Captain Moonlight

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The Independent Culture
AHOY! And let me say at once that you don't become a prize-winning columnist by standing still, going through the motions and serving up the same old stuff week after week. Well, no, I am not a prize-winning columnist, but that's the point. So let me introduce you to a brand new Moonlight feature which I feel sure will be a sure-fire winner, attention- grabber and garland-garnerer. I got the idea, as I get so many, simply by listening. Wherever I go, whether it be here, at the quivering, towering power house of communication that is Canary Wharf, at the tables of influence, on the settees of serial thought, at the public bar of opinion, or on simple bus or tube, I listen. On Tuesday night, for example, I was at the table of a leading City editor - no names, no stock dividends - who was still mulling over the speed with which New Labour works. One minute, Mr Tony Blair was giving him a personal assurance that he, Mr Tony Blair, was a radical, and the next minute, just like that, came the revelation that the Government was going to end the two-century ban on dancing on Sunday nights. Remarkable. Stick that in your pipes, carping Guardian readers! But what I have also noticed, as I listen, is that the views of the older members of our society all too often go unregarded in the rush to pander to the whims of youth. Only this week, for example, someone here at the Wharf, a figure whose salad days have now been tossed, complained to me about all these daffodils on sale in November. Unnatural, he called it, and I sympathised. Which is why I've now got this new slot, "Grey Grouse", or "Get It Off Your Chest, But Don't Forget To Keep Well Wrapped". Write in with yours now!

t BBRRNNGG! People telephone to tell me things, too. This call, from Duane, my correspondent specialising in the world of celebrity, is typical. "Captain! Lord Archer! Bit of advice to any of your readers intending to attend one of those charity bashes featuring Jeffrey as auctioneer: be very, very careful. Chum of mine went along to one, scratched his nose, winked, looked up at the ceiling and ended up having to fork out pounds 3,500 for a weekend's racing in January at some windswept course east of Paisley!" Duane then goes on to make the joke about the second prize being two weekends, but we won't bother with that. I must say, though, that I am a little disturbed to see Jeffrey being quite so cavalier with potential voters for the mayoralty of London. Can this mean the little chap is bowing to the inevitable? Next!

t AND PEOPLE do write to me quite a lot already, you know. Some wish to share their wisdom; others have questions. Two missives this week, both anonymous, as it happens, were, again, typical. Following my disclosure last week that The Editor of this newspaper was born in Oswestry, Anon of Islington writes to tell me that other famous Oswestrians include "TV presenter Frank Bough", "Actress Rosemary Leach", and "Hippy Jane Ormsby- Gore (The Stones' Lady Jane, creator of Chelsea's famous shop Hung on You"). Thank you, Anon! Actually, I must confess to confusing (quite often!) Ms Leach with that other fine actress, Prunella Scales, whom, many of you will remember (probably with a groan!) I am anxious to contact so that we can discuss how she manages to combine her role as President of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England with all that advertising she does for Tesco, the supermarket group often criticised for building over large parts of Rural England. Still no luck, though; perhaps I should try to bypass her unmannerly and unco-operative representatives by telephoning her at home. Next week: the Captain dials 192. On!

t THE NEXT letter was from Anon of Edinburgh, wondering whether I had noticed that Alistair Darling, the Social Security Secretary, doesn't list his parents in Who's Who. As it happens, I've only managed to get as far as the Cs in that estimable tome; nevertheless, the note set alarm bells ringing in the trained reporter's mind, particularly in a week when alien life has been much discussed, and particularly when here you have a man who clearly dyes his eyebrows rather than his hair, a pretty obvious error which I would have thought was a bit of a giveaway. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I discover that his father was an engineer who voted Conservative, that his mother first voted Labour in 1997, and that his grandfather was a Liberal candidate. No one could fake that sort of impeccable New Labour pedigree. Next!

t THE NEXT letter was passed on by The Editor. It was from Mr Langford of Canterbury. "Captain Moonlight does not, I assume, expect readers of the Daily Telegraph to be reading the Indie on Sunday." Mr Langford then wants me to explain how it is that two items in my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany - how to don a wet suit with ease by employing two plastic bags, and how to avoid paint splashes by applying clingfilm to your spectacles - had already appeared in the Daily Telegraph. The Captain writes: Thank you, Mr Langford. You make a fair point. I do not expect my readers to read the Daily Telegraph. I do it for them. It's all part of my exclusive service, designed to help them keep abreast of important developments in the wet suit and home improvement areas while they get on with their busy lives. The Captain adds: Mr Langford, I'm afraid you have failed to grasp what we're trying to achieve here. This column, you should know, has just been hailed as "post-modern", and "brilliantly anarchic". Time for an exclusive Moonlight You The Jury Telephone Poll. Should Mr Langford of Canterbury be banned from reading the column? Make your vote count now on 0171 293 2462!

t SOMETIMES, though, if I think I can help, I do offer advice. This week: William Hague. Lots of reports, denied, obviously, that the personable young leader of the Conservative Party is about to undergo what the image consultants call "a makeover", you know, new suit, tie, more sympathetic blusher, that sort of thing. Well, I've been mulling over all this, and I think William is failing to stress some of the natural advantages he undoubtedly possesses. Surely I can't be the only one to notice his strong resemblance to an egg? And what could be more popular than that since old Delia gave them a bit of a plug? Exactly. An extra 54 million sold. Eggs are big. Eggs are good. Look at my pictures. That is the old William on the left. On the right is how he could look if he let my cosmetic experts (or should that be eggsperts!) have a go at him. Well, I know which one I'd rather vote for. Eggsactly! Next!

t RIGHT, and it's Tony Blair, actually. Now I know a lot of people have accused Tony of having no long-held firm beliefs, no principles that are absolutely not up for negotiation in pursuance of power and that sort of thing. But it's simply not true. Let me give you one example. Long ago, so long ago that the young Tony was the old Labour shadow energy secretary gaining plaudits for his opposition to electricity privatisation, he formed the opinion that his deputy, Rhodri Morgan, the loose Welshman with all that hair, was, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit of a toss-pot. And, do you know, he hasn't shifted an inch since? Well done, Tony! On!

t IMPORTANT family news. Many of you will know that I am the London branch of that ancient supermarketing family, the Nevins, purveyors of such staple goods as dried peas, evaporated milk, the occasional fancy and several varieties of teacake to the good people of St Helens and surrounding areas these many years. (It is one of the reasons why I am anxious to talk to Prunella Scales; we have much in common.) Anyway, all things must pass; and so I have to announce that we have just been taken over by the Co-op! Wonderful people, great track record, pioneering working class movement, and, perhaps most importantly, very competitive prices. I urge all our patrons to keep patronising. And there might be something in it for readers everywhere, too. I have approached the Co-op about sponsoring this column. It would be a fitting, and touching, gesture. And you would get the chance to win prizes of selected Co-op own brands. You will also be aware, of course, of Co-op activities in the undertaking area, which could also be useful. Next!

t CUT CRIME With The Captain. This week: the theft of 1,000 assorted dolls from a trailer in Tilbury. Some of them, according to police, are "quite tall and are of an all-singing and all-dancing type". Others, indeed the ones I have pictured, are fourteen-and-a-half inches high and cry when you take their dummies out. Police advise you to be on your guard if you are offered one of these dolls in suspicious circumstances. Enough said. Take care out there. Sorry? The ones dressed like bunnies? I just put them in to see if they reminded you of Willie Hague, too. On!

t NEXT, THE latest entries in my Millennium competition to celebrate the British genius for inventing and promoting things you never knew you needed. The champagne is in the post for last week's two lucky winners (just see what you will be missing, Mr Langford of Canterbury!); this week, Mr Allsop of East Boldon has tried to pull a fast one by entering two fictitious items, including a TV channel changer with bottle opener attached. Be very careful, Mr Allsop; remember Mr Langford. Ms Mackenzie of Swansea has submitted the "Authentic Titanic Mate's Whistle", only pounds 6.99 (pounds 9.98 with chain) from Health and Home Shopping, who are to be congratulated on their enterprising interpretation of "authentic". Mr Sladen of Woodstock enters the Everlasting Snowman, thirty-and-a-half inches tall, with an internal light, pounds 39.95 (and quite like Mr Hague, as well!). Mr Sladen goes further: he suggests a special award for the most inventive object to be found in Literature, suggesting the sterling silver telephone dialler that Holly Golightly could not quite afford in Breakfast at Tiffany's and the small inflatable cushions, worn inside the trousers to soften the impact of long sermons, as prescribed by E Waugh in Decline and Fall. Excellent, Mr Sladen! Very Culture Section! The winner of this special award will get, in addition to the champagne, a copy of the third volume of that long book by Marcel Proust. Next!

FINALLY, THEN, my acclaimed (although not in all quarters, no names, no bubbly) Moonlight Miscellany, a thing of snippets, asides and the odd report you may have missed. And first up, let us go to Long Beach, California, where Ed Burt, a highway patrolman, has been suspended from duty after stopping his mother-in-law's car 78 times in 12 weeks and handing her 43 on-the-spot fines. Handy tip: when your bitch comes on heat, rub her hindquarters with oil of cloves and would-be suitors will show little interest. In San Diego, meanwhile, two armed robbery suspects were found guilty after they put up their hands when the prosecutor at their trial asked a witness if the robbers were in court. Bbrrnngg! It's my parliamentary correspondent, Ms Una Tributable, with some late intelligence. Apparently old Michael Heseltine has been telling people in Henley he's going to stand down. Crikey. Bye!

IF YOU have heart strings, prepare for a big one. We, surely, have all been moved by the moving story of Woofie, the collie cross condemned to die by lethal injection for terrifying a postman and then saved by the dramatic intervention of Ms Brigitte Bardot and the soft hearts of two judges. But there are other Woofies. My picture shows Fang, a Rottweiler cross, just before he wiped the smile right off the face of Postman P Patt, of Greendale. Yes, yes, I know, but have you ever seen Pat without his hat on? Thank you. But surely one moment of madness shouldn't lead to the electric basket? We say: No! No? All right, it's Mr P Mandelson's latest ultimatum to Tory peers in the House of Lords: let that bill through or the dog gets it. All right, all right, it's a German fashion designer called Rudolf with his dog called Daisy.

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