Captain Moonlight : Good sports ... royal trees ... shuffle my way

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Thank goodness for Mr Major! He has identified this country's principal problem and has moved decisively to correct it. He is going to put pounds 300m into improving our sporting performance. There will be an "Academy of Sporting Excellence" and "ladders of sporting opportunity" for our schools. The Captain, though, thinks we might be missing a trick here. Instead of trying to compete with all these other countries that are better than we are at every existing sport, why don't we just put some new ones up for international competition? Here, in no particular order, are a few suggestions. First, Libel. I'd like to see any other country beat us at this one, particularly if Carman and Gray are fit and available for selection. Next, Keeping Foreigners Out. Ditto, Micky Howard and Pete Lilley. Next, Naming Children. I'm rooting for Paula! Next, Screwing Up Your Sport By Selling Exclusive Rights To Rupert Murdoch. No contest. Finally, Excuses. No one, but no one, can match the range and ingenuity of ours for coming second: lack of facilities, too sporting and so lack killer instinct, wrong kind of rain, leaves on track, legs too short. And if we got this one accepted by the IOC, we wouldn't have to spend the pounds 300m and Mr Major could buy us all a new telly, couch and a case of lager instead. Next!

n GETTING a job, the Captain is here to advise you, is all about knowing exactly what prospective employers are after. Dig and delve to discover what sort of a person they want, what sort of job that person might possibly have had in the past. I was reminded of my own excellent advice when I learnt that Eileen Wise, the number two at Conservative Central Office to Charles Lewington, Tory "media supremo", in addition to her work with Walt Disney and Hello! magazine, also used to be a researcher with London Weekend Television on that estimable vehicle for the talents of Ms Cilla Black, Surprise, Surprise. The appointment of Jeremy Beadle in succession to fellow humorist Dr Brian Mawhinney cannot be far behind. Anyway, I'm sure she had nothing to do with the new Tory advert, which I reproduce in captainly shocked horror below. Do these people know nothing of this country's proud tradition? It is only the Union Jack when it flies on a ship. Otherwise it is the Union flag. New Tories. Know Nothing.

SOMETIMES, this job can be really heartwarming. The response to my introduction last week of a Royalty Loyalty Card is a case in point. All week messages of support have been arriving. I imagine difficulties with the post have prevented the anticipated rush of loyal shopkeepers offering a discount on production of the card. But I did receive this, from Mrs Wright, a bookseller in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria: "Dear Captain, I am pleased to tell you that I am offering a mint copy of HRH The Prince of Wales Watercolours at half the published price - ie pounds 10 - to anyone producing the Royalty Loyalty Card in my bookshop. Working together, we can reduce the number of royal mementoes cluttering the planet, and thus make space for Real (not Royal) Works of Art and Literature. Forward with the People! Yours sincerely." I'm not quite sure that was the idea, Mrs Wright.

n BUT what about this, royalists? For years we have had to submit to sneers about the Prince of Wales's personal habits. Now, though, comes an intriguing explanation for at least one of them. Mr McGeoch, who works for the English version of the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, has come across this intriguing passage about the Prince's close relation Kaiser Wilhelm in a book by James Gerard, the American ambassador in Berlin, 1913-17: "On entering the room the Empress [the Kaiser's wife] usually commenced on one side, and the Emperor, on the other, going around the room and speaking to the ambassadors' wives etc ... This ... is called 'making the circle', and young members of the royal family are practised in it by being made to go up to the trees in the garden and address a few pleasantries to each tree, in this manner learning one of the principal duties of royalty." Ach, so.

BBRRNNGG! It is the telephone, and, on the line, my cookery correspondent, Mark Five. "Captain!" shouts Mark. "All this fuss about the River Cafe being the best Italian restaurant in Europe! You must have read The River Cafe Cook Book, the award-winning, best-selling work by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, the owners?" I swallow hard and confess that it appears to have passed me by, probably because I am still trying to perfect that well known Lancashire dish "Egg Chopped Up In A Cup". "Well," says Mark, "on page 302, there's this recipe for Chocolate Nemesis, involving one- and-a-half pounds of bitter-sweet chocolate and ten eggs. And do you know what? It won't set! It's runny sludge and it stays runny sludge!" I suggest to Mark that he would be far better off with a nice Arctic Roll and replace the receiver.

n YOU read about these government reshuffles, and you think, "What are they really like, these people thrust to power over me?" Stand by for one of the Captain's famous reshuffle miscellanies, proving, once again, that the truth is in the trivia. 1) Greg Knight, the new energy minister, likes cars. 2) Dr Liam Fox, new junior foreign minister, has seen Pulp Fiction, and didn't like it. 3) David Willetts, the Tory "thinker" and new Paymaster General, is not Dave Willetts, the star of Phantom of the Opera. At least I don't think he is. 4) Phillip Oppenheim, made Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, has been known to say to girls: "There's good news and there's bad news. The bad news is that I don't kiss on a first date. The good news is that in your case I'm prepared to make an exception." 5) Jacqui Lait, the first woman to be made a government whip, represents Hastings and Rye. Her seagoing constituents feel she has been less than supportive in their battles with Brussels. They call her Kipper Lait, believing her to be two-sided and spineless. 6) Dr Fox has won prizes for public speaking and knows an actress in EastEnders. He likes cars, too. 7) Greg Knight once had lunch with Frankie Valli. 8) Greg Knight wrote a song for the 1983 general election entitled, "Maggie Will Always Be Around". 9) I think I'll stop now.

WELL, say what you like, but it's a funny old world, isn't it? Take last Sunday. You remember. I was trying to help the Church of England by thinking up some new definitions of Hell to replace the tired old stuff about weeping and gnashing. And one I came up with was that traffic jam just outside Princes Risborough on the A4010 where they're building a roundabout. Fair enough, you will agree. But then, on Tuesday, I received the following fax from Mr Protheroe of Askett Nurseries: "Not so fast! Re your column's reference to the traffic jam on the A4010. One man's traffic jam is another's business opportunity. The bottleneck outside our garden centre has increased sales by around 20 per cent. Instead of drivers whizzing by at 75mph, they can now drop in and buy plants. I'm optimistic the work will continue for another five years! God bless the boys from the black stuff. Yours with a firm handshake." Captain Moonlight writes: something to think about, that.

n AND while I was thinking about it, my good eye fell, as it will, on my copy of the Watford Observer, and this splendid advertisement for Jacksons, you know, the jeweller on the Parade: "First it was chicken (have you forgotten salmonella?), then beef, now lamb is under suspicion and there is virtually no choice left if you want to buy meat - it's much the same if you want to buy fine jewellery, there's only one choice: it's got to be Jacksons." Quite. By the way, owing to the present spate of publicity, the Captain, on grounds of sensitivity, is suspending his revealing series on the growing tendency of sheep here and in Norway to attack humans and make off with their packed lunches. Thank you.

WHATEVER next? This was the disgraceful scene on Tooting Common, south London, last week when Moonlight cameras discovered the Prime Minister hosting a picnic for Mr Alfred "Alf" Cropper, of Cropper's Crisps and Scratchings, Ilkeston ("Crunch A Cropper's Today!"). When challenged, Mr Cropper agreed that he was a member of "Premier Plus" an exclusive Conservative group, membership of which guarantees a picnic with the Prime Minister in the company of two naked Conservative "hostesses" in return for a one-off payment of pounds 250,000 in notes, no further questions. Both the "hostesses", Ms Ysenda Arnos-Grove (foreground) and Ms Jessamy Bounds- Green (back, ironing tablecloth), insisted they were in favour of a single European currency when the time was right. The Prime Minister said he would be making a statement to the House at the appropriate time. Mr Cropper said the experience had been "most worthwhile" but the rissoles had been stale.

The Captain's Catch-up Service

WELCOME once again to the news review that makes you think on ... A man chasing a "UFO" fell 60 feet into the dry moat of Fort Pulbrook, near Waterlooville, Hants. The light was from a student dance ... Willie King, of New York, knocked Mrs Yolanda Gigante to the ground and snatched her handbag. He later collapsed in panic when he learnt that Mrs Gigante's son was Vinnie "The Chin" Gigante, a Mafia godfather reputed to have chopped up rival hoodlums with a chainsaw while they were still conscious

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