Showbiz With The Captain. The stories they all wanted. Come now with me to the RSPCA hospital canteen in Finsbury Park. See that man with the beard and the lunchbox over there? Quite right, it is Rolf Harris. Just look down at his picture if you don't believe me. Anyway, Rolf was taking a break from making his hit programme, now showing, Animal Hospital. Someone asked what he wanted to eat, and he produced the lunchbox. What was in it? I'll tell you: just one big head of lettuce (see my other picture). Rolf really enjoyed it, too. Good on you, Rolf, mate! And good to see you're not eating any of the furry little creatures, either!
BBRRNNGG! A bubbling, sizzling sound at the other end of the telephone: it is my cooking correspondent, Mark Five. "Captain!" he shouts. "It is time you did the great cooking public a service!" If only I were able, I mutter modestly. "You can, you can!" shouts Mark. "Let's have a powerful series exposing the ridiculous recipes some of these fancy cooks try to foist off on us in their fancy cookbooks! I've already given you Chocolate Nemesis from the River Cafe Cook Book, by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, the cafe's owners. You could try Boned Coriander Double Chicken, too, by Alastair Little and Richard Whit- tington. Chicken stuffed with chicken. Do it the day before? Do it the day before that and you'll be lucky. But let's return to Gray and Rogers. Bucatini With Fresh and Dried Oregano. Blimey! Have you tried eating dried oregano like that? It's like sandwiches on the beach with sand in!" It is time for the Captain to repair home for one of his Vesta Paellas, just add water for that authentic taste of Spain. To humour Mark, and get him off the line, I promise to pass the idea on to you. Impossible recipes, please. Next!
BBRRNNGG! The telephone rings in the home of Gore Vidal. The noble sage picks up the instrument and says hello in that voice, the one that could invest the bill of fare from the Golden Dragon Takeaway in the Mile End Road with significance, sophistication and wry comment on the folly of humanity. Despite this unique gift, the caller at the other end inquires if that might be Gore Vidal. There is a pause, perfectly judged, before Gore replies: "Still."
Time now for another dispatch from the lives, hopes and fears of the dedicated, if small, band working here at the cutting edge of Sunday journalism. And I am sorry to have to report that the Production Editor failed in his bid to improve on last year's second prize with his pink fir apple potatoes at the Eastney and Milton Allotment Holders' Autumn Show. He was unplaced. But his sister's spiced runner-bean chutney won the chutney class and a stylish engraved silver salver for the best overall cookery exhibit. The Deputy Editor, meanwhile, continues to improve after twisting his ankle when he fell down the stairs leaving his gym. He tells me he is now back there, although confined for the moment to upper body exercises. And on Wednesday, the Editor brought me over a copy of the programme for the Guild of Editors' Golden Jubilee Conference and Exhibition, to be held in Liverpool next month, pointing out that at 10.45pm on the Friday, Gerry and the Pacemakers will be singing "You'll Never Walk Alone". "How true that is of here!" I exclaimed; and I fancy I saw his good eye glisten slightly.
BBRRNNGG! Somewhere is the telephone, yes, here it is, and, on it, Ms Una Tributable, my respected political correspondent, from whom I am expecting an expert and informed analysis on the respective ways in which Blair and Major managed their stumps of last week, with a little spin on the TUC in Blackpool thrown in for good measure. "Captain!" she shouts. "Did you know the contractors working in the Palace of Westminster are forbidden to use the members' lavatories but not the press lavatories?" I replace the receiver reflecting that, contrary to report, the Class Struggle is still very much with us.
Great news! Following all these handy household hints that Cherie Blair and Norma Major have been handing out, I have prevailed upon Mrs Moonlight to give you a little tip every week. Today: How To Save Money On Your Teabags. Mrs Moonlight says: Drink Gin!
Perusing the list of candidates for the Referendum Party, my trained eye fell upon the name up for Worcestershire West: Diana Winsor. So, I thought, that's what she's up to! Immediately, I telephoned the Referendum Party. But, cunningly, not wanting to give the game away, I asked for potted biographies of several candidates, including Diana, and waited by the fax machine. Imagine my disappointment when Diana Winsor turned out to be a 50-year-old journalist married to the producer of Top Gear. I should think about it, though, Jimmy.
Let's make this quite clear: our sister newspaper, the Independent, has no fiercer admirer than the Captain. However, as I have told you before, I have a higher duty: to the truth. And, although it gives me no pleasure to report it, I think the paper missed a big one last Thursday. Below I reproduce the picture it used on page five. As you can see, it shows a man wired to an encephalogram, which records the electrical pulses sent out by the brain, and accompanied a report of medical worries about the effect of strong drugs on the brain. But, wait: is not that man familiar? It is, it is: it's Mr Tony Blair, and, if you ask me, this explains an awful lot. Next!
Captain Moonlight's Miscellany ... Peter Greenwell, "the best Noel Coward since Noel Coward", is touring with his one man show, A Talent To Amuse. You can catch him at such venues as the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, and the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft ... following my failure to elicit an Egyptian joke from Mr Mohammed al-Fayed, the proprietor of Punch, I have been sent one told to Mr H Jones of Yealmpton, Devon, some years ago: "A very ugly man married a very ugly woman. They had a baby. And threw it away." Something lost in the translation I fear, Mr Jones ... Mr C Ball of Middleton, Cheshire, tells me that he once met Esther Rantzen at a steam fair, where this dialogue ensued: Mr C Ball: "Can I have your autograph?" Esther Rantzen: "Sure, who's it to?" CB: "Chris. You look a lot bigger on the telly". ER: "Thank you. Here's your programme." Mr C Ball wonders if I might be interested in an encounter between his wife and Harold Wilson. Yes, Mr Ball! ... and, finally, you probably haven't noticed my expression of solidarity with Sir Norman Foster's proposed and similarly unobtrusive Millennium Tower. Look up! I think I'll make it a permanent feature. Bye!
A packet arrives at Canary Wharf, fresh from the Americas, bearing mail. Among it, a letter for the Captain, containing the adjacent photograph. It is from Ms Marni Stanley, of Nanaimo, and I can do no better than quote from it: "Dear Mr Nevin, As a fan of your illustrious and influential column, I wanted to submit a holiday snap for your collection. We took this in July at the Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington, Alberta, Canada. No doubt you will find this tableau (one of 30-odd) as arresting as we did." Indeed. The italics, by the way, are mine.