Paddy Ashdown. Former Royal Marine. On Horseguards last week, making way to Reform. Beating the Retreat, couple of those security-fence thingies in his way. Vaults one, then the next, and on his way. Very impressive, Paddy. I consulted my parliamentary correspondent, Ms Una Tributable, as to how the other two party leaders would fare in a similar situation. "Simple," she said. "Major would walk straight into the fence, and Blair would sit on it." Formidable woman, Ms Tributable.
So. Feverish activity throughout British industry last week as bids were assembled for the right to appear on my hat and give things away. Commercial confidence precludes my getting too specific, but I think I can safely say that a maker of strong drink and a manufacturer of geographical reference works are firmly in the frame. I have also lost count of the calls and letters that have followed the appearance last week of that old ad for Horlicks; the general tenor of which (I paraphrase) is that Horlicks would make the most splendidly apt sponsor for this column. Thank you, all. As a result, I have now contacted Horlicks, who are sleeping on it. Which brings me to my photograph (below). It is one of the highlights of the June edition of Anaesthesia News, featuring as it does one of the specially chartered luxury coaches used to take anaesthetists to a meeting. Dr Brown, of Marple, Cheshire, who sent me the AN, also draws attention to the item concerning the advertisement from the Norfolk and Norwich Healthcare NHS Trust seeking an anaesthetist "with a special interest in anaesthesia"; and to a walk today by anaesthetists and their families to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first use of ether. Next!
Smash A Stereotype With Captain Moonlight. Civil Servants. Stuffy, humourless, dull. Think again, think again, think again! Leafing through Cabinet Office Staff News, I came across some of the rib-ticklers that have set Whitehall a-chuckle of late, viz, "There is a possible red herring on the horizon"; (in a BSE meeting:) "I think the minister will just want the bull points"; and, my favourite: "Whistle-blowing is just not acceptable before you have exhausted all attempts at internal ventilation." Oi!
Limelight with Moonlight. News, views and celebrity sightings from the world of laughter and tears we call showbiz. Daytime television watcher? Thought not. Anne Diamond? She had this show with a man called, I think, Nick, which the BBC has just axed. All right, all right, maybe you're not interested, but I have a minority remit to fulfil. So: number of complaints logged by BBC on the first day said show failed to appear? Three. Thank you. Next! And straight on to Moonlight's Supermarket Sightings, in which we report on celebrities spotted buying their groceries. This one is from Ben, who works on our sports desk. Ben saw Eddie Izzard in Sainsbury's, Kensal Green, trying to buy crusty barbecue baps. Very good, Ben, but Sainsbury's sightings are two for a penny, five for two pennies. I'm after Kwiksave, Asda, places like that. And before you ask about the family grocery firm, Nevins, the Best in the North-west, I'll have you know that Harry Corbett once popped into our Rainford shop while he was staying in his caravan behind The Wheatsheaf on the Rainford Bypass. No, I don't think he had Sooty with him. Or Sweep. More sightings, please!
By the way, while we're on grocery matters, I must say I take the greatest exception to the Hon Tim Sainsbury (ibid) referring to Sir James Goldsmith as a "damned grocer" in the division lobby during the referendum vote. No wonder they've lost top place to Tesco. And Mr Tony Banks, in the same debate, described Sir James as a "Mexican greengrocer", a term of abuse coming oddly from a vegetarian. Grocers have feelings, too, you know.
Royalists! Do not forget that you have your only friend on this newspaper in the Captain. And first, news of a treason trial for that interminable arch-republican, Professor Stephen Haseler. It's on telly today. Haseler's chief witness, lucky man, is The Editor of this newspaper. I know you will want to join me in pressing for the maximum penalty, if only to allow someone else to get a word in. Elsewhere, a happy 75th birthday to the Duke of Edinburgh and a happy second birthday of the year to HM the Queen. I should also mention that last week I met Alexander Pruzynski, a Belorussian Count who wants to be President of Belorussia. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say; must be a friend of Neal Ascherson. Indeed, but there is more: the Count is trying to arrange a visit by the Princess of Wales to Poland and Belorussia. Garden parties in Warsaw and Minsk, and, to remind her of Thorpe Park, shooting the rapids in the Tatra foothills. The Count thinks the Poles (some of whom have designs on the Duke of Kent) would make the Princess their Queen in a twinkling - jolly good idea. The problem is that the Count keeps getting fobbed off by the Princess's staff. Pygmies. You can contact the Count through me, your royal highness.
EURO 96 Latest. Yes, well. But here's a thing: did you notice that Mr Neville, father of Gary and Phil, the brothers playing for England, is called Neville Neville? Listen, anyone with a name like mine has to be careful about these things, but, in a spirit of genuine inquiry, I telephoned Neville Neville at Bury FC, where he is the commercial manager. Neville Neville seemed puzzled by my inquiry: he was born, he said, and they called him Neville, and that was that. So there you are. Did you know, by the way, that the address of the Bishop of Durham is, "Durham, Durham, Durham". Actually, I also have dramatic, exclusive news for the future of English football. Mr McManus, of Melbourne, Derbys, writes. By chance, Mr McManus came across Mr Tony Blair in the car park at Wembley after the Swiss match. This is the full text of the historic conversation: Mr McManus: "What did you think, Tony?" Mr Tony Blair: "The same as you by the look of it." Mr McM: "Would England have won under a Labour government?" Mr TB: "Yes. I can say they would." Thank you for extracting that pledge, Mr McManus!
BBRRNNGG! The telephone, and on the line, my art crime correspondent W Easel. " 'Ere, Captain," says Wally, "did you get the smudge?" Wally is referring to the photograph which I reproduce below. "Pretty hot stuff, eh, Captain? All those claims of dirty work in the Tate archives, and now this: only the director flogging off all the frames in deepest Somerset! I ask you. You'd have thought they would have noticed, wouldn't you?" I tell Wally that I have indeed received the "smudge", but that there is a tiny problem: the unimpeachably respectable director of the Tate Gallery spells his name "Serota", not "Sirota". There is a sharp intake of breath , a muttered oath which sounds like "Velzquez!", a click, and then silence.
Battlefront Update ... Battlefront Update. What we have here is, I promise you, a serious suggestion for a Tory advertising campaign capitalising on the Prime Minister's tough stance over Europe. It could have been emblazoned over hoardings the length and breadth of the country. Central Office was very, very excited. The idea was presented to Mr Major. Sadly for all of us, he demurred. But all is not lost. Cut out my version and stick it in your front window. The message will get through. For bonus points, take a photograph of it in your front window and send it in to me. I will feature the most striking and prominent. Actually, I'm told, John blushed at the idea, which is rather sweet. And now, I am yet again reliably informed, Norma is worried about his weight. Getting a bit podgy, needs to lose a bit. Put a picture of Baroness Thatcher on the fridge door, John.
The Captain's Catch-up Service
Hello and welcome to the news review of small but significant events ... Lady Kennet kneed a burglar who broke into her Bayswater home in the groin. "He was definitely surprised and presumably quite uncomfortable," she said ... Firemen used a restaurant's giant inflatable burger to break the fall of a man trying to leap to his death from a roof in Colorado ... Two robbers in Washington DC rubbed their faces with lemon juice after being told it blurred video images. They were sentenced to 24 years ... Martin Luesch, a Bavarian hang-glider pilot, suffered a frostbitten penis after his trousers fell down at a high altitude ... More than 30,000 Americans suffer an irrational fear of playing bingo, according to a psychiatry journal ... Two 15th-century Chinese famille verte porcelain cachepots lent to the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair by the Queen Mother, its sponsor, turned out, on inspection, to be 19th-century fakes ... Firefighters were called out to the fire-prevention office in Aston, Birmingham, after a cigarette end was dropped into a wastepaper basket.Reuse content