n DO not expect any snidery about the Princess of Wales from this column, last redoubt of royalism against the republicanism whose fell hand has fallen across the rest of the newspaper. The girl is just trying to broaden her experience of life, for heaven's sake. I want to help, not mock. Which is why, below, I present a range of other occupations she could go and learn a little about. Have fun, dear, and take no notice of the knockers!
SOME people, I know, are under the impression that this spin doctoring business is good fun. Don't be so sure. Hardly a day passes without some attack on poor Alastair Campbell, Mr Tony Blair's off-breaker, when all he is trying to do is bully journalists. And now I hear that Jonathan Haslam, Mr Major's new man, has come under fire from Robin Oakley, the BBC's political editor, for his less than helpful attitude. Oakley, apparently, wanted to know exactly what the Government policy was on the European beef ban. Haslam replied that he couldn't help. Oakley was outraged, which seems unfair on Haslam; far greater minds than his have had problems explaining non-existence. No wonder Auden wrote: "Sob as you spin, mantled in mist, remote from the happy." Next!
n BEEF beef (2). DOUGLAS Hogg and that hat (2). I first drew your attention to the wide-brimmed hat worn by the Agriculture Minister, Indiana Hogg, some weeks ago. I haven't seen him wearing it with a bow tie since (Rhett Hogg), but last week he came out of a Government office carrying the hat, got into his Government car, and then put the hat on. What do you make of that? Should we be worried?
THIS big tower where we work, at Canary Wharf, is not made of ivory, no, sir. Just look up at the captainly masthead if you don't believe me. No, not the surgical mask; that's my tribute to the Princess of Wales. I refer to the sponsor's name. That shows this officer's knack at getting alongside the real, hard world out there. Some stuffy types might jib at association with a shirt maker, but anyone who attracts the custom of both Billy Joel and Dougie Hurd must have something. But let's not get sentimental. Sponsorships don't last for ever. And last week, I think I found a couple of good future prospects. Both came about at an amusing little supper party at The White Tower restaurant given to mark the bicentenary of Mason's Ironstone, the china people, where I met the Earl Grey, Canadian descendant of the tea man, who must be the only lumberjack who sells china; and certainly the only extant peer of the realm who has been headbutted at a sporting dinner. But it is his chairmanship of the London Crematorium Company that excited me: what a sponsor that would be! Think about it, your Earlship. The other opportunity? Well, Mason's Ironstone are owned by Waterford Wedgwood, whose chairman is the sainted Doctor O'Reilly, part prop of this newspaper and purchaser of Jackie Onassis's engagement ring for the snip of pounds 1.75m. And it suddenly struck me that I could give away all their leftover Fergie commemorative crockery. Doctor?
n CAN you help? Gazing down from the Press Gallery at Question Time last week, I couldn't help noticing something odd on the Tory benches. Sorry? No, not Michael Fabricant. Actually, I'm not sure about that green leather, I think I'd prefer something a bit more floral, in velour. More friendly, might make them less shrill and confrontational. Anyway, there was this terrific crush of members, except for one spot. Two spots, really. On either side of David Ashby, the member for North West Leicestershire. Has he done something wrong?
INTERACTIVE Corner: the part of the column that you write because I have all this space to fill and you are desperate to get your hands on some of Mr Pink's Vouchers. And I have to tell you first of all that no one has come up with a convincing explanation of why so many towns are built on seven hills (and I must say, Mr Smith of Halstead, Essex, that I resent on my other readers' behalf your suggestion that they are making them up simply to get a shirt). Ms Manfield of Tonbridge tells me that Plovdiv, in Bulgaria, was built on seven hills before one was blown up to build a new road some years back (very good, Ms Manfield, send me your address). Ms Benington of south London, entering my competition to guess how quickly Gilbert and George walk, says she saw them walking (b) quite quickly across Commercial Road recently, but that might have been on account of the trafffic. And Mr Thompson, of Churchstoke, Powys, provides an intriguing addendum to my accidental spraying of the cat next door with one of those lawn fertiliser thingies you attach to the hose and its subsequent alarming growth. Obviously, he writes, this is where the Surrey Puma, the Beast of Bodmin and the rest came from; and why they have never been caught, since they must have shrunk back to normal size when the effects of the fertiliser wore off. Well done, everybody!
n MY Moonlit heart raced as I read the Daily Star on Thursday, my usual aperitif to perusal of Prospect, the exciting new magazine for thinkers, and PPP News, the exciting house magazine of the PPP healthcare group, which they keep sending me, for some reason. There, next to an exciting picture of a Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle accompanied by a young blonde lady described, for some reason, as "Barb Wire Babe" (perhaps Mr Ian Hargreaves could introduce pictures of motorcycles into his exciting new New Statesman), was a most interesting article about Alistair Burt, the social security minister. Apparently, Alistair had dashed out into the street clad only in his wife's pink dressing gown because he thought someone was stealing his car. It turned out, though, to be a neighbour driving off in his car, a similar one to Alistair's. My musings on what Alistair would look like dressed only in a pink dressing gown (above left) were interrupted by a nagging doubt: surely he didn't live in Chatham; and surely his wife wasn't called Suzette? Quite so: this, it turned out, was another Alistair Burt altogether. Next!
GREAT news from China! The writing monkey, long thought extinct, has been discovered in the Wuyi mountains, in Fujian province, in the East. You must remember the writing monkey. It weighs only seven ounces, is highly intelligent, and bears a remarkable resemblance to Douglas Hogg. Ancient Chinese scholars kept them as pets; Zhu Xi, the 12th century philosopher, trained one to prepare ink, pass his writing brushes and turn his pages, hence the name. Which brings me to my appeal for more ancient Chinese sayings, following on from the satisfying submission by my esteemed colleague, Geoffrey Lean, "If you sit on the river bank long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by." Now Mr Carse, of Lindfield, West Sussex, has written in with "Happiness is seeing an old friend fall from a high building." I'm not sure I understand that, although Mr Carse is an architect, which might help. Mrs Smeaton of Hitchin submits Paul Theroux's favourite: "A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in". And Ms Una Tributable, my parliamentary corrrespondent, sent this: "If all your cattle have been rustled by brigands, all your money has been lost in a foolish investment, and your spouse is persistently and cruelly unfaithful, it does not necessarily mean that your house will not burn down". More please: Pink Vouchers!
n THE Captain has been well gripped by the saga of the missing ball from the 1966 World Cup Final, snaffled by Helmut Haller, the chunky one I never liked who scored the first goal, when it should by all right and tradition have gone to Geoff Hurst, plunderer of the hat trick that sank the plucky Germans. By the time you read this Hurst and the spheroid will have been reunited. To mark these significant events, and, let's face it, to have a bit of fun, here is my special competition, Spot The Ball With Captain Moonlight. All you have to do is mark the spot where you think the famous ball is with a cross. The winner will receive a copy of After Hours, the brilliant new CD from Bill Tarmey, better known to some as Jack Duckworth of Coronation Street, featuring, among other sensitively treated standards, "Fool (If You Think It's Over)".
SACRE Bleu! Jacques Chirac is popping over in a couple of weeks, you know. And as part of putting the en in fe^te, the French Embassy here is throwing a party for prominent French people living in Britain to meet the old boy. And who is the most prominent French person living in Britain? Why, the old trawling sardine himself, M Cantona. But my man in Paris, Serge, detects a certain reluctance to invite Le Grand Eric. Is this because M Chirac is not a fan? Is it because they are worried about the Sevres if he goes into kung fu mode? Je ne sais pas, as they say, I believe, over there. But I do know, because Serge has told me, that senior government officials have been taking soundings about how a snub to Eric would go down over here. Captain's Elysee's Advice: this is definitely not a homme to traverser. Non!
n BBRRNNGG! It is Commendatore Chi Si Dedica a Una Seconda Occupazione, my Italian counterpart. "Capitano!" he cries. "Great news from Rome! Your Tony Blair, your leader laburista, has written to Romano Prodi! It is tutti over L'Unita. Allow me to translate from that distinguished periodical: 'The Labour leader ... is ... radiant, saying ''I experienced an immense pleasure hearing the results of Sunday's elections''. Immense? Exactly so: "immense".' The article goes on to note that your Tony signed off 'Yours ever' and comments, 'You couldn't ask for any more: it is the most in any language.' But one thing is puzzling me, Capitano. It also refers to Labour's local election campaign as "Il grande macello'', which translates as The Grand Slaughter. Is that really what Labour is calling it?" I promise to find out, and telephone Walworth Road, where they tell me their slogan for the elections is "Tories Hit You Where It Hurts". Not quite the same ring to it, in my view. Ciao!
WHAT'S the matter? Haven't you ever seen a Welshman in a kilt before? It's Peter Telfer, a freelance television producer and director, modelling a fetching little number made by Gad Y Gwlan, a Cardiff fashion company. The Welsh kilt is made from plain black Welsh wool and is worn longer than the Scottish and Irish, and used, according to Edwina Williams Jones of Gad Y Gwlan, "formally or for walking/clubbing/life in our time". They are also "an ironic post modern take". Why am I telling you all this? Because some weeks ago, I cast doubt on the existence of the Welsh kilt. And now here it is. Ms Williams Jones, I sense, is more in tune with the rest of this section than the Captain: when I asked her if anything was worn under a Welsh kilt, she failed to give the correct reply, which is, of course, "No, everything's in perfect working order". Oi!
The Captain's Catch-up Service
HI! Welcome to the news review that makes you think on ... Sir Cliff Richard is the man most British women would like to marry, according to a poll in Bella magazine ... The Pope has refused Sylvester Stallone permission to marry Jennifer Flavin in the Sistine Chapel. Stallone is twice divorced and Ms Flavin is five months' pregnant. "I'm very angry," Stallone said. "We could have brought in loads of tourists and created lots of free publicity for them" ... Ron Sherwin, of St Ives, collects airline sick bags ...Yakov Kreizberg, principal conductor with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique with his eyebrows after slipping a disc ... Drivers who kill animals on the road in Montana can take them to The Roadkill Cafe, which advertises: "You kill it, we grill it" ... Doctors have told Ken Harman of Southwark to stop playing postal chess because the excitement is too much for him ... Dora Oberling, a stripper from Tampa, Florida, cheated death when a bullet fired at her by an irate 75-year-old member of the audience bounced off her silicone breast implants ... Firefighters were called to Cardiff Central fire station after the crew rushed off on an emergency call leaving a piece of toast trapped in the toaster ...Reuse content