Diary: Cry harder ... President Kinnock ... ring pull

Captain Moonlight
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Indy Lifestyle Online
No one has ever accused the Captain of not being abreast of journalistic trends. And I have noticed that the personal testimony, the unburdening of the soul in print, is popular at the moment. So today I thought I would have a bash. There was this survey last week on what makes men cry. It revealed, inter alia, that 58.9 per cent of the men surveyed cried because they were sad. But what makes the Captain cry? Stand by: 1) A falling star. 2) The silences in Gregorian Chant. 3) Dawn breaking over Port Stanley. 4) All day in Port Stanley. 5) Absolutely anything by Mozart. 6) Or Paul Johnson. 7) The smile of Keith "Cheggers" Chegwin. 8) When they lock up Mrs Jumbo, Dumbo's mother. 9) A child calling out in the night. 10) Again. 11) And again. 12) Visiting Central Park, Wigan. 13) Half-day closing. 14) Flat-pack assembly instructions. 15) Hank Snow, the singing ranger, singing "When It's Spring Time in Alaska, I'll Be Six Feet Below". 16) A spilt drink. 17) Anna Ford interviewing John Birt. 18) My video recorder. 19) The pipes. 20) And the boiler. 21) The support, warmth and kind words of my colleagues, family, friends; and, of course you, with whom I have enjoyed all these wonderful Sundays, and to whom I want to say: thank you. Excuse me a moment.

BBRRNNGG! The telephone rings; the operator inquires if I will accept the charges; it is, naturally, Hercule, my Common Market correspondent, calling from Brussels. "Mon Capitaine," says Hercule. "I 'ave an 'ot one, concerning your Mr Neil Kinnock!" It being August, I ask Hercule to go on. "Well, it is like this. Your Mr Tony Blair comes to power, ushering in a new era of Anglo Europhilia. Our Monsieur Santer's term of office as President of the Commission come to an end in 2000. Who shall succeed him? Ze word, mon Capitaine, is that it will be your Mr Kinnock, who is winning golden opinions 'ere and has taken to the life like a Greek to a subsidy. 'Ot, eh?" Hot enough for August, I tell him, replacing the receiver pensively.

Last week, you will recall, I supplied the answer to a question that I know has been troubling a lot of you, off and on, for many years: what exactly John Motson was doing when England won the World Cup in 1966. He was, I was able to tell you, by quoting from John's latest book, Motty's Diary - A Year In The Life, watching the game on television. I promised to tell you today what John did later on that famous, unforgettable day. And here it is, once again in John's words: "In the evening I had to report a student exchange visit for the Barnet Press. It took place in Boreham Wood, and when I got there I discovered that the visiting students were German. Unsurprisingly, none of them thought the ball was over the line." So there you have it. Next week: the true story behind Motty and the offer to host They Think It's All Over.

BBRRNNGG! And, on the telephone this time, after a lengthy absence, Duane, my guide to the exciting world of the demi-monde. He has not been in touch since he alleged that Lionel Blair's dog, Eric, was named in tribute to George Orwell, a claim I have been attempting to test, without success, ever since. But the Captain is not a man to harbour grudges. "Captain!" shouts Duane. "I have it on very good authority that President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia has bought a house in Holland Park!" This, I allow, is interesting, if a touch unlikely. The source? "The Serbian barman at my health club," replies Duane. I telephone the Serbian embassy. The press attache is unimpressed. "Don't believe it!" he says. "Who told you such a thing?" For a second, I am tempted to tell him. Next time, Duane.

We are a small, tight-knit group here at the Independent on Sunday, united in our determination to bring you the brightest, most stimulating Sunday read on the block. How do we do it? Team spirit. When one of us triumphs, we all triumph. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. The Editor is away at the moment, actually. Relaxing with the confidence that trust brings. The Deputy Editor has been soldiering on without Him, uncomplaining. And uncomplaining, too, about his accident last week. He fell down the stairs leaving his gym. When one of us hurts, we all hurt, even those who, like the Captain, have always warned against the dangers of exercise. Right now, too, we are all rooting for the Production Editor as he tries to go one better than last year's second prize for his pink fir apple potatoes in the Eastney and Milton Allotment Holders' Autumn Show. The Independent on Sunday. At the edge. On the edge.

Nature watch with Captain Moonlight. A walrus, by heaven, off the Isle of Arran! Two sightings. The first was off Sannox beach, by a French fisherman who rowed to within 15 yards. "There was this head sticking out of the water. It had massive shoulders but no tusks," said the Frenchman, adding: "It looked like Ailsa Craig." (Captain's Note: the last bit is not as insulting as it sounds. Ailsa Craig is a rock.) The second sighting was by Charles Clover, environment editor of the Daily Telegraph, who saw "a large brown conical shape emerge and sink back into the water off the village of Corrie". Now I cannot vouch for the Frenchman, but I have known Mr Clover these many years and am quite prepared to bow to him in the matter of walruses, even though they should all be minding their own business within the Arctic Circle. The lack of tusk? Not unusual, apparently. And did you know that a walrus can stay under water for 10 minutes? Strange times, indeed. It was also reported last week that Mystic Meg was about to be sacked from the National Lottery television programme even though she knew nothing about it. Next!

Your letters continue to be an unfailing source of joy. Following my musings last week, on "The Tomato: Fruit or Veg?" and my contention that compatibility with the application of salt is the defining feature of the vegetable, someone signing himself "Old Boxwallah" has written in to say that, in India, both oranges and guavas are often eaten with salt. Mr P Lowe, of Newcastle, writes: "A tomato (with or without salt) is part of the plant's sex organs and therefore a fruit. Conversely, rhubarb, on to which the Captain doubtless piles sugar, is a plant stem, and, therefore, a vegetable". Amazing how sex gets dragged into absolutely everything these days, isn't it? Meanwhile, a regular correspondent, Mr W Long of Loughton, has sent me the loyalty card from Sainsbury's, Debden, for which he applied in the name of Mr M Bormann. More from the Captain's postbag next week.

All right, all right. You can't wait until next week to hear the truth about Motty and They Think It's All Over, the sports quiz show presented by Nick Hancock and starring David Gower and Gary Lineker. Here's Motty, in his book: "I auditioned for what later became Nick Hancock's job - and was offered the part. The BBC Sports Department, wisely in retrospect, advised me against it. The show has an irreverent edge to it, and that could have caused conflict with sports people who might want to regard me as a serious commentator." So there you have it. Our loss.

Steady. I have another in my continuing series of anecdotes illustrating the "Lighter Side of Science". You will remember that Heisenberg, of the Uncertainty Principle, having tripped over, resisted all offers of help with the cry: "Leave me alone! I am solving it!". Today: John von Neumann, the mathematician who invented Game Theory and many of the concepts of the digital computer in the 1930s and 1940s. An interesting driver, von Neumann, particularly in the steering department. He used to crash his car regularly because he had a penchant for turning the driving wheel in time to the music playing on the car radio. Next!

Dear reader, as you sit in your armchair in the reader home, do you ever dream of a windfall, an influx of spondulicks that could change the lives of the reader family for ever? I can help. This company called JND has sent me a letter telling me that I'm in with a very good chance of coming up trumps in its $1m sweepstake. All I have to do is to return the gift claim form. Not only will I then go into the $1m draw, but I will be sent a free gift cheque as well. And I also get the chance to order one of the delightful Chinese teapots that you see below. Anyway, I've been thinking, dear reader, and, as I am a man of few needs, I've decided to share the money with you. When I win, we'll have our own simple competition, and the winner of that will get the million. Just one thing: do you think I should order one of these teapots?

You will have been moved as much as I was by the poignant pictures of Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing her wedding and engagement rings on the day of her divorce. I have since read all manner of explanations for this, mostly of the "pyschological" kind; but no one has pointed out a more likely reason: the Princess is simply short of rings. So, on her behalf, I have taken the liberty of perusing the Argos catalogue and present here three I feel might best fit the bill. The one with the big stone (left) is a "Glow In The Dark Ring", and costs pounds 19.99. The Barbie ring (centre) is sterling silver, and only pounds 4.99. The birthday bear (right) is a little more costly, at pounds 9.99, but she would get a free "birthday bear gift box" with it. Watch those fingers!

Exclusive. And one which other, "trendier", more youthful departments of this newspaper would have killed for: the real truth about that mega- selling Oasis album, Morning Glory... For I, Captain Moonlight, can reveal that the figure with his back to us which millions of record buyers have believed to be Liam Gallagher is, in fact, not Liam Gallagher at all. No. It is Brian Cannon, designer of the sleeve, who made the fatal mistake of arranging the shoot rather too early in the morning for Liam. Result: another no show, panic, and the subterfuge you see before you. Captain Moonlight. For the big stories.

The Captain's Catch-up Service

And now, time once again to catch up with the more interesting events of the week ... PC Gareth Jenkins persuaded two youths hiding in a culvert in Bakewell to surrender by barking and threatening to send police dogs in after them ... Tony Carabine, an Elvis Presley fan, married Karen Boardman in Redcar and then acted out the wedding scene from Blue Hawaii in a local park ... A drunken Swede who commandeered a shopping trolley in Mottala and collided with a car while travelling downhill at a speed of 30mph has been charged with careless driving ... Michael Manning, a Birmingham taxi firm owner, was attacked in his office by robbers with machetes, cutting him about the head. Blood from his wound soaked his VAT returns, forcing him to do them again. Now he has been fined more than pounds 3,000 for sending them in late ... Tara Brown, a teacher from Truro, and her cat, Oscar, are both in plaster with broken legs after separate accidents ... Sister Ruth Augustus, a British woman claiming to be a nun, was thrown out of a Dublin hotel after trying to reserve a seat in the restaurant for a three foot high glass fibre statue of the Virgin Mary. Sister Ruth was asked to remove the statue because "it was doing nothing for business and the only place that would serve both her and the statue was McDonald's".

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