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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific