Maybes and history,” said The Mole. “And infrastructure. They have all the right stuff. They should be able to do it, and with Renault engines it should be better.”
“I guess it has to be that,” The Colonel mused. “Just the wrong people in recent year.”
“I don’t see how you can see it any other way,” said The Mole.
“What about that Ecclestone fellow,” said The Colonel. “What’s happening with the German court thing?”
“I believe they are still listening to all the witnesses,” The Mole said. “Then I guess they will decide whether the banker fellow is guilty of receiving a bribe and once they have done that then I suppose the dominoes will start to fall. It is really all about the definition of ‘a bribe’.”
The Reverend looked up, remembering an earlier conversation.
The Colonel hrumphed. To him things are always black and white, without fifty shades of grey.
“I see there was some talk about a new French Grand Prix,” said The Reverend, deciding to change the subject.
The Mole nodded.
“But it would mean losing Spa every second year,” he said, “which would be a crime.”
“A sin,” said The Reverend.
“Bloody right,” The Colonel chimed in. “Belgium may be a dysfunctional country, but Spa is a magnificent place for racing cars. And Paul Ricard is useless.”
“But what is the answer?” said The Mole. “Neither country wants to pay enough for a race each year.”
“If you ask me,” said The Colonel, who had not actually been asked, “I think that the best solution is really very simple. Belgium ran without a government for 541 days, which shows that they really don’t need one. I think they should just break Belgium up and then Wallonia can become part of France and the French GP could be held every year at Spa.”
“That is a bit like saying that Canada should become the 51st State of the United States,” said The Mole.
“Hm, I hadn’t thought of that one,” said The Colonel. “Not a bad idea.”
The Reverend O looked to heaven and said a silent prayer.