Captain Moonlight
Dieting is in the news a lot at the moment, isn't it? Lord Lawson, Luciano Pavarotti, all those schemes and plans and charts to get you looking good on the beach this summer. Naturally, I can help. Here follows Lose It With Captain Moonlight, sub-titled Yes It Hurt, Yes It Worked (for I was not always the sylph-like figure you see above). First, doctors, in general, if really pushed, seem to agree that, as a rule of thumb, in most cases, research seems to bear out that if you want to lose weight, you should eat less food. My startling breakthrough was to take this a stage further and ask only for food I didn't like. The weight loss, I can assure you, was phenomenal. Indeed, after a while, I found I could just look at, say, a picture of a cucumber, or the outside of a tin of tapioca to achieve the same effect, but I must stress this is best left to advanced Moonlight Non Munchers. Willpower, I hear you ask? Well, this is not so much of a problem for my generation, but I will pass on one tip (write in for a full service and fee scale): buy some clothes several sizes larger than your present outfits: you'll be amazed how many people ask you if you've lost a lot of weight. Next!

Battlefront Update... Battlefront update. You thought the focus of the Prime Minister's righteous rage in Europe was Germany, didn't you? Fellow Kohl comes over, smiles, eats beef, still does the dirty, that sort of thing. Wrong! The nation against which Mr Major harbours real hatred is... Belgium! True, the lowlanders have not behaved in a tremendously friendly fashion in the jellybaby imbroglio, and there was that refusal to stump up ammo at the time of the Gulf War, but it seems that the Major Belgo-hatred goes much deeper. Perhaps he doesn't like mayonnaise on his chips. Perhaps there was an unfortunate encounter on a day trip to Ostend. Whatever, he has been sneering to friends: "What have the Belgians ever produced? Only Hercule Poirot, and he is a fictional character!" Memo to PM: Eddie Merckx, cyclist. And quite a few more. Now name me 10 famous people from Worcester Park.

BUT, those Germans. And all the ridiculous stereotypes, too well known and tedious to need any more rehearsal from me. I, on the other hand, have hot news about water. And, let me tell you, German water companies have just been criticised for spending too much money on fixing their leaking pipes. A bit different from here, what? Percentage of said leaking conduits: one. But: prices sky-high, 20 times what they were in the old east. Result: Germans are washing less. They are. In fact, per capita, they are now using about half as much water as the Italians. Try that one out down the pub this lunchtime.

Bbrrnngg! The phone, my political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable, and another big one. Ron Davies, Labour MP for Caerphilly, is having Welsh lessons. Any connection with the position of Secretary of State for Wales in a future Labour administration can be entirely ruled in. But talking of ruling, was not Davies the man who came out as a republican recently? Indeed, he did. But not to worry. The Captain has a pithy phrase that Ron should practise against future encounters with the Prince of Wales: "Maddeuwch i mi eich Mawrhydi - roedd fy sylwadau wedi cael eu camddehongli gan y wasg adain dde. Roedd Mr Tony Blair yn flin - hir oes i'r Frenhines". I'll tell you what it means next week, Ron.

THE European space rocket fiasco prompts, yes, another Moonlight Memory. I've been to Kourou, where they let off the European rockets. The one I went to watch got off, eventually, but we couldn't see very much because it was cloudy. My principal memory is eating crocodile, while watching the Foreign Legion (Kourou is in French Guyana, by the way) marching past the restaurant in a tight column, singing one of their rousing marching songs. "Tremendous," I said, to my host. "They seem very happy, too, not enduring the life of hell we are led to believe is the lot of those unfortunate to end up in the Legion. Where are they off to?" "The brothel," replied my host. Moonlight Legion Joke: "I joined the Legion to forget." "To forget what?" "I can't remember."

Science Can Be Fun With Captain Moonlight: Ms Bridge writes from Leeds. She has just bought a Staywell catflap for her ginger tom, Basil. And, in the accompanying brochure, she discovered that Isaac Newton was a cat lover; not only that, but he had a hole cut in his barn so that his cat could come and go freely. And when the cat had kittens, he cut a smaller hole for them in the door. "It is possible," reports the brochure, "that Newton may have been conducting an experiment on cat behaviour, but it is more likely that he simply had not realised that the kittens could have easily used their mother's pet door." I also notice that the Genzyme Transgenics Corporation, of Framingham, Massachusetts, is conducting transgenic experiments on the milk producing abilities of mice (mice, as you know, have a similar system to dairy animals). Anyone in the area this summer should look out for giant mice with horns and report back to me. Thank you. Yours in Science.

Limelight with Moonlight. News, views and celebrity spotting from the wonderful world of showbusiness. And very hectic on the spotting side this week. Mr Sandison, of Codicote, near Hitchin, Herts, saw Clive Anderson, the television personality, wearing a black leather jacket in Upper Street, Islington. Mr Sandison and Mr Anderson had not met for a couple of years, so they passed each other, not quite brushing shoulders, without a word. Next, my colleague Keith's sister saw Steve Davis, the snooker player, at EuroDisney, and then, in what must be a unique double, Kenny Lynch on the plane back. Kenny Lynch? You must remember "Up On The Roof"! Mrs Munton of Brixton shared the 109 bus with Paddy Ashdown to Kennington. Smiled a lot, apparently. Celebrity Venue Tip: Sainsbury's at Putney. Nerys Hughes was there last week. And now: Moonlight's Pick of the Summer Shows: The Chuckle Brothers at the Pavilion, Weymouth, and Peter Jay's Circus at the Hippodrome, Great Yarmouth. How Peter manages to combine this with reporting on economic affairs for the BBC beats me, but hats off to him anyway!

Sad news indeed: I learn from The Tablet that the Archdeacon William Paley is dead. As The Tablet so wisely notes, his demise "will leave a unique hole in the Church of England. For the Archdeacon, whose learned writings on the Caribbean and the state of the Church often graced the letters pages of national newspapers, was in fact a parrot". The Archdeacon, or The Arch, as he was known, a blue and yellow macaw, was the companion of the Rev David Nicholls, vicar of Littlemore in Oxford, who named him in tribute to the 18th-century advocate of a supreme designer, God. Besides regularly corresponding with the Independent and the Guardian, and occasionally concluding, "I will now return to my perch" (cut by letters editors for some reason), the Archdeacon had a front-page story in the Daily Telegraph on the Haitian elections in 1987. He also appeared in the Oxford Diocesan Directory. "The Bishop's chaplain got rather cross, but I think the Bishop rather enjoyed the joke," says Mr Nicholls, who also wondered if I might give a plug to his last book, God and Government in an `Age of Reason'. The Archdeacon is now buried in his garden. No, my photograph is not of the Archdeacon; it is, in fact, Major, an automatic parrot I have acquired by mail order which repeats the last thing anyone says to him. The Archdeacon, by the way, used to say "Goodbye" when people came in. Perhaps I should send Major to Mr Nicholls. Pieces of Eight!

Competition Time! And today, with great sadness, we say goodbye to our sponsor, Thomas Pink, purveyor of shirts to people like Lulu, Michael Portillo and, for a few brief heady weeks, you. I did ask about the future, but Mr Pink somehow managed to change the subject. What should we do now? Wait for the usual unseemly jostle by captains of industry to acquire that prized space on my hat. Meanwhile to tide us over, and in an act of true Christian charity, the Rev Ashby, of All Saints, Sedgley, West Midlands, has sent in, free and gratis, the accompanying late entry for the favourite ads comp. Bless you, Vicar! Oh, and before I forget, the results of last week's teaser, in which you had to guess which instrument the Archbishop of Canterbury played in his happy-clappy Durham days

(very big on religion at the moment, this column, you notice). Well. Most of you plumped for spoons or squeezebox, and you were wrong. Step forward, Mr Muldoon of Fulham, who secured the final two pounds 50 Mr Pink vouchers by going for the trumpet, and submitting this corny joke tie-breaker, a particular favourite of mine: "My Dog has no nose". "How does it smell?" "Awful!" Well done, Mr Muldoon!

Captain Moonlight's Catch-up Service

Big, big welcome to the only news review that offers real insight into the human condition ... Thirteen trains from Manchester were delayed after a replica of Stephenson's Rocket crashed on the line to Bolton ... Everthorpe Prison, Hull, has a pagan chaplain. Philip Heselton visits the solitary pagan there and talks to him about paganism. He does not conduct rituals because they always take place outdoors ... The Caspian plover, Blyth's reed warbler and a female summer-plumaged grey phalarope were spotted on Shetland last week ... A prisoner hurt leaping from a lavatory window at a Stockholm court sued because no one told him he was on the third floor (claim dismissed) ... The Who have given permission for their Sixties anthem, My Generation, to be used to advertise ice lollies ... A third of New York's beaches were closed after lifeguards were found to be overweight and slow in the water ... A thief who took off his glasses to avoid being recognised as he robbed a bank in Madrid stumbled into furniture and was arrested after fleeing into the arms of police.

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