n IT'S A Funny Old World With Captain Moonlight. I thought about this one; I did. Irony, metaphor, Yeatsian change, historical lessons, relevancy, piquancy, poignancy, whimsy: I toyed with them all before deciding that the best approach would be to present this exclusive piece of Moonlight Information bare, unadorned, stark. Barry Denny, the industrial correspondent of the Morning Star is, I hear, resigning to take up a position as a security guard.
TORY backbenchers. A lot of people scoff at them, don't they? Parliamentary sketchwriters give them a dreadful time. Lobby fodder, fawning toadies, timorous time-servers: these are the kinder descriptions. The Captain says: Enough! Tory backbenchers have feelings, too. The wearing of hair oil and pinstripe suits does not entirely preclude pain, you know. These are remarkable people who should be closely studied, not mocked. Take Lord Margadale who, as John Morrison, was a legendary chairman of the 22, and who died last week. Asked if he had taken a degree at Cambridge, Margadale replied: "No. I never intended to be a schoolmaster". Then there's Dr Robert Spink (Castle Point) who has just had this correction published in the Daily Express: "Dr Spink ... has asked us to clarify his views on capital punishment reported on October 31, 1995. He does not consider it acceptable for any person to hang and is only in favour of re-introduction of the death penalty if the criminal justice system is strengthened so that there is no real risk of this occurring." You will be surprised to learn that Dr Spink is not one of the 143 MPs deemed worth sending a copy of the new magazine for thinkers, Prospect. Others not included: Michael Fabricant, Terry Dicks, Edward Heath, any Dames, Gerald Kaufman, Tim Boswell, the junior minister who was so impressive over milk, and, of course, Virginia Bottomley. What can they be thinking of?
Moonlight Limelight. Fleet Street's sharpest celebrity service. Who's hot, who's not... news, views, sightings. And first up, lovely Joanna Lumley, whom I happened to spot near the household bleach in Sainsbury's at Nine Elms, south London, on Bank Holiday Monday. Next, Jess Conrad. Now don't tell me you haven't heard of Jess Conrad! Singer. Very big in the Sixties. Well, all right, quite big. And the other day, Jess returned to find his car had been clamped by an operator who told him it would cost pounds 65 to have the clamp removed. Jess told him he was a singer who did a lot of work for charity. The clamper asked Jess if he had sung anything he would know. Jess launched into one of his big ones, "This Pullover",
and the wheel clamper said, "That will be pounds 75". I guess that's showbiz. Keep those celebrity sightings coming!
Spooky Corner. In which the Captain brings you to a close acquaintance with the uncanny and a nodding relationship with the unexplained. So there I was, on Tuesday, driving through Deptford; and, it being Deptford, one's thoughts obviously turned to Christopher Marlowe, or Kit as some of us know him, who met an untimely and mysterious end down the pub there (much speculation about him being a spy, that sort of thing; I suspect, being a poet, he didn't stand his corner, which they have never liked, down in Deptford). Anyway, such were my thoughts when, blow me, what should hie into view but a large lorry with "Shakespeare (Maidstone)" emblazoned on the side. What more proof would you need that Kit was, in fact, the Man of Stratford? When I telephoned Shakespeare's, Nick Verrall, the managing director, told me they had chosen the name for its recognition factor, much better than "Fred Bloggs, Road Haulage" or whatever. And then he added that, purely fortuitously most nights they took a load to Warwickshire. Allow me to quote Helena, from one of Kit's hit comedies: "We must away; Our waggon is prepared, and time revives us: All's Well That Ends Well." Next: what odds would you give against an RSPCA inspector out walking his labrador discovering the body of a five-foot crocodile just next to the North Circular in Finchley? Quite. But it happened last week. The RSPCA say it was a discarded pet and London Zoo seem certain that it's too cold for crocodiles outside in Finchley, but I for one will not be stopping round there. Finally, a parrot called Houdini has gone missing in Colchester, while a cat called Houdini has gone missing in Greenford. All makes you think.
Battlefront Update ... Battlefront Update ... And I knew it wouldn't be long before truth became the first casualty. We old hands have been through all this too many times to doubt it. The Captain, doubtless many of you will recall, was the last man into Port Stanley. Working for another newspaper, then. I relieved heroic colleague who had yomped and all that. Followed another colleague's suggestion by walking into the bar of the famous Upland Goose hostelry, ordering a pint, taking a sip, and then saying to the irascible mine host, Mr Desmond King, "Have you had some trouble round here?" Our relationship never really recovered. But, the point, the point. Allegations of censorship in the Jelly Baby War. My source: Neil Kinnock. Who was told that because of the nine o'clock watershed, morning, lunchtime and early evening bulletins could not use the vital word: "Semen". Could it be true? ITN and the BBC both deny it firmly. The BBC, though, were a little dubious about the ITN denial. Independent hearings, please.
Hello!... Hello!... Can you hear me?... Is there anybody there? A devoted few of you may remember that last week I mentioned my little problem with BT, about how I had spent so much time listening to that music they put on while they keep you waiting that I had asked what the tune was called and when they were going to change it. I also mentioned that I was still waiting for them to call back. And I'm still waiting. Hello!... Is there anybody there?... Sir Ian Vallance, call!
THAT'S the thing about bus stories: you don't get one for months and then two come along at once. Last week I told you of my life-enhancing encounter with Sir Nicholas Scott on a bus in Fleet Street. This week: the East London Bus & Coach Company. They don't have conductors, you know. They have receptionists. A would-be conductor applied, only to be told there were no vacancies for receptionists, and that there was a height restriction of 5ft 11in as taller applicants "may experience problems standing correctly on the upper deck". (Historians among you will recall that this is why John Major is not now a Brixton bus conductor.) Receptionists, though! Splendid! Presumably, they say, as you hop on, "Hi! I'm afraid the omnibus chief executive is a little tied up at present, behind the wheel. Coffee or tea?" Reports, please!
COME a bit closer. Have you seen the front of this section? Do you notice anything different about it? That's right: they've demoted me! That bit on the right hand side (known in the trade, for some reason, as puff boxes) trailing the contents of this youth-orientated part of the paper, used to feature me on top. And now I'm on the bottom. They've fobbed me off with some pathetic story about the puff for the back page belonging logically at the bottom, but I don't believe a word of it. Logic! I ask you! It's quite clearly petty revenge for my staunch anti-republican stand and my belief that yes, the middle-aged and older do have a point. Write in to The Editor protesting and I'll pretend it's all spontaneous. These things are important, you know. They are.
COMPETITION TIME! Listen, your response to my competition for uninspiring advertising slogans was, frankly, uninspiring. The best I got was for Healy's Hotel in Co Mayo, which has a cigarette lighter bearing the slogan, "A good spot", but that was submitted by someone here who took pity on me. So, a new one to mark the penultimate Mr Pink week, winners announced on his final appearance. One prize: two pounds 50 vouchers for Mr Pink products. What do you have to do? Look at my picture. The Captain has discovered, exclusively, which instrument the Archbishop of Canterbury used to play in his happy-clappy days as vicar of St Nicholas's, Durham. Using your skill and judgement, tick the appropriate box and send it in, together with your tiebreaker, which must be the corniest joke in your entire repertoire. Happy comping!
The Catch-up Service
Welcome to the news review that makes you think ... Police are hunting a long-legged thief who rode off on an original penny-farthing bicycle, taken from its stand at a museum in Rochdale ... A private detective in Los Angeles who specialises in tracking down missing pets for a fee of pounds 230 a day plus expenses goes by the name of Sherlock Bones ... More than 20 people were injured in the traditional Bank Holiday cheese-rolling races down Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire ... David Williams, 21, of Telford, has been delivered an ultimatum by his fiancee, Suzanne Mossett: if he doesn't get rid of his 16 pet snails, she won't marry him. David keeps them in a bag hanging on his bedpost and took them on a camping holiday last year ... A man bitten by a rattlesnake in Edinburg, Texas, bit the snake's head off and used the skin for a tourniquet ... Berndt Ostman, a square-dance caller from Malmo, Sweden, is being sued by seven men and nine women dancers who claim his irresponsible calling led to painful collisions ... A driver in New York who left a sign saying "No Radio" on his car returned to find every window smashed and a note saying "Get one".