t DOGGED readers will know what's coming now. Strewth, Meredith, they will have groaned, he's mentioned a supermarket chain. That means we are going to hear, yet again, about the old fool's fruitless quest to obtain a comment from Prunella Scales, the fine actress and New Labour activist, about her apparent inconsistency in combining the presidency of the Council for the Protection of Rural England with doing those ads for Tesco, one of the big supermarkets accused by the CPRE of attacking rural England. Well, yes, but I have had an idea! I know Prunella would be only too willing to talk to me - only last week, for example, she launched a spirited attack on the shameful paucity of the BBC's "drama repertoire" - if I could just get past her agents. But, for some reason, they will have nothing to do with the Captain. So now, with a striking example of the lateral thinking that marks the investigative journalist, I have written to her husband, Timothy West, the fine actor, to ask him if he could have a word with her about this. That should do it! Until next week, then.
t BBRRNNGG! Busy, busy, busy. This time it's Bert, my man at the BBC. Are you interested in the BBC? I suppose we should be. Anyway, Bert tells me that not a lot of people seem to be interested in BBC News 24, the corporation's exciting round-the-clock non-stop news and current affairs channel. In fact, Bert tells me, the number of people watching BBC News 24 during the day at any one time is around the 1,000 mark. Bert says this isn't very many, and I have to agree, especially when Bert points out that the BBC employs 6,000 people at its Television Centre, from where News 24 is beamed to the gallant 1,000, and that the News 24 budget is pounds 30m a year. Bert says it would be cheaper if they biked videos of it round to the viewers. He is unimpressed when I tell him that his employers deny the existence of any such figures. Dear, dear. Public service, as the Captain knows only too well, can be thankless. By the way, I think you will find that the Captain, if you ration yourself fiercely, and only dip in from time to time, is actually offering a round-the-clock column. Lunch?
t PING-PLOP! Yes, an e-mail has arrived! How exciting! Now what can it be about? Ah. It is from a Mr Coad, who is friendly but firm. You might remember that last week I told you all about my interesting time studying law under the fierce tutelage of Lennie Hoffman, General Pinochet's law lordly nemesis. And many of you must have wondered why I hadn't proceeded upon a legal career instead of doing this sort of thing. Well, to be frank, and on this column we prize frankness, I did wander a little further down the path of the Volvo and the guinea; called to the Bar, actually. But, how shall we say, there was between the law and the Captain little sympathy and understanding. For example, as Mr Coad points out, Lennie, being a Law Lord, is Lord Hoffman, not, as the Captain had him, Lord Justice Hoffman. This, let me tell you, is not a mistake often made by a barrister. While we're being frank, I should tell you that Walter, the Chilean poet whose short straw in the lottery of life has proved to be instructing the Captain in the mysteries of his beautiful tongue, is not happy with last week's performance either. "Frio", you see, means "cold", while "frito" means "fried". The Captain's rendering, then, of a chant by anti-Pinochet protesters as "Frio Pinochet!" didn't really convey the depth of their emotion; indeed, it could be construed as a demand that the General should be given a woolly vest. Caramba! This game can be cruel, you know. On!
t WRESTLING. There's another game for you. No, don't. Roland Barthes, I'll have you know, as this is the Culture Section, was a big fan of the grunt, the grapple and the groan. Saw it as a morality play, Brecht for the masses, if you will, a gnostic tableau of light and dark. And some very distinguished aficionados, too: the Queen, for one; and Lady Thatcher. At their happiest whooping on a Boston Crab. That is why the death last week of Giant Haystacks, the near 7ft and 30st baron of badness, received such wide notice. Many were the tributes; but the Captain couldn't help noticing two echoing silences. Lady Thatcher was easily explained: one of her aides told me that she was on a lecture tour at the moment and wasn't "making any comment on anything at all". No doubt we will get a fond recall of the famous Haystacks reverse haguebreaker on her return. The Queen was a bit puzzling, though: a Palace spokeswoman said she "hadn't heard anything about the Queen being interested in wrestling". Well. Could all those press reports be wrong? Next, Lord Jenkins would be denying that his idea of a good time is to be ringside, on the feet, programme aloft, urging his man to give the other rascal a right royal rollicking. "You'd be surprised who watches it," the Giant was quoted as saying in the Telegraph obit. "We had Roy Jenkins down at the Albert Hall one night." I telephoned His Lordship's office. He denies it. Utterly. Crikey. Do you look like Lord Jenkins? Have you ever been to the Albert Hall? If so, ring the Captain on 0171 293 4262. Ditto, if you've ever seen Her Majesty down at the Fulham baths. Uggh!
t NATURE notes with the Captain. The Captain visited Rutland Water last week, for a lengthy stake-out, in the hide, with the field glasses. Red Throated Divers a bit thin on the ground; and Black Throated Divers, for that matter. Still, there has been a Slavonian Grebe about, which is one more than last year. Plenty of Coot, Tufted Ducks tailing off. The first Smew is due. Captain's long-range weather forecast: it's going to be a cold, cold winter. In Balham, the squirrels' eyes are watering; that's an infallible sign. Did you see, by the way, that if you say the weather tomorrow will be the same as today, you will achieve a 77 per cent success rate? Try it. Captain's other long-range forecast: Ian McCaskill will be appearing in pantomime in Windsor from Wednesday. Next!
t BBRRNNGG! The telephone, and on it, Duane, my showbiz man, again. He will have to go some to better the Delia stuff. "Captain, Jess Conrad, pop singer, quite big in the Sixties, you must remember 'Cherry Pie', one week at number 39 in June, 1960, or 'This Pullover', which didn't do quite so well. His framed birth certificate went for pounds 400 in a charity auction at the weekend, bought by comedy star Brian Conley!" I am, I have to say, a bit doubtful about this one, even if Jess is appearing with Otis the Aardvark in Robin Hood at the Royal Theatre, Hanley, from 17 December. It does, after all, have to jostle for space with another exclusive, the closeting together at Highgrove of the Prince of Wales, Chris Woodhead, the schools inspector chappie, and Melanie Phillips, the fierce social commentator. What can it mean? Compulsory Latin unseens for all seven-year-olds, probably. Ave!
t FINALLY, my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a thing of snippets, asides and fascinating exclusives. First, a message on the hotline from a delightful lady in Florence, claiming to be a farther-flung reader than Mr Meek of Vienna. I couldn't catch the name, but she wanted to hear about my exploits as a war correspondent! Sadly, no space this week; none, either, for my mother- in-law, translator from the Norwegian of Stains And How To Remove Them, to lend her weight to the campaign by translators to have their names on the front of the book instead of buried inside. New acquisitions at the Rutland County Museum in Oakham: a carpet beater, donated by Mrs Small, and a striped picnic tea cosy, from Mrs Atkinson. Did you know that Whitwell is twinned with Paris? Or that the Luxembourg finance minister is called Goebbels? The picture, up over there? Mr Baresel of Chelsea, my art-dealing reader, is exhibiting erotica. This is a bit. Can't make out much, myself. And these just in from Duane: Sir Robin Day seen dining with Lorraine Chase a deux in a fancy restaurant in Elizabeth Street. Can that be right? And Elisabeth Murdoch, you know, the daughter, the TV mogulette, has planted two gum trees in front of her house in Notting Hill. Just the thing to share a tinnie under. Advance Australia Fair! Bye!
WELL, it's one way to ensure absolute obedience from a spaniel, but I'm not sure the RSPCA would recommend it! I know a week in politics is long time, but you wouldn't think this was the same William Hague who so confidently approached the despatch box on Wednesday, would you? Still, his ploy of enlisting has certainly pulled the party back behind him, though not everyone is happy with the appointment of Nicholas Parsons (right) as Chief Whip, despite his experience handling quiz panels. No? All right then, Willie showing what rebel lords can expect: hard cheese! Gen Pinochet showing his new neighbours a few tricks of the trade? Sorry, apparently they had been invited around for a fondue party. All right, it's a Chelsea Pensioner at the 1998 Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses. It is.Reuse content