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HO! How's it going, then? All this tuck and jollity doesn't get any easier, does it? Disaster with the fairy lights, too, very nice last week, then, turn your back, and pow, gone. Had to get the emergency set out. But don't worry, not much longer now. Under a week, in fact, before we can start up with all the millennial glee. Yippee! Until then, though, how about something which, while it doesn't sacrifice entertainment, illumination, and frequent flashes of excitement, is at the same time a little more relaxing and reflective and dressed in the comforting cardigan of tradition? Yes, it's The Moonlight 1998 Awards! Umpteen categories celebrating the past "twelvemonth" with a particular emphasis on that quirky and original "take" on life for which, along with a fierce disinclination to beat around the bush, this column is so rightly renowned. On!

AND, first off, Best Crime Story Involving A Hampshire Job Centre. This was the one about the man who stole a security camera from outside the Petersfield JC and was subsequently tracked down by eagle-eyed police officers watching the pictures on said camera. Best Crime Story Involving A Frenchman. The judges, initially, were rather taken with M Denis Dulo, who was let out of a Marseilles jail to run a marathon and hasn't been seen since; but, after further deliberation, they decided to make the award to M Alain Boucher. M Boucher made a successful escape from a prison in Orleans, but was spotted a little later when he returned wearing a false beard to visit a friend. Best Crime Story Involving Two Germans: the muggers in Ingolstadt who stretched condoms over their heads as a disguise. They fainted because the condoms were too tight, and were arrested when they came round. Next!

UNLIKELIEST Stories Set In Australia Award. One: a brawl at a special convention in Perth for people called Harry ended up with 127 men called Harry in jail. Two: seven widows in Perth were sat round a table at a seance with hands joined and minds locked into trying to contact their husbands when a burglar fell through the roof. Three: Alan Woom, 41, of Adelaide this time, was hired to fly in a microlight over a children's party in Adelaide wearing a Winnie the Pooh suit. Alan was supposed to wave cheerily at the small revellers below, but instead got a bit of a load on and dive-bombed them screaming "Winnie's going to get ya!" before crashing into a tree and breaking both legs. "Pooh Bear used to be my son's hero," said one angry mother later. "But now whenever he's mentioned he wets his bed." You decide. Most Unlikely Story Set In Brazil Award: surgeons were stunned to find a mobile phone jammed up a man's bottom. The patient told doctors in Rio that he had skidded in the shower and landed on the phone, which he had left on the bathroom floor. As hospital staff tried to get it out, it rang three times before stopping. Hurry along!

MOST Comprehensive Moonlight Local News Coverage Award. The judges, having considered both the news from Oakham, where new acquisitions at the Rutland County Museum included a carpet beater donated by Mrs Small and a striped picnic tea cosy from Mrs Atkinson, and Lewes, where a man telephoned the police in October to report that his duvet was locked in the launderette, decided to make a joint award. As, indeed, they also did with the Most Interesting Report from Newick, Sussex Award. First: "Glenda Law gave members of Newick WI a most interesting talk on wildlife in Northumberland ... and for members who did not know the area, it was tempting to decide to pay the north east a visit in the near future, even if it were only to see kittiwakes nesting on the window ledges of disused factories...". Second: "we are happy to report that the village hall is back to normal after the excitement last week, but, please, don't send any chemical or electrical items of a doubtful nature to future jumble sales." Well done, Newick!

KITTIWAKES bring us to the Most Interesting Nature Note Award. 1) A goldfish has an attention span of three seconds. 2) The flea can make single jumps of up to 13-and-one-tenth inches. 3) The medicinal leech can live for as long as 27 years. 4) A worker ant can carry up to 50 times its body weight. 5) Turkeys can fly at speeds of up to 55 mph. 6) A pigeon has a brain twice as large as that of an alligator. 7) Foxes will not cross human urine. 8) Patch, an old dog in Tavistock, is spending his last days watching videos of sheepdog trials bought by his caring owner, Philippa Gray. 9) Dormice can take 20 minutes to chew one hazelnut. 10) Francisco Rivera, of Pisa, was on his way to a fancy dress party dressed as a gorilla when he was shot and knocked unconscious for the evening by local zoo keepers using guns with tranquilliser darts. Ouch!

BEST Power Tool: this just had to be the Bosch PSB450 drill with 14- piece drill set. Runner-up: Black & Decker KR650RE Variable Speed Hammer Drill. Most Innovatory Mail Order Product: the Tissue Tower. Free standing, with a pretty plant motif, it holds and disguises up to five lavatory paper rolls and is an attractive and practical solution to an unsightly problem. Only pounds 10.99, from Home Free mail order. Or, for two or more, pounds 9.99. Runner-up: the Cosy Cuff, sheep skin on the inside, attractive trim on the outside, available in both town and country colours, pounds 13.99, from Presents For Men. Useful for gardening and golfing, also highly praised by church organists. Next!

TIME now, though, for a change of pace, something slightly more befitting a bit of culture. Tarantara! Yes, that clarion call can mean only one thing: the nominations for the Captain's Books of The Year! Always good to get in before everyone else, isn't it? And this time round, in an exciting break with the past, instead of just listing the books lying around unread on my desk, I would like to share with you the books I have seen other people reading on the tube recently. And quite a good haul it is, too: one Anna Karenina, four Danielle Steeles, two John Grishams, two Terry Pratchetts, something which appeared to be about the pharmacology of psychotherapy but I didn't get a clear enough look at it before the bloke got off at Elephant and Castle, just the one Sodome et Gomorrhe (do come on, this is supposed to be the Culture section) and a most interesting monograph on the prospects for the carpet industry in Lhasa. Oh, and one Martin Amis, but that was on the Docklands Light Railway. The Captain also enjoyed: Insomnia, by Eliza Wake, The Judge With No Thumbs, by Justice Fingers, The Stolen Chestnut, by Nick McConker, The Fall Over The Cliff, by Eileen Dover, and Claude R Andoff's seminal Lion Taming For Women. A few years ago, though, now. Oi!

UNLIKELIEST Ghanaian Story Award: Albert Matanle, a 3ft 6in blackboard salesman, was mistaken for a pupil when he called on a school in Accra and given six of the best and made to stand in the corner for three hours for not wearing a uniform. Unlikeliest Wrexham Story Award: pensioner Alf France got a shock when he went to post a letter and a hand came out of the pillar box to take it. Then a voice shouted: "Help! Get me out of here!" It was a postman who had been trapped inside the large box when the wind blew the door shut.

MOONLIGHT Serious Food Awards. Top Cook: Delia Smith, who, the Captain revealed, exclusively, is a dab hand, when caught short for lunch, with the M&S exotic party bites. Our man particularly liked her samosas. Top Recipe: baiga, a drink popular in the Gobi desert, which is made from millet and pigeon droppings. Top Eaterie: the Astoria Cafe, Streatham, just past the KwikFit fitters, where you can get spotted dick with custard for breakfast. Runner-up: the River Cafe, Hammersmith, for its unstuffy door policy. You will remember that one of the Captain's staff, having read that the RC had entertained General Pinochet, was then successful in reserving a table for Dr Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader wanted for war crimes. Top Tip: it's that woman Smith again, with this: "you need a saucepan - that's a pan for sauce". Next!

MOST Helpful Person In A Crime Situation Award. The judges were most taken by the man in Miami who had barricaded himself into his home, threatening to kill himself, and then ordered lunch by telephone of soup, salad and fish for the police surrounding the house. But in the end, after a lot of deliberation and heart-searching, they have given the award to the two men charged with armed robbery in San Diego who were found guilty after they put up their hands when the prosecutor at their trial asked a witness if the robbers were in court. Well done, lads!

BUT now, with ado, perhaps the most thrilling moment in the whole column: yes, it's Moonlight Scoop Of The Year Award! Short list: 1) The revelation by Ms Una Tributable, my political correspondent, that a large fish tank had been installed in the reception area of the Norman Shaw North building at Westminster. 2) The twin revelations by Russell Nib, my media correspondent, that Peter Stothard, the editor of the Times, had chosen a karaoke machine for his long service award while Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph was keeping a pair of shotguns under the sofa in his office. 3) My revelation that Lord Lloyd-Webber was selling his piano. 4) The revelation by Duane, my celebrity correspondent, that Vince Hill had bought a new barbecue. 5) My revelation that Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter and mogulette, had planted two gum trees outside her home in Notting Hill. Well: tough choices. The judges did apply some qualifications: re 1), the superintendent of works there commented, "blimey, that must be a couple of years ago now". Re 3), it turned out that Lord Lloyd-Webber had more than one piano. Re 4), Duane had read it in an old magazine. So, in the end, given old Moore's erratic way with the matched Purdeys, it had to be: the gum trees!

BEST Motto In A Cracker: a man went to his travel agent and asked for a ticket to the moon. "Sorry, sir", said the assistant, "the moon is full right now." Runners-up. Which frog spied for his country? James Pond. Which fish roars through the water at 200mph. A motorpike. Oi!

FINALLY, it is customary in these reviews, to bid farewells to some of those who did not make it through the year. Mr Harris Simbabwa, for example, a Zambian angler who choked to death when a fish he had caught slipped down his throat as he tried to kill it by biting its head off. Mr Mukalled, of the Lebanon, who strapped ten sticks of dynamite to his waist and threatened to blow himself up after Mrs Mukalled refused to make him his favourite fried aubergines in an effort to make him lose weight. Faced with the dynamite, Mrs Mukalled relented, but Mr Mr Mukalled blew himself up taking the dynamite off. And Sr Alberto Fergo, dancing instructor, who tangoed across the floor and straight out of a fifth floor window in Lisbon, falling 60 feet to his death. Sr Fergo had been teaching his pupils the vital point, how to keep the head high by focusing on the ceiling. Until the New Year, then. If we're spared. Bye!

Right, sit up now: it's time for the Captain's ever-popular Xmas poser, Just Who Would Send A Christmas Card Like This? Above, I show you five Christmas cards. All you have to do, exercising skill and judgement, is to decide who sent them.The names of the lucky winners will be drawn out of my hat and rewarded with an aptly seasonal prize. Actually, say what you would like, and I'll see what I can do. Perfect for those a teeny bit disappointed with Santa. Good luck! Sorry? Goodness, you're right, I haven't given you the list to choose from! So, match these names to the cards: Poor Mr Mandelson; the Captain's good friends, Lesley and Sid; Paul Dacre, the gifted editor of the Daily Mail; Sir Paul Condon, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; and, as usual, my Auntie Vera. Away you go!

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