Captain Moonlight: A story of sequins and squealing rubber

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The Independent Culture
HURRAH! Terrific news about this royal wedding, isn't it? Just the sort of thing to tickle the cockles and watt away the mid-winter gloom. And what a pleasant change to have something nice to report, instead of all the usual petty nastinesses about who sneaked what or who really hates whom. Call me an old-fashioned sort of officer, but sometimes I feel we rather concentrate on the unhappier side of human nature, don't you? Plus, of course, there is my responsibility, as the last monarchist on this newspaper, to keep the Royal Standard flying. So what do you think of the bunting? The sharper eyed may have spotted that it cleverly incorporates the Xmas fairy lights and so postpones putting them away for another week. One more reason to congratulate Edward and Sophie! And it also occurred to me that many of you, being Independent on Sunday readers, might not be quite so au fait with the happy couple as the Captain. Which is why follows my, yes, wait for it, Twelve Fascinating Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know about Teddy and Jonesy. 1) She calls him Ed; 2) He calls himself Gus; 3) Her dad, according to the Express, worked, at one time, in the automotive industry; 4) Her dad, according to the Mail, worked, at one time, as a tyre salesman; 5) He also, very briefly, taught Nigel Dempster geography; 6) The dad of another of Edward's girlfriends used to sell spare car parts near Guildford; 7) Sophie has always been a popular girl who could be relied upon to be fun; 8) Edward is a man of sensitivity, ambition and inner strength; 9) Sophie has been out with a dentist; 10) Edward is a big Abba fan;

11) He sews his own fancy dress costumes; 12) He can also talk knowledgeably about duck shooting.

t BBRRNNGG! Goodness, only a few days into the new year, and it's the telephone! And, there, at the other end, my new Euroland correspondent, Ms Cher Currency. "Captain! Hot news from Holland! The slogan they're using to advertise Braveheart is 'Mel Gibson Zonder Onderbroek!', which translates as 'Mel Gibson Without His Undies On!' No wonder they call it the Netherlands!" Hmmm. Clearly, the jury is out on Ms Currency; I was rather hoping for a teeny bit more about le grand chemin de fer de jus de viande revelations currently enlivening Brussels. Heigh-ho. But the Dutch, eh? KLM, you know, used to have this slogan: "The reliable airline of those surprising Dutch". I rather liked that. Next!

t THE CAPTAIN Cares: You, doubtless, were among the many thousands bitterly disappointed last week when McDonald's ran out of enough hamburgers to fulfil its "buy one, get one free,'' special offer. You may even be one of the three businessmen in Leigh, Lancs, who who went berserk after after failing to get their free burgers and pulled the manager over the counter the better to scream "blue murder" at him. That is why, triumphing where all the marketing might of the Big Mac has failed, the Captain today gives every reader two free hamburgers. There they are, down there on the right. Alternatively, you might fancy a bit of Papuan earth cooking. Dig a hole in the garden about one metre deep and fill it with live coals and hot stones. Keep it burning for a couple of days and nights. Then put in your suckling pigs, chicken and fish (snake goes well, too, not unlike smoked eel) and cover with a thick mat of braided leaves and branches and cook for three hours at pit mark seven. Makes a pleasant change, I find. Next!

t AND NOW, it's time for Press Release Of The Week. And this week's winner, picked at random from the tide of supplications that drifts across the Captain's desk, is from the residents of Headley, in Hampshire, who are campaigning against the plans of Orange, the mobile phone people, to erect one of those big aerials in their village. Anyway, Geoffrey Lean, our very distinguished environment correspondent, passed on the photograph of a number of the villagers (which I reproduce on the left) "expressing", as they say in an accompanying caption, "their views on a planning application by Orange". Splendid. There is, I have also to point out, a rumour here that Geoffrey is the one on the extreme right. That is completely untrue. He's second from the right. No, just a joke, Geoff. I wouldn't dream of compromising your impartiality. Or anything else. My all time favourite headline, by the way, was on a similar theme, and read: "Vicar fights erection in High Street". Thank you!

t NEXT, politics. The Captain has seen, and, doubtless, so have you, all these opinion pieces (or "thumb-suckers", as we call them in the trade) expressing the view that politics will be a much duller place without all these recent resignees. The Captain comments: Balderdash! Take Stephen Byers, Mr Peter's replacement at Trade and Industry. Listen, in the past, Stephen has sported not only a moustache, but a beard as well. He knows so much about the law of contract that he used to lecture on it at Newcastle Poly. And he used to spend his Sunday afternoons drafting amendments to the Maastricht Bill. And, in his other opposition role as fearless exposer of waste and corruption, he once made a joke. It was when he discovered that HMS Brazen had been used to convey several bags of fertiliser for use in a Rear Admiral's garden in Gibraltar. "This whole affair smells," said Byers, admirably straight-faced. But now the Captain hears of a proposition that will set up a bit of tussle between his naturally extrovert ways and the current need for caution in these off-spin days. Yes, Pashley, manufacturers of the Millennium bicycle, large numbers of which have just been bought by the Post Office, the DTI fiefdom, want Stephen to pose on one. What a golden metaphor opportunity! "In the saddle", "On his bike", "Government Spokesman"; but a bit of a minefield, too. "Government Wobbles", that sort of thing. Over to you, Steve!

t LOSE Those Xmas Pounds With The Captain. This item, which will give you buttocks of steel, a stomach flatter than Formby, Lancs, and no problems at all provided you don't get up too quickly, has been unavoidably held over.

t FINALLY, the Moonlight Miscellany. And first, this week's key facts: 1) A pig can eat anything but currants; 2) Virginia Woolf always wrote standing up. Next, the Captain's Celebrated Christmas Card Competition. Well done, compers! A bumper entry wrestled with skill and judgement to work out whose card was whose from this distinguished list: Sir Paul Condon, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; Mr Peter Mandelson, the former person; Mr Paul Dacre, the noted editor of the Daily Mail; the Captain's good friends, Lesley and Sid; and the Captain's Auntie Vera. No trouble with the first three, but Lesley and Sid and Auntie Vera foxed most of you, or rather the goose did, which came from Lesley and Sid, not Auntie Vera. So, the winners: Ms Goodall of Harborne, and Mrs Fieldhouse of Plaistow. You will remember, too, that, in a novel twist so typical of this column, compers were asked to nominate their own gifts. Well, with commendable restraint, Mrs Fieldhouse went for "Champagne, please!"; while Ms Goodall put it thus: "Book tokens, Darlink, what else?" Mail Order offer of the week is a tie between the soft imitation lambswool lavatory lid and seat cover (pounds 12.95) and the packet of two universal replacement central heating radiator caps (pounds 6.95), both from Home Free. Captain's Coming Event Guide: the Eggesford Gardens garden centre, on the A377 between Exeter and Barnstaple, will be holding a potato modelling competition on 23 January. Finally, I loved Chief Justice Rehnquist's splendid impeachment robe with its topical zip front. The Captain is given to understand that just the one judge over here, a circuit bod, wears a robe with a zip. Your Honour: call me on 0171 293 2462, discretion assured. Everyone else: Bye!

ASSURED debut: Spot, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's new chief spokesman, or "spin doctor" as they are sometimes called, pictured looking relaxed after his first "off the record" briefing to lobby correspondents. The briefing, which was "understood" to focus chiefly on what a "completely useless prat" the prime minister is, took place in the deep end of the Routledge memorial baths, east Peckham. No? Euro-corruption troubleshooter, Jacques Le Barc, ready to dig deep? All right, all right, it's Hooch, all Australian action dog, who has recently had to give up parachute jumping after falling out of bed. It is. Honestly.