Captain Moonlight
At Last! After weeks of intense, round-the-clock, hard-ball, rolled- sleeve negotiations between the top team turned out by the Independent on Sunday's advertising department and representatives of some of Britain's largest industrial concerns, I can reveal today that the Captain's new sponsors are ... the Captain's old sponsors, Graham's Port, fief of the Symingtons, the Anglo-Portuguese family that seems to own most ports, the family that has entertained John Major up the Douro, the family that has so far failed to invite the Captain up the Douro, the family that last week allowed its representatives in this country to treat the Captain to lunch. In Acton. Acton. Extraordinary place. Beyond Baron's Court. Still, they were very friendly at the importers, John E Fells and Son. Fells also acts for the monks who make chartreuse, you know. Apparently there's a pub in Wigan that gets through six bottles a week. Everybody in Lancashire knows that they eat the most tremendous amount of pies in Wigan, but I had no idea they washed them down with chartreuse. George Orwell certainly didn't mention it. Anyway, I was plied with fine wine and, naturally, port; and, equally naturally, it was much better port than they've given me to give to you, although I think I have shamed them into providing one good bottle at the end of the run. The cook had a dog with her, a long-haired miniature dachshund, which I was glad to see was still there when I left. They were also very proud that they had just persuaded the proprietor of the Acton Grill to exchange his bottle of Cockburn's behind the bar for one of theirs. Such is the pace of life in Acton. Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned Cockburn's (the "ck", I believe, is silent). But I know you'll like my new hat. And what a slogan!

n THE more alert of you will have noticed the funny lines by now. What are they for? I'll tell you: it's Captain Moonlight's Free Cut-Out-and- Keep Madame Vasso Blue Pyramid! Yes! Here, free and available in your very own Independent on Sunday, the psychic energies of old Egypt that have made Madame Vasso and the Duchess of York the figures they are today! Just follow the Captain's simple instructions and you, too, can be under a pyramid in a matter of minutes. 1) Cut along the red outer lines. 2)Fold along the blue inner lines. 3) Take the flap and stick it under the bottom. 4) Seize blue felt-tip pen and apply evenly. 5) Retire into the corner of the room, don pyramid and wait. A good way of encouraging receptivity to the energies of old Egypt is to take the blue felt-tip pen and write out a cheque to Captain Moonlight. Nile be seeing you!

SOME people, including The Editor, have asked me if I see any parallel between my behaviour in accepting this sponsorship and that of Mr Neil Hamilton, MP. My response has been robust, forthright and just a little hurt: if, to spread a little innocent happiness among my readers by providing them with the bottled wherewithal to fend off life's cares between the cheese crackers and the washing-up, it means going to Acton, or up the Douro, if I am ever asked, then I will do it. And let me say now, publicly, that if that nice Mr al-Fayed wants his name up there in time for his New Year Sale, he has only to open a charge account in the name of "Mrs Moonlight" at the Applejack Off Licence, South Lambeth Road, London SW8. Thank you.

BBRRNNGG! It must be the telephone. And, on the other end, my political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable. She tells me she is in Blackpool, where she was privileged, she says, to witness an outstanding example of the sensitivity, tact and quiet common sense for which Group 4 is rightly renowned. One of its operatives gave Lord Tebbit the severest body search of the week. Anyone, by the way, who hacked into her pager system and was puzzled by the message from Mr Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's press spokesman, which read, "Sorry, no. But I know who the nun was at Sam McCluskey's funeral", should write in with a sae and postal order, usual terms.

One of the especial joys of compiling this column is the books that find their way to me. Casting an eye about my meticulously organised desk, I see, at random, Collins Pocket Scots Dictionary; Contacting The Spirit World: How To Develop Your Psychic Abilities And Stay In Touch With Loved Ones; Mother Teresa's A Simple Path; The Big O: Understanding and Improving Your Orgasm; Guidelines For Bias-Free Writing (by Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-Free Language of the Association of American University Presses); a biography of Michael Portillo; The Complete Manchester United Trivial Fact Book; and The Daily Telegraph Book of Canadian Obituaries, the latest arrival. This is a bit of a corker, even if the foreword by Mr Conrad Black, the Telegraph's Canadian proprietor, is unusually unorotund, although he does refer to a dead teacher as a "deceased educator". The pick, surpassing even Buck Crump, Brigadier General Swatty Wotherspoon, and Flying Phil Gaglardi, the British Columbia roads minister continually being fined for speeding, is Colonel Bucko Watson, who was found by an old friend, Colin McDougal, in a shell hole in Italy where he had lain for a day and a night, suffering from a wound in one arm, and a piece of his helmet and a Schmeisser bullet in his forehead. "Hello, Bucko," said McDougal. "Oh, hello, Colin," said Watson. And that was their entire conversation.

Sorry? The sponsor's port? All right, all right, there's plenty to go round. The first bottle goes to Mr G House of Wimbledon, who, with uncanny prescience, wrote in last week wondering when the new sponsorship would be announced. Mr House had also noticed the item in last week's catch-up service about the chess player, Viktor Ritskia, who had smashed up a computer with a chair after it had beaten him three times on the run, and he claims to smell a rat. I quote: "For was it not you, yourself, sir, who informed us in October 1994 of another chess player, Viktor Rittekropt, who was also beaten three times by a chess computer (this time in Cherbourg), and who also beat it to pieces with a chair!" What, wonders Mr House, are we to make of this extraordinary coincidence: "Chess players with the name of Viktor are temperamentally unstable, and should not be allowed near furniture? Viktor Rittekropt, a broken man after his first triple computer defeat, changed his name, only for history gruesomely to repeat itself?" Well. Blimey! I have to say Mr House has me stumped here. Fairly in-depth investigations have failed to disclose anyone who knows anything at all about either Viktor. Mr House suggests a Moonlight Challenge between Viktor, Viktor, a computer and two chairs, sponsored by Toshiba and MFI. Viktor and Viktor, call me at once!

Captain Moonlight's Miscellany ... The Saturday after next, Eddie Lejeune and the Morse Playboys will be playing Slaithwaite Civic Hall. Eddie, I am told, is probably the finest Cajun accordionist alive. You, for your part, wonder exactly how many Cajun accordionists there are ... Last week, Mr J Lampers brought us exciting news from the West Country of an illustrated WI lecture on every aspect of the A31. This week, from Torquay, courtesy of Ms R Clark, comes the report of a Townswomen's Guild meeting featuring a lecture by a Devon police officer on the local drugs scene plus a competition for an unusual pill box ... and, finally, Mr T Fort, of Sonning Common, noticed, while on a touring holiday of France, that there are far fewer squashed animals on the roads there than there are here and wondered why this might be. Port for All!

BBRRNNGG! Another telephone call from Ms Tributable, who is now at London Euston. She has forgotten, she says, to pass on a world exclusive: "David Trimble told a joke!" I express the hope that it was funnier than the John Redwood joke with which we stunned the nation a few weeks ago. "See what you think, Captain," she shouts. "Trimbers, as I call him, asked a fringe meeting what was the difference between Belfast and Bangkok." And? "In Belfast, he said, you can't join the Labour Party!" There is a silence between us, broken only by muffled loudspeaker announcements in the background. "He then said," says Ms Tributable, "that anything else you can do in Bangkok, you can do in Belfast. I'm off there now." Extraordinary. The Esperanto, by the way, for the Labour Party is Socialista Partio. Bye!

The Captain's Catch-up Service

Time once again to bring you some of the fascinating events of the last week that you might just have missed ... Brian Hudson, 60, of Borehamwood, had his matchstick replica of Canterbury Cathedral trampled flat by his pet dog, Skip ... Dave Meredith, 44, a police sergeant, was attacked in his most sensitive parts by a squirrel in the lavatory of Ascot police station ... Rajiv Kamir, a Madras train announcer, has been sacked for breaking wind over the loudspeaker to the opening of Beethoven's Fifth. "It was a disgusting deviation from the timetable," said a railway spokesman ... After spending six years writing out every number from one to a million in a bid for inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records, Fred Goble, of Brighton, has just learnt that the compilers want the numbers in words rather than digits. Mr Goble has started again and was last reported to be on 22, sorry, twenty-two.

Fired by the emotion and vision of Mr Tony Blair's few words at Blackpool last week, I immediately commissioned Moonlight artists to give us a hint of how Kim Il Blair could look. I foresee this picture of The Great Wise Leader, President For Life, Dearly Beloved And Sagacious Leader in every tobacconist and barber shop in the land. Yes, that chap in the forage cap does look amazingly like Peter Mandelson, doesn't he? But you will be wondering about the words. So am I. The most imaginative translation sent in to me will be rewarded with a bottle of port. And now for an Andrew Neil Hair Update. We told you last week that it had taken on a rather violent orange shade. We are delighted to be able to report that it now seems to have settled down to a nicely autumnal russet. Keep watching!