Captain Moonlight

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HO! HERE we are then, lights a little askew, orientation listing a little, but digestion, bonhomie and hope still holding up remarkably well, all things considered. And now it's the New Year. And a Big Year for us all, too. The last one, my calendar tells me, before the turn of the Millennium. And, as you prepare for this momentous moment, you will, naturally, have come here for a wee bit of guidance on the emotional, practical and Life-what's-it-all-about-Captain side of things. So settle back and prepare to nod sagely and smile wryly as the Captain brings you his 99 Resolutions, Meditations And Practical Tips for A Better, More- Fulfilling `99. All of them, I think you will find, deserve noting; many will bear thinking on.

1) Wrap up well.

2) Always read your mortgage application very, very carefully before filling it in.

3) A weasel has a longer nose than a stoat.

4) Troubled by insomnia? Try eating a lettuce sandwich before retiring.

5) The tiger is always striped, but a panther can be a leopard.

6) On the whole, it is probably wiser to avoid Clapham Common in the evening.

7) When in Rome, remember to look the other way if you're crossing the road.

8) Be extremely wary of buying a drink for a man who wears brown shoes in town.

9) Have you heard of a film about the Titanic? Word reaches me that it's very good.

10) Avoid, if you possibly can, inviting Peter Tatchell and the Archbishop of Canterbury to the same cocktail party.

11) As trees start to regrow after winter, give them a boost by clearing the surface of weeds and scattering a granular fertiliser on the soil.

12) Things cannot only get better.

13) When cooking on a campfire, a green stick stuck in the pan brewing the coffee or tea will prevent it tasting of smoke.

14) It is unwise to make an enemy of Gordon Brown.

15) For a long time I believed that the man who wrote "Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag" committed suicide. He didn't.

16) Beau Brummell resigned his commission when they told him he was being posted to Manchester.

17) Kylie is what aboriginals in Western Australia call a boomerang. Other aboriginals call a boomerang a boomerang.

18) Worried that your social life is not active enough? Hark to these words of wisdom from the Captain's father: "I've missed many a good do through not being invited".

19) Never neglect Chinese wisdom, either. Feng shui, for example. But what I want to know is this: if it's so good, how come they had to build that big wall down the side of the country?

20) Place chicken wire over the top of containers containing developing spring bulbs. This will stop squirrels and other rodents digging them up.

21) A woman is a woman, but a nicotine patch sticks on your arm.

22) Keep a pot of sand or wood ash by the front and back doors. If the weather is frosty, it can be lightly scattered on steps and pathways to make them less slippery.

23) On the whole, if you are a former Latin American dictator with a dodgy human rights record from a country without an "r" in it, you might do better to buy a new corset for that nagging pain in the back.

24) When polar bears creep up in the white, icy wastes on their prey, they hide their black snouts with the left paw. Unless, of course, they are right-pawed polar bears.

25) In the 1950s, your average man laughed for 18 minutes a day. Today, he laughs for six minutes a day.

26) If a newspaper story contains a quote from Dale Winton, it is probably safe to ignore it.

27) This also applies, in no particular order, to Sir Tim Rice, Lord Archer, Ann Widdecombe, Max Clifford, Peter Lilley, the Royal Opera House, George Michael, Mick Jagger, a young blonde woman, Richard Branson, Sir Edward Heath, any old Spice, Gallagher, or Major.

28) On the other hand, a story involving all of them might be interesting.

29) The inside of a banana will clean brown shoes. Remember to polish them off with a dry cloth, though.

30) John Glenn listened to Andy Williams's Greatest Hits album as he orbited the world recently.

31) Actually, the enemy of your enemy might be your enemy, too.

32) Treasure poor soil; it is a gift of nature and many plants give of their best in it.

33) Whistle while you're peeling onions and you won't cry.

34) My grandfather nearly choked on a threepenny bit in a Christmas pudding.

35) If you say the weather tomorrow will be the same as today, you will achieve a 77 per cent success rate.

36) Bored with the old Ben Franklin saw about nothing being certain except for death and taxes? Try nothing is certain except for death, taxes and that any story about Cher will, for some reason, be accompanied by that picture up there.

37) Talking of boredom and saws, can we also have an end, please, to "it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it"; and Chesterton's misquoted thing about people believing in anything rather than nothing when they stop believing in God.

38) Deadheading is a chore but it prevents the ragged dead brown look of summer borders. Stop in early October.

39) The last words of Max Baer, boxer, might be worth a ponder. The hotel operator asked him if he wanted the house doctor. "No, get me a people doctor," replied Baer. But it was too late.

40) The last meal most in demand from the 144 men executed in Texas over the last 15 years has been the cheeseburger.

41) Games are not compulsory.

42) Ninety-five per cent of men aged 20-34, according to a survey, would rather watch the World Cup on television than have sex with their dream woman.

43) More than 95 per cent of dream women also thought this was a good idea.

44) And did you know that only 60 per cent of Frenchmen wash their hands after going to the lavatory? And you want to use the same currency as these people?

45) Gently hold airing laundry against your lips. If it stays cold it is not properly dry; if it warms immediately, it is ready to wear.

46) While we're here, 15 per cent of Frenchmen also admitted wearing the same underpants for three days in a row.

47) The elevator and the escalator are often bound for the same destination.

48) But why is the escalator's fast lane on the left?

49) And I suppose, too, that the fine old English word used to describe an expedition in a charabanc is now lost to us forever, following the exploits of Messrs Parris and Tatchell (cf 6 and 10)

50) The guillotine was invented, not by Dr Guillotin, but by a German mechanic called Schmidt.

51) There is more than one way to cook an egg, but, sooner or later, you must break its shell.

52) Delphiniums do not respond to cutting back.

53) To dream, you must first sleep.

54) Start to lift potatoes as soon as the tops die down, thus reducing the chances of the tubers being attacked by slugs.

55) A bungalow needs no stairs.

56) Be nice to people on the way up and they'll still give you a good kicking on the way down.

57) If your hydrangea is too near the house, your daughter will never marry.

58) Are you fed up with people being brave all the time?

59) And strong?

60) And addressing problems?

61) Which are mostly perceived?

62) But there's always a bottom line, isn't there?

63) Partridges don't smell when they're brooding.

64) Old inner tubes can be cut up to provide a ready supply of rubber bands.

65) Always have the open end of your pillowslips pointing away from the door.

66) Never use an umbrella while wearing country clothes.

67) Never go shooting with a politician, a journalist or an Italian.

68) It is quite clear that the rain in Spain does not fall mainly on the plain.

69) If stability is sexy, why doesn't the earth move?

70) Why do all these interviews with people on television news programmes have that bit at the beginning where they write something in a book and pretend they don't know they're being filmed?

71) Why are only white shirts crisp?

72) Do try to remember if somebody lends you pounds 373,000.

73) So that's the Third Way.

74) Around a fifth of the electorate thinks that William Pitt the Younger is a member of the Shadow Cabinet, you know.

75) Did you know that William Hague swerves to avoid hedgehogs?

76) I am fed up with the expression "Bad Hair Day".

77) There are no nuts in May.

78) While we're at it, I do feel that 1999 would be a finer, more harmonious year if we could all stop using the word "kit", as in "this is a very grown-up bit of kit".

79) And "grown-up"; and "joined-up"; and "playing catch-up"; and, please, "sorted".

80) And "up for it", and, please, "Have a good one", and "How's it hanging?"

81) And, at the posh end of all this, "exemplar", "parameters", "quintessential", "etiolated", "in terms of", "famously observed" and "system", as in "belief system".

82) And errors of judgement.

83) Or maybe that's the Third Way.

84) That question, what to call the first decade of the next century, was settled long ago by the Captain: the Noughties.

85) And that's quite enough of "fin-de-siecle", by the way, thank you.

86) The Opossum has 50 teeth.

87) So: if Lord Jenkins and his proportional representation proposals are so clever, why should the second preferences of voters who have supported the least successful candidates be given equal weight with the first preferences of supporters of the stronger candidates? Eh?

88) When a door opens, stand out of the way.

89) Lose those Christmas pounds with the Captain. Kneel on all fours. Put your right arm over your left shoulder. Clench buttocks. Bring your right leg over your left leg. Hang on, that can't be right. Sorry. You're on your own, I'm afraid.

90) The correct way to greet a mobile phone user is to approach quite closely, incline your head to the same degree but in the opposite direction, and offer a cheery thumbs-up. Try this at least once a day.

91) All they did in 1000, you know, was mount a small pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

92) When, while we're around there, was the last time you saw the sun out in a play or film set in the middle ages?

93) How many more lists, do you think, can there be of the greatest pop songs of all time?

94) Always approach a horse from the front.

95) Lost your rubber? White bread will do the job very well.

96) The cat has nine lives; but the barking dog does not bite.

97) The Devil makes his Christmas pies of lawyers' tongues and clerks' fingers.

98) Quiet cows eat all the grass.

99) There are now 365,605 days until the year 3000. Bye!