CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT: Tourism flagging? Play hunt the car-park

GREETINGS! Here we are again, happy as can be, all devolved and dusted! But, wait: is this a shadow falling across the rump that is England? Yes, sadly, it seems, tourism is in trouble. Visits down, spending down, attractions not attracting, all to do with the strong pound and the bad weather. But never fear: The Captain Can Help. Here follow my favourite five ideas for new attractions that will also underline our English identity at this vital time: 1) Bluelakeside. This will be an entirely new concept in theme parks: yes, the theme is shops, 550 of them, all together, and set in beautifully landscaped grounds with those wood chippings on all the flower beds. 2) Car Park. Use all your skill and guile to find one of the few spaces remaining and evade payment in our specially constructed 2,399 space Car Park, set in beautifully landscaped grounds with those wood chippings on all the flowerbeds. 3) Bloomsbury. Tweeds compulsory, a bit of a libido an advantage. Try our To The Lighthouse dark ride - if you dare! 4) Bomber Command. Explore one of our gifts to the world at this former American air base set in beautifully landscaped grounds, etc. Children will particularly enjoy the "hands-on experience" feature where they get the chance to crush their own tinpot dictator into submission with balsa wood stealth bombers. 5) Commons. Entry limited, normally, to every five years, and requires incredible nerve. Curiously beguiling mixture of waxworks, community care, and olde tyme music hall. (Sister attraction, Lords, currently being revamped for new season.) Next!

BBRRNNGG! Yes, that's the sound that can mean only one thing: someone is trying to Call The Captain! And it is none other than my "showbiz" correspondent, Ms Britt Bafter! "Captain, I think I've got something for you here. Have you noticed that, within a comparatively short period of time, Lionel Bart, Anthony Newley and Oliver Reed have died, and all of them with Dickensian connections? Lionel, of course, wrote Oliver!, in which the other Oliver starred as Bill Sikes, while Tony Newley was the Artful Dodger in the earlier David Lean film. You may recall, too, Captain, that the late Rod Hull lived for a time in the house in Rochester used by the great novelist as the model for Miss Havisham's residence." I thank Ms Bafter for this and replace the receiver.

GRIEVING, time to end it (2). Readers who have wandered with the Captain before may recall that recently, in a fascinating series, I charted the progress of some frog spawn as they made their way from my aquarium here to full frogdom in a pond in Snaresbrook. And, if you remember that, you must remember that we lost one along the way, Brooklyn, victim of an over- enthusiastic member of the paparazzi, another sacrifice on the altar of celebrity. He is buried here, in the plant pot also containing the remains of the pot plant introduced into this office by our former editor, Ms Rosie Boycott, to symbolise her campaign to legalise cannabis. Dreams, eh? I remember here, too, we once dreamed of banishing doggie doos from our streets. You might smile indulgently; where, though, would newspapers be without dreamers? But enough of that. There remains the aquarium. I wanted to leave it empty, permanently, as a tribute, but Victoria, office factotette and his former nanny, has persuaded me that it is time to move on and buy some fancy fish from her Aunt who runs this pet shop in Plaistow. We talk, apparently, of Cherry Babs, Lemon Tetras, Tiger Tetras, and White Mountain Cloud Minnows. They will be here soon.

I hope this is a good idea. Meanwhile, I append a photograph of the empty aquarium. Some people have also suggested that I open a book of condolence, or at least print a photo of the plant pot. What do you think?

BBRRNNGG! How exciting, someone else is Calling The Captain! And this time it's my literary correspondent, Hugh Advance. "Captain, do you remember Geoffrey Robinson, the former Paymaster General, runner of Jaguar, associate of Belgian widows and purveyor of bridging finance to aspirant cabinet ministers whose names begin with M and end in N?" I allow I recall old Geoff. "Well, he's certainly bashing away at his memoirs! Up with the lark and at the keyboard. In a hurry to get them ready, definitely!" To get them ready, I ask, for what? "For publication during the week of the Labour Party conference, of course!" But surely, I muse, this could embarrass the Government? "Perish the thought, Captain. And it depends what's in them, of course. I mean, he might reveal all about lots of things. But he's going round saying he can't see why anyone should be interested in his book. And, as Geoff is not famed for his irony, this could be good news for Mr Tony, but bad news for the newspaper that is supposed to have splashed out the price of a tasteful house in Notting Hill on the serialisation rights!" I thank Hugh and replace the receiver, reflecting, not for the first time, that both politics and publishing can be a damn tricky business. Next!

EXCLUSIVE views are not unusual in this office, you know. Following my item last week recalling Richard Nixon's celebrated comment on the Great Wall of China ("It's a great wall"), a senior executive here approached me and gave it as his view that Dicky was cracking a bit of a joke, and that the old boy's way with a gag and a wink has never been sufficiently appreciated. Interesting. If true, it throws new light on his other most celebrated remark, to Gypsy Dave Frost, during a break in the filming of the Nixon interviews, when he inquired of Frosty, by way of matey small talk, "Tell me, did you do any fornicating over the weekend?" Way to go, Dick!

CRACK that conundrum with the Captain. Christine Hamilton, wife of Neil, blond chap, teeny bit obsessive, interesting line in stationery, former associate of that most unBritish of Knightsbridge corners shop owners, M Fayed. Christine, the love, was on the radio the other day, giving this endorsement of Ann Widdecombe's leadership potential: "You wouldn't have to bother about the boobs." Right. A tough one. But it becomes a little clearer, I think, if you interpret "boobs" as the sort of "gaffes" that Wee Willie is prone to, you know, baseball hats, kitchen tables, Cecil Parkinson, that sort of thing. All right now?

INCREDIBLY beguiling, the picture, isn't it? No, not the fish tank, the Gustav Klimt, Black Hat with Feathers, 1910, over on the left. It was sent to me by Mr Smith of Leyton, on the other side of his winning entry in my competition to explain the significance of the school prefect Michael Portillo entering a classroom and announcing to his juniors: "My name is Portillo, but if you write it backwards, it spells ollitroP." Simple, writes Mr Smith: "Ollitrop comes from the Greek; 'oligos' meaning 'little', 'tropias' meaning 'sour'. So: backward-looking and a little sour." Thank you, Mr Smith: take a bottle of champagne. And one, too, while we're at it, for you, Mrs Mottram of Salisbury. Following my note about the Brazilian pretending to be an Italian waiter at a restaurant in Hampton Court, and my concern that such impersonation was widespread, Mrs Mottram writes to tell me that the waitresses pretending to be Tibetan at the Hilton in Lhasa in 1990 were, in fact, Chinese. Thank you. More reports, please!

DOMINATION. That, it's generally agreed, is what my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a thing of snippets and sundries, is achieving in the market. And, first, I hope you were there yesterday to watch the Bishop of Horsham touring Bognor Regis on an open top bus with the Mississippi Three jazz band in a bid to "raise the profile of the Church" in preparation for the millennium. The tour was organised by the Rev Keith Richards. No, it was. Next, the 1999 Moonlight Spin Doctor 7/40 Colourfast Award must go to Frank Dobson's man, Joe McCrea, for continuing to prattle on about what a splendid job Dobbo is doing even though at the time Joe was under general anaesthetic on an operating table at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital after falling down the stairs of a Soho restaurant. Well done, Joe! Next, the 1999 Moonlight Sir Geoffrey Boycott Good Sport Award goes to the batsman in western Puna who, rather than wait for the umpire's verdict, took his bat to the bowler who had appealed for lbw and bludgeoned him to death. Commiserations to keen bird watcher Sophia Hadi, who drove all the way from Leeds to Washington, Tyne and Wear, after a friend reported hearing a rare song thrush only to find it was, in fact, the noise made by a fork lift truck reversing at the local Asda. And, finally, congratulations to Fabrice Gropaiz, 27, a Parisian, who has become the first person to go round the world on roller skates. Sophia: tough. Fabrice: terrific. Everyone else: Bye!

MOONlight special: taking what they call "The Braveheart Option", the three party leaders in the well-hung Scottish parliament present their credentials in Edinburgh to Mr Sean Connery (flanked), who has clearly been impressed by the size of their polls. Donald Dewar is on the left. No? All right, it's Cardiff, Ron Davies, and Shirley Bassey, not Sean Connery. No? Nato's next phase? No? A visual plug for Mr Bagnall's column below? Actually, it's three Colombian students protesting against, naturally, economic policies. It is.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick