Sunday 14 February 1999
t BBRRNNGG! The telephone rings in wonted fashion. And, on it, a familiar voice: " 'Ere, Captain!" Yes, it is Duane, my correspondent with the excellent contacts in the exciting world of celebrity and minor European royalty. Duane, I can tell you, has stood as near as this to Prince Ernst of Hanover, the exciting affianced of Princess Caroline of Monaco, whose father, Prince Rainier, Duane recently revealed, has ordered a shell suit from a noted London boxing outfitters. What now? "Delia Smith, Captain, celebrity omeletiste and Norwich City supporter. Delia recently and jocularly inscribed one of her books to a soon-to-be-wed Ipswich Town supporter: "Sincere Congratulations Upon Marriage." Hmmm. Very nice, but, as I say to Duane, perhaps a little tartly(!), hardly at the cutting edge of tittle tattle. "You don't understand, Captain. It was written down the page in a such a way as to create one of those acronym things from the capital letters!" Crikey. I didn't know old Delia had such a jolly sense of humour, did you? Next: Jane Asher ices rude joke on cake. On!
t SO. Mr Blair, his government and its mouthpieces, I learn, have declared war on trivia. Hah. All around, there is dismissiveness and scorn in relation to a supposed "dumbing down" in societal and cultural matters. Huh. What all these people fail to realise is that the tide of history is running against them. And the Captain should know: My Trade Is Trivia. And I will not be gagged. Trivia has as much to offer. Trivia is anti-elitist. Trivia, in a very real sense, is socialist. Consider this week's top trivia offerings from the Captain; did you know that: 1) It is against the law in the United States to make a pastry reproduction of the White House; 2) A giraffe can use its tongue to wash its ears; 3) Red-headed women almost never become bald; 4) In Thailand, staircases always have an uneven number of steps; and 5) Demosthenes had a lisp? Exactly. And did you know, too, that Major Ron Ferguson lives at Dummer Down House? Next!
t BBRRNNGG! Goodness me, start the meter, it is my top legal source, Quentin Refresher, QC, on the blower! "Captain! Cherie Booth, QC, top lawyer, probably better known to you as Cherie Blair, beautiful consort of our young prime minister!" I allow, carefully, that the lady is known to me. "Well, you know the big dyslexia case she was involved in, the one where she was representing the former pupil who was suing the local education authority for not detecting the problem, the one Cherie lost in the Court of Appeal, and is not now taking to the House of Lords?" I allow, carefully, that the case is known to me. "Well, Captain, the word here is that she was taken off the case because her side were not impressed with her being in China with Tony just before the Court of Appeal hearing. No suggestion she didn't do a good job, just a feeling that it looks rather better if your brief isn't swanning around the Great Wall or some such of a weekend rather than sitting at home with towel round head studying dusty old books." Indeed. I thank Quentin, carefully, for the intelligence, note that the conversation has taken four minutes and 35 seconds, then telephone the solicitors involved, who say that Quentin "is not correct". So that's that, then, except that Quentin will still charge me, don't worry. Next!
t NATURE Notes. And first, my south London wild life monitor, Mary R of Balham, who clearly moves around a bit, reports three crows attacking a heron in Streatham. Mary: if you saw two crows, they are rooks. Budgerigars: did you know that Geoff Capes, the former shotputter, is breeding giant budgies by feeding them on chicken carcasses? Be careful out there. Which brings me to bears, grizzly, and what to do if you meet them. So far, you might recall, if you've had several slow Sundays, that there has been a fierce division of opinion as to whether you should run away or play dead. And now Maryann B, of Holloway, draws my attention to a leaflet from the Denali National Park in Alaska, which takes us slightly further. It advises that you should run from a moose, but stand your ground with a bear. If the bear "makes contact" you should play dead. But, and it's an important qualification: "If the attack is prolonged, change tactics and fight back vigorously." Next week: what Hilaire Belloc had to say, courtesy of Mr Evans of Blackheath, and what to do when you meet a hungry python, courtesy of Francis W, of Essex. Next!
t NOW, then. As dogged readers will also know, this is the Column That Supports Our Royals. And it is the column that has remained steadfast in that support despite all manner of disloyal outpourings that have occurred from time to time in the rest of this newspaper. I have not done this in the pursuance of any reward or recognition; no. I have done it because an officer, no matter how irregular, knows his Duty. But I would not be a man of honour if I did not confess that, sometimes, I have allowed myself to hope. And last week, I fancied I saw a bit of a chance. You will have read that the royal warrant has been summarily withdrawn from Benson & Hedges, the cigarette manufacturers; well, it occurred to me that this might leave a bit of a vacancy. "By Royal Appointment" would look pretty fine up there, draped about a bit, wouldn't it? So I had a discreet word with Mr Pickup at the Association of Royal Warrant Holders, who told me that applications would be considered if there had been the provision of a significant amount of supply by a trader to the royal household for a period of not less than five years. I then coughed and wondered whether a newspaper might be considered for the honour. Mr Pickup said it hadn't really arisen before and, he supposed, depended on 1) whether one is in "trade", and 2) whether one's output was delivered to the Palace. No problem! I'm certainly not a professional, and I am delighted and honoured to confirm that the Press Office at the Palace takes in the Independent on Sunday every week. My application is now being prepared. Can you imagine it? Terrific! I see, by the way, that I'm about to join, among others, Mr Forbes, of Aberdeenshire, the taxidermist. Listen, you can make jokes about corgis, I've got a putative position to protect. Next!
t BUT soft, or hold, I hear you say: look at the date! Is there to be no mention of romance, on this day of days? Of course, of course. Actually, in my unrelenting and doughty quest for novelty and relevance, I came up with a pretty good wheeze: yes, I would send Valentines by the e-mail thingie! But my heart is heavy as I tell you that, of all the objects of my ardency, only Dr Camille Paglia seemed to be hooked up. Shame on you: Betty Boothroyd, Barbara Cartland, Shirley Bassey, Baroness Trumpington, A S Byatt, the Duchess of Devonshire, Vera Duckworth, Libby Purves, Petula Clark, and Lady Antonia Fraser. This is what you missed; that which I despatched with a kiss to Dr Paglia, and would have done the same to you:
Roses are red, violets are blue.
You're feisty, and brainy, too.
I'm the Captain who
yearns to woo
Let me, do,
And my ju
Bilation will know few
Bounds. Thank you."
She hasn't replied, yet.
t AND, finally, my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany. First, Survey of the Week: men aged 45 with a firm handshake are half as likely as men with a limp handshake to have health problems in later life, a study in Finland has found. Next, this week's amazing resemblance: Howard Wilkinson and Casanova. Actually, the little Italian preferred three at the back, but it's still pretty good, isn't it? And Mr Hummer of Hook Norton: that Tibetan monk looks nothing like Robert Maxwell. Next, Crime Watch. And we have some disturbing news from Truro. A film containing pictures of the Bishop of St Germans dressed in fishnet tights, a black wig and a mini dress has been stolen from a local photography shop. The film also shows the Bishop of Truro dressed in khaki shorts, a sunhat, and pigtails. It was taken during a production of Jack and the Beanstalk which featured five senior clergy appearing as Enid Blyton's Famous Five. Meanwhile, in Greenford, Middlesex, a police constable on patrol spotted an owl perched on a roof, called the RSPCA, returned to the station to pick up a pair of field glasses and then kept watch on the 15-inch high owl for nearly an hour until a colleague informed him that the object of his attention was a plastic bird put there to scare off pigeons. Like the Captain says, take care out there. Bye!
TAKE THAT, Senors! The first wave of a crack British task force assembled at RAF Brize Norton before parachuting down in an audacious surfboard assault on Benidorm, Lloret and Palma Nova in retaliation for what the dastardly dons have been doing at Gibraltar. No? All right, it's another outbreak of frenzied air rage. No? All right, it's self-confessed incurable insomniac, Brad Gammon, prior to his appearance on a typically hard-hitting edition of Vanessa. Brad, fresh from a successful summer season in Sleepless in Seattle in Paignton, is available on 0171 293 2462. All right, it's a thrice-delayed American at Miami. It is.
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