Captain Moonlight: Head-to-head with Mandy and Mikey

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The Independent Culture
BBRRNNGG! Yes, it's that telephone again, and, on it, my redoubtable political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable. "Captain! Great news! Peter Mandelson has found something to do! Something that will enable him to use the expertise he has gained both in office and in his personal role as a concerned householder!" Hmmm. I suppose this could be interesting, but, to be blunt, Ms Tributable has excited unfulfilled expectations on quite a few previous occasions; in fact, if I think hard about this, her last scoop of any real note was when John Major decided to call the leadership election and she alone noticed that he had marked the gravity of the occasion by changing from one grey suit into another grey suit. Still, chivalry demands that I make encouraging noises, and so I do. "I've just seen this advert in the paper, Captain," she continues, "showing a picture of Peter dressed in his old Dome gear recommending a modern underspray method which will permanently bond your roof. I'll send it to you!" And she does. There it is, down there. Some people round here have recognised Peter, but I'm not so sure. I think it's Michael Portillo. Anyway, for what it's worth, if you are having trouble with your roof, the company is called Roof-Tek, and you can contact them on 01934 642929. No problem, Lord Falconer, any time. Next!

t ACTUALLY, talking of Peter and Michael, word reaches me that they could soon be starring in their own television programme, and what a joy that would be. Who, among those lucky few who managed to catch it, will ever be able to forget the last time they shared your screen, during Michael's first documentary tour around his newer, wiser, humbler self? Then, with eerie prescience, Peter told Michael that they both had an image problem because they belonged to that minority among politicians which refused to sit on the fence: "The minority are the people, strong personalities, with strong views, who are risk-takers," continued Peter to Michael. "You have paid the price for being a risk-taker; so have I." Indeed, indeed. Anyway, the new project would involve Michael and Peter interviewing each other on screen about their political philosophy. Michael has written to Peter asking him if he would be interested, and already television folk, bless them, are jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect. The Captain writes: I think the best format would be that one Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones use, where they are both in profile, close up. Michael could say to Peter, "Where did it go wrong then, Pete?" and take it from there. And this could just be the start. What about, to follow, a home improvement show? They're very popular, you know. Next!

t ACTUALLY, talking of television and politicians (these links are quite easy once you get the hang of it), I think I might have another of these exclusive thingies. Russell Nib, my media correspondent, has just been on, terribly excited. According to Russell, Ruby Wax has clinched a deal to interview Ffion Jenkins, who, come on, you must remember, is the Welsh wife of William Hague. Russell seems a bit dubious about the wisdom of this: "Remember what she did with Imelda Marcos, Captain! Remember what she did with Fergie!" I calm his fears, reminding him that Ruby's portrait showed both of them to be fuller, rounder, more sympathetic human beings as well as hopeless figures of fun. Well done, Ffion! Very plucky!

t ACTUALLY, talking of Wales (see?), I must relate to you a quick tale from the Captain's lodgings. There I was, the other night, lost in my favourite book of the moment, Sophie's Kiss, by Garth Gibbs and Sean Smith, all about the fairy-tale romance between Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones, when Mrs Moonlight looked up, pensively, from her perusal of the Independent on Sunday's excellent "Sunday Review" and told me that every company offering sofas in the classified section was based in Wales. Well. I took the magazine from her and checked, of course, and it's true. Sofa companies based in Rhymney, Brynmawr, Crumlin, Treorchy, and Brynmenyn. Well. And I thought dressers were their thing. But then my wife said it was probably something to do with that song about keeping a welcome in the hillside. Smiling in agreement, I returned to Sophie's Kiss, where I learnt that Prince Edward's first dramatic role was as Mole in his prep school production of Toad of Toad Hall. Splendid. I hope you all know, by the way, that it is now only three years away from the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations. Yippee! Next!

t BBRRNNGG! The telephone, again, and, on it, again, Ms Tributable, who has clearly been stung by my reaction to her Peter and the Roof story. "Captain! Really hot one! David Blunkett! Scourge of the truanting term- time holidaying parenting middle classes! Guess what? He took two of his sons to Canada for a summer holiday and they were late back to school for the autumn term!" Good grief. This is a big one! The hypocrisy of it, I say excitedly, to Ms Tributable, doing that this summer only weeks before he launched his Sod-the-Seychelles-chain-them-to-the-desk policy! "Er, well, not exactly this summer, Captain." So, I ask excitedly, when? "Well, seven years ago, actually, when he was shadow health secretary." But even so, I say, less excitedly, he is the sworn and implacable enemy of the creeping hol, isn't he? "Well, not exactly, Captain. When I checked the Canadian jaunt with his people, they did seem extremely anxious to stress that his stance has been much exaggerated, that lengthy absences without permission are what he's really worried about, and that the odd unavoidable day is all right." I thank Ms Tributable, replace the receiver, and fall to wondering where Tony is off to at Easter. Next!

t BBRRNNGG! Goodness, who ever can be ringing now? Yes, it's Duane, my correspondent specialising in the exciting world of celebrity and minor European royalty. It was Duane, you will remember, who first told the world that Prince Rainier of Monaco had ordered a shell-suit in the style favoured by Mike Tyson from Lonsdale, the renowned London boxing outfitters. So what can he have for me this time? "Captain! Did you know that Harry Corbett used to store Sooty in a box with air holes?" Remarkable. On!

t ANY personal disappointment at my failure yet again to trouble the compilers of Who's Who was more than compensated by the inclusion of that talented young actor, Sam West. His recognition is richly merited. But what particularly delighted me was that his entry gives the name and address of his agents. This means I can write to him care of them and beg a favour. His mother, you see, is Prunella Scales, whom I have been trying to contact for some time, as I am intrigued by her twin roles this side of the footlights as Tesco advertising icon and President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, a body which has had cause to criticise the big supermarkets for their assaults on the said rural England. Sadly, my attempts to contact Ms Scales through her agents have failed. My letter to her husband, Timothy, asking him to intercede on my behalf, has gone unanswered. My need is now particularly pressing, as I would also like to know what Ms Scales thinks of this proposal that the Tesco in Hastings should have a special late-opening night for naturists, and, in particular, where they will keep their loyalty cards. The letter is in the post, Sam. Please see what you can do. Meanwhile, I don't think I should let this moment pass without recalling another favourite apercu of my father (who was in the grocery trade): "Please do not stand too close to the bacon slicer, as we do not want to get behind with our orders". Oi! Behind with our orders. Behind, as in, you know, bottom. All right, suit yourself. We always used to laugh. Next!

t PRAISE BE, it's my churches correspondent, The Rev RC "Happy" Clappie! "Captain! A word of warning for any of your readers anxious to attend St Joan of Arc church in Highbury of a Sunday morning: don't tarry! A latecomer attempting a sudden entrance the other Sunday only narrowly avoided being hurled to the ground and knelt on by security officers anxious to protect the Prime Minister, who was worshipping within. I should report, though, for the sake of this present non-existent tension between Canterbury and Rome - the very idea of Cardinal Hume being 'privately contemptuous' of Dr Carey! - that the young leader held firmly to his pew during communion, contrary to his former practice. No conversion yet!" The Rev then burst into a rendition of "Faith Of Our Fathers", which, though stirring, did raise some doubts about his qualifications for the strict impartiality demanded of Moonlight correspondents. Dominus Vobiscum!

t AND now, my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a sundry thing. And first, Crimewatch. We begin this week with the man arrested in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, on suspicion of drug dealing who was in fact a fisherman going round selling lugworms, and move rapidly on to a seasonal favourite which always follows the Christmas tree thief tracked down to his lair by the simple device of following the trail of pine needles. Yes, it's the burglar who leaves his footprints in the snow. Well done, Bernd Doof, of Bochum, in Germany! And, yes, of course I know doof means "stupid" in German. Next, Captain's Top Tip of the Week: People who wear dentures may sleep better if they leave them in overnight. Next, Around The Regions: Hacheston Village Hall, Suffolk, 30 January, Sausage and Mash Evening. Get rid of those winter blues with Tony and his band "No Spring Chickens". But, wait, what is this? Yes, it's Ms Tributable with a late bid to save face: "Captain! More exclusive news! Geoffrey Robinson has started to write his memoirs! Everything will be in there, no holds barred, Mandelson, the loan, the lot!" I replace the telephone with a sigh. Is there to be no respite for this government? Bye!

SO, Mr Bond: Ernst Von Pudsey, leader of a tiny, shadowy group of misguided fanatics, pictured introducing a new member to "the British Way". Von Pudsey's aide, Tory Galore (right) has just advised him to "turn it up a little, nein?" No? All right, it's a Mr Hague, of Yorkshire, taking the Government's new middle class test. Mr Hague was asked to show how he would eat a fish dish al fresco, facing the sun. Nice try, sir, but sit down next time! Actually, it's a Mr Hague, Conservative leader, practising keyhole surgery with the help of 3-D specs and Ann Widdecombe. It is.