Captain Moonlight

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The Independent Culture
AHOY! Now I know I've had cause to mention this before, but, really, something has got to be done. Sex. Everywhere. Too much. Nothing else on. Time to call a halt. Pronto. Yes, I know what you're going to say. You're going to say: Captain, it's all very well to complain, but what's the alternative? What else is there to do? The rugby league season doesn't get properly under way for weeks yet. Nonsense! There's plenty of other things to do. That's why this week, I am providing you with my special guide, "Out and About with The Captain, Ten Things To Get Your Mind Off Sins of The Flesh". 1) Next weekend, the East Midlands Conference Centre, University of Nottingham, is hosting the 10th annual congress of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. Highlights include "A biscuit for the soul: the importance of rewards for the working dog", and special guest speaker, Turid Rugass, a behaviourist from Norway, who will be teaching the audience to "speak dog"; 2) On Thursday evening, the Scottish National Farmers' Union Soft Fruit Growers Committee will be holding its annual general meeting at the Moorfield Hotel, near Blairgowrie; 3) The Magic Roundabout is on Channel 4 on Monday at 5.45 am; 4) Pavement widening will be taking place for the next 12 weeks in Norwich Street and Bridge Street, Fakenham; 5) It will be National Doughnut Week soon; 6) On 5 May, the LSO will be celebrating the 70th birthday of composer Jerry Goldsmith by playing a medley of the themes from The Waltons, The Man From Uncle and Dr Kildare; 7) Permits will be on sale at Bolton Le Sands Bowling Club on 7 March and 21 March; 8) April has been designated National Spring Cleaning Month; why not beat the rush and get that duster out now? 9) Book now: on 8 March, Andrew Marr and Polly Toynbee will be talking about "Thatcher's Decade", on the South Bank, while, at the end of April, the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, will be playing host to the annual convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers; 10) Finally, the Dalai Lama will be at Wembley on 8 May, but the Captain cannot confirm, yet, that he is the new England coach. Next!

ACTUALLY, talking about football, this may be the time to reveal the Captain's fascinating footballing fact file: 1) Glenn Hoddle was last born on 27 October 1957. John Cleese, Lady Baden-Powell, Air Chief Marshall Sir John Willis, former Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, and Erasmus were also born on 27 October. 2) Glenn Hoddle's nose is a dead ringer for Bob Hope's (see my exclusive illustration). On!

TERRIFIC news! In a neat conjunction of Captainly interest, I was delighted, and honoured, to learn this week that The Prince Edward, whose engagement to the delightful Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones I recently so joyously celebrated, is as fascinated as I am with the world of British innovation, past and present. So much so that he is to present a new series of six programmes all about our talent for devising interesting new ways of doing things. Early days yet, but one item will concentrate on the tin can, and another on the can opener. "He finds that sort of thing very fascinating," Malcolm Cockren, chairman of Ardent, the Prince's production company, told me, probably exclusively. Splendid! And this in a week which also saw the announcement of two more British firsts, the pedal-operated lavatory seat, developed, as it would be, by a Mr Phil Leeke, and the pounds 6bn stealth tank, which, because of its sharp angles, will be almost impossible to spot with the eye, satellite, or radar. I have to say, though, that I am a bit miffed by this, as I have been working on my own prototype for some time, as you can see from the exclusive picture over there, taken recently on the beach at Ainsdale. Patriotism would, of course, prevent me from negotiating with any foreign power, even if my number is 0171 293 2462. Did you know, by the way, that the can opener was invented 48 years after the tin can? Remarkable. Next!

MOONLIGHT Profile Update Service. Been quite a bit around about old young William Hague recently. Cut out and keep the following key points: 1) He has given up the 20-minute-a-day transcendental meditation; 2) It's judo now, three times a week, with Sebastian Coe, often just before Question Time (tell me, do you remember those scenes where Burt Kwouk used to attack Peter Sellers at all the wrong moments - "Not now, Cato!" - in the Clouseau films?); 3) Yes, he still plays Meatloaf; 4) He is colour blind; 5) He used to have a golden retriever called Caesar; 6) He weighed about 7lb at birth; 7) He prefers sea slugs to vol au vents; 8) He has been up in RAF Tornadoes, and they've tested his ears, and they're better than most pilots, you know; 9) Yes, it is true that when Helmut Kohl came over to meet him for a summit of European conservative parties in Cardiff, Helmut got someone to fax him a photo of Willie so he would know who he was; 10) He's off this week for a north American trip which will include a visit to George W Bush in Austin, Texas. I read that everyone's a bit worried about how he might look in a 10 gallon hat, so I have appended the useful photograph, which is even now on its way to both Austin and Herr Schroder. Always happy to help!

ALWAYS happy to help. And, talking of Sebastian - yaaargghhh, not now, Seb - Coe, those of you tuned into Channel 4 News the other night might well have heard Jon Snow announce that the said Sebastian hadn't managed to find his way to their cameras for an interview about drug abuse in sport. Seb, in fact, is at pains to point out that he had found the cameras, but had been told to go away because Glenn Hoddle had just resigned. The Captain is happy to set the record straight. I must say it did seem a bit odd, because many of Seb's races involved him going round the track at least twice, and he used to manage that perfectly well. Mind you, though, come to think of it, it's not so long ago since my wife, Mrs Moonlight, saw William and Seb reversing somewhat confusedly up a street only a short sprint and a quick throw over the shoulder from the Commons. More reports, please!

CULTURE with the Captain. And I am rather proud to have had a letter from Mr Parker of Chelsea, editor of The Author, who writes to tell me that he has discovered another Captain Moonlight, in Ronald Firbank's Prancing Nigger, and wonders whether there are any more. Well. Thank you, Mr Parker. Ronald Firbank, too. Very precious. As for other Captains, the man we all nod in awe to is Andrew Scott, aka Captain Moonlight, preacher, soldier and bushranger, hanged in Sydney and recently reburied, according to his last wish, in Gundagai, next to the two mates who were shot dead on his last raid. Requiesce in pace, Grandad. And then, of course, there was the Captain Moonlight who came third in the New Zealand Derby on Boxing Day, 1996, and eighth in the Australian Derby in March 1997, and was never heard of again. Probably still running. Not now, Seb. More reports, please!

BBRRNNGG! Have you heard about the Austrian civil servant who has been on sick leave for two years because he claims he is allergic to his telephone? Identified only as Udo P, he works in the legal department of the transport ministry in Salzburg and has a doctor's note stating that he finds the sound of the phone "psychologically disturbing". Bbrrnngg! Aarrgghh! Yes, it's my political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable! "Captain! Hot one! John Prescott! Combative former ship's steward who is now deputy leader of the Labour Party! He's just bought the Big Issue!" Well. This, if you'll forgive me, is a big story. Opening up my notebook, and preparing to operate my perfect shorthand note, I first demand to know how much Mr Prescott has paid. "Two pounds, Captain, one pound more than the cover price. It was in Manchester, on Friday." Hmmm. Aarrgghh!

KERRPLOPP! Yes, that's the sound of the Captain's E-Mail Spot! And, first, an update on my exclusive trawl around the e-mail addresses of the rich, the powerful, and the intriguing. Still no reply from either the Queen, or from Nor, indeed, from either Shergar or Lord Lucan, for that matter. But I did get a message from Mr Jennings, who lives in the same road as my Mum. And Mr Jennings has further, and disturbing, information in our continuing debate about what to do when confronted by a grizzly bear. Last week, I thought we had it sorted: don't run, just play dead. But Mr Jennings says he met this Canadian who said that if you do play dead, the bear is likely to drag you off and bury you as part of his food store. So: a dilemma. But: a measure of hope. The Canadian also said that you could run away from a bear if there is a handy steep slope, since a bear's short front legs will cause it to fall over and roll down hopelessly out of control. Thank you, Mr Jennings! And give Mum a wave!

NOW: yes, it's my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a sundry, snippetty sort of thing. And first up, some fascinating news from the United States. In a move that will fill a long-felt need, pet lovers can now buy their neutered dogs false testicles. And not only that, but the false testicles can be fitted with a micro-chip programmed with the dog's name, address and telephone number. Marvellous! The Captain understands that Mr Blair is working on a similar scheme for his backbenchers. Great news, too, from the Holy Land: tourists will soon be able to simulate Jesus's walk on the water. A contractor has been authorised to build a submerged bridge into the Sea of Galilee which will be able to accommodate up to 50 people at a time. Meanwhile, advertising watchdogs have ruled that an Oxfordshire couple who breed cats for pharmaceutical research can no longer describe the bed and breakfast accommodation they offer at their farmhouse as "friendly". And, finally, this week's News From The Regions comes from Mellor, Cheshire, the North Country, and is taken from the newsletter of the Rev Peter Jenner, vicar of St Thomas's: "If anyone has borrowed Peter's copy of the The Place Where Socks Go, he would quite like to know where it is! (Perhaps it has gone to the same place.)" Come on, now, Mellorites, give the vic his book back! Seb: not now. Everyone else: Bye! SERIOUSLY: Mr Tony Blair pictured on the latest stage of his mission to bypass the trivial agenda of newspapers by talking directly to the public via the medium of daytime television programmes. Mr Blair, assisted by Mr Tim Henman and Ms Annabel Croft, w as outlining his views on whether constitutional reform is better achieved on the experiential or constructivist models favoured, respectively, by Popper and Hayek. He also revealed that his favourite fruit pastilles are the orange ones and that his ambi tion is to meet the Pope. All right, it's a children's charity mascot and they're launching a tennis tournament. They are.