Royal refuge ... lord's seat ... Loadsa Bunny!

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GOOD DAY. Grave times. Which explains both my hat and the picture of Her Majesty. A marvellous picture, you'll agree. It is there as a demonstration and a signal. By now you will know that The Editor has decreed that this shall be a Republican newspaper. Long and hard did I counsel to the contrary; a Captain could not do any other. But I have wrung from him one very important concession. He has agreed to the setting-up of a Safe Haven for monarchists. It is here. Come and shelter with the Captain. Send me your messages of support for a family that does a damn difficult job wonderfully well. I would also like your reasons, contained in one sentence, why the monarchy should survive. In the meantime, to keep our spirits up, I am introducing a weekly royal round-up. This week I can tell you that Prince William of Wales has had a bout of influenza, that Tim Taylor, husband of Lady Helen Windsor, has a broken bone in his foot, that Prince Edward has been house hunting in Norfolk, that Princess Michael of Kent telephoned Eton to talk to her son, and that there are some Poles who are keen to have the Duke of Kent as their king. Vivat Regina!

n AS FOR Mr Tony Blair's plan to remove the aristocracy from the Upper Chamber, I'm not quite so sure. Captaincy is not hereditary; it has to be earned. But I have a generous spirit. Which is why, by way of consolation for what must be a painful time, I am prepared to give the first hereditary peer who cares to get in touch a wooden lavatory seat engraved with his coat of arms. They are made by this firm near Oxford, and are really tasteful. Rush, Your Graces!

BRRNNGG! It is the call for which I have been waiting: Ms Una Tributable, my political correspondent. I am, naturally, desperate for my own fresh line on Scott. But Ms Tributable has a more pressing concern: following complaints, journalists have been banned from obtaining refreshment in the Strangers' Bar unless accompanied by a Member of Parliament. "Forget Scott, Captain, this is the real threat to open government!" shouts Ms Tributable, who tells me that one of Labour's most assiduous whistle- blowing MPs, Stephen Byers, a man of enormous work-rate but modest social habits, has been forced to put in selfless hours as a token MP when he could have been concentrating on bringing the Government down. I suggest hiring a Tory MP, but Una says we couldn't possibly afford one. I make a last tentative request for Scott stuff. "I don't know about Scott, Captain," says Ms Tributable, "but I can tell you that Lord Nolan's brother has an off-licence in Minneapolis." A redoubtable operator, Una, but, I sometimes think, a rather narrow range of interest.

n SORRY? The black border? Nothing to do with the Windsors. Or Sir Richard Scott's windiness. No: it marks, with the sadness that we all feel, the passing of Take That. Following several lengthy sessions with my own personal stress counsellor, Ingrid, I have decided that the best way to cope with the trauma is to share it. To contemplate a future without new songs to match such as "The Pink Toothbrush" and "My Boomerang Won't Come Back" is pretty unendurable, but with your help - and Ingrid's - I will pull through, probably whistling defiantly the fab fivesome's golden cracker, "Take That, My Hearty".

DID YOU know, by the way, that the Germans never really took to Take That? Which reminds me: the German boycott of British beef, long threatened, has started. Three states, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Rhineland-Palatinate, started blocking imports last week. The federal government in Bonn says it is powerless to do anything about it, which strikes this simple officer as a bit on the rich side considering it spends the rest of the time telling us Europe should be more centralised. Anyway, the European Commission has given them a month to lift the ban. All very reasonable, but the Captain prefers brutal retaliation as a concentrator of minds. I am going to tell a joke, which, of course, they won't understand. Ready? Wie wiegt man ein Wahl? Nim es zu den wahlwiege bahnhof!

n CAPTAIN Moonlight World Exclusive Thingie: Today, read here for the very first time anywhere, an extract from the forthcoming autobiography of Ms Joan Collins, Second Act, which will be published by Boxtree in September. Ready? Here we go: "For a long time, Bette Davis stared coolly at me, blowing smoke rings. Then with a sly, foxy grin, she said... " What do you think? Pretty good, in my view. It parses, too. What? Not a very long extract? Listen, I'm not going to get rid of a world exclusive all in one go. The sentence will be completed in the second instalment of the extract next week. Meanwhile, I invite you to see if you can do half as well by completing it yourself. Prizes promised.

INTERACTIVE Corner: the part of the column dedicated to you. And Mr Cruft of Vauxhall, noting our fascinating debate on borrowed words (if you've been paying attention you will know that the Russian for railway station is vokzal, after Mr Cruft's neighbourhood), has written to tell me that the Romanian for "hooligan" is "hooligan". Staying in south London, a reader in Battersea, who styles himself "N", writes to say that he lives opposite Old Battersea House, the council house rented by Mr Steve Forbes, the American publisher and presidential candidate, and that there is a large, broken branch hanging perilously above the property. Let's hope Mr Forbes is reading. Thank you. Anybody thinking of getting interactive should know that the Captain is now very close to announcing a major new sponsorship deal that will allow me to shower contributors with the most tremendous largesse. Next!

n BRRNNGG! The telephone rings again; it is Duane, my correspondent specialising in the exciting doings of Cafe society and people like that. "Captain," he says, "hot one." I murmur something encouraging. "Did you know," he continues, "that Clint Eastwood is the son of Stan Laurel?" Gently, I explain to him that this is something which, although unlikely to be true, has gripped saloon bar conversation throughout Britain for several years now, generally introduced after 10pm just in between the deleterious effect on the weather of space travel, Terry Wogan's tonsorial arrangements, and something about Richard Gere that I can't quite remember. Duane agrees that this is exactly how he heard it and goes on to wonder if I will be attending the Hello! Leap Year's Day party featuring an exhibition of the best of that magazine's exciting front covers. Try keeping me away, I tell him.

THAT rabbit? Well, my colleagues who keep you up to speed on the complex ramifications of the world of business have expressed a certain disappointment that the collection of cut-out bunnies published last week which you can stick next to articles around the newspaper as a useful tool to understanding (and, let's be honest, for a bit of fun, too) did not include a Business Bunny. In keeping with their acclaimed section, they have requested something , sober, dignified and analytical. Tricky, but I think we've pulled it off. Welcome, Loadsa Bunny!

n WHAT? Oh, yes, you are desperate for a translation of the joke in German over there. Here you go: "How do you weigh a whale? Take it to the Whale Weigh Station." Oi! See you next week. Vivat etc. Bye.

The Captain's Catch-up Service

WELCOME once again to the only weekly news review that can make you shake your head slowly, scratch it and then say, "well, I never" ... The Chatsworth Hotel, Weymouth, is commemorating the 25th anniversary of decimalisation by offering a night's bed and breakfast for one old penny if you stay two other nights ... Sister Marjorie, 75, of the St Hilda's Priory in Whitby made her first free-fall parachute jump ... Marjorie Daley, of Sydney, fell 100 feet from her flat trying to rescue her cat and survived. Unfortunately, she landed on the cat ... Eight piglets stolen from a Romanian farmer were sprayed with a paralysing agent to stop them squealing, police said ... Soccer fan Dave Downs, 54, a Reading teacher, has a milk bottle containing the dirty water left behind after the Reading team's shirts were washed following their win in the Simod Cup at Wembley in 1988 ... A hunter was trampled to death by an elephant after whistling at it in Zimbabwe ... Alan Beattie won his fifth world jousting championship in New Zealand. Mr Beattie, who uses the title Alan of York, lectures on marketing, business studies and how to join the emergency services ... New mechanical arm-wrestling machines broke five men's arms in two weeks in an arcade in Hong Kong. An official said none of the men would give up the tussle for fear of losing face ... Jay Sedgwick's hamster, Dwight, escaped from his Cardiff flat into the hairdressers below and was, again unfortunately, mistaken for a rat, with fatal consequences. "Dwight didn't live long but I know he enjoyed himself while he was alive," said Jay ... Whack-a- Warden, an arcade game in Redcar in which players score points by bashing six-inch-tall traffic warden figures with a mallet as they pop up from holes, has been condemned by Chief Inspector Chris Hampson of Cleveland Police, who said: "This game is in poor taste and sends out the wrong message ... it appears to be poking fun at traffic wardens who are doing a good job on behalf of the community" ... and, finally, congratulations to my old friend Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian, editor of the year in the What The Papers Say awards. A pity, though, that they put editor of the Times on the award.

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