Shirt tale ... classic Cook ... and no republicans

LADIES and gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking all of you for turning to this page today. It is all the more appreciated because I know you are busy people with many, many demands on your time. I will try to be brief. But I have to tell you that it gives me great pleasure - and has done for many years! No, seriously, I am extremely proud to announce that this column has - after a most exhaustive selection process, comprising the compilation of a long short list and a short short list, followed by a series of rigorous interviews - selected a sponsor. And that sponsor is, I'm sure, no stranger to many of you. So, with ado, let me present to you ... Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirtmaker. Named after the 18th-century tailor of that name, Thomas Pink is run by three brothers named Mullen. They are from Dublin, as were and is Oscar Wilde and Terry Wogan. I myself have two of their shirts, whose collars were recently turned by Mr Veyfi, my dry-cleaner in Dorset Road, London SW8. The wisdom of associating with the Captain can be clearly seen from the briefest scrutiny of the Pink client list: Lord Archer, Michael Portillo and Lulu. I sense a little restlessness at the back: there are some of you who want to know "what's in it for us?" And I will tell you: Thomas Pink gift vouchers, that's what. Enter my competitions, submit your observations on this funny old world, and I will give you a pounds 50 or pounds 25 voucher to spend on Pink shirts (both sexes) or whatever. So from now on, let the cry be: Pink Vouchers!

n JUST Fancy That With Captain Moonlight. Did you know that Robin Cook, red beard, Scot, Hero of Scott, generally introduced as the next Foreign Secretary, has two other languages besides the high-pitched Anglo-Scots he customarily uses? I thought you didn't. What are they? Latin and ancient Greek. Will they come in useful? I don't see why not: George I, you know, couldn't speak a word of English. He and Walpole communicated only in Latin. And while we're on Rome, did you know that Sheffield is also built on seven hills?

LABOURED link alert. Talking of a Cook (!), the Captain met that Marco Pierre White last week. Marco, as I now call him, was in his new saucepan opportunity venue, the Criterion, in Piccadilly Circus. What's that you say? Bit of an excitable cove? Well, quite. Normally, the most innocent request for salad cream or some proper tomato soup like they have in the tins is enough to set him off into a flambe, but no such luck for the Captain. Yes, I am the man to whom Marco Pierre White was really nice. Pathetic. But there was an interesting point of etiquette. Upon Marco's approach, my luncheon companion leapt to his feet and stayed on them throughout our intensely amiable conversation. I followed suit to shake the hand that stirs the custard, but then sat down. Which of us was right? What should you do when the cook comes to your table?

n LAST Sunday found me in Clacton-on-Sea, rich ruby to the pure pearl that is Frinton-on-Sea, joint treasures of the Essex coast. Should you ever find yourselves there, I cannot recommend too highly the seafood platter, all battered, at the Grand, where a man with an electric organ has a fine way with, inter alia, "Bye, Bye Blackbird". A fine day, too, all rain and wind, to build a sand-castle and wander along the pier, where I was drawn to the booth of Gypsy Rosalee, fortune teller extraordinaire. And, on the window, was a sign that read, starkly and simply, "Vacancy". Do your own jokes.

AS I foreshadowed the other week, the only place to be on Leap Day night was the lovely party thrown by Hello! magazine at the Grosvenor House Hotel. It was simply packed with people who had welcomed the magazine into their lovely home, people whose graciousness in the good times and sheer strength in the bad had proved such an inspiration to the magazine's legion of devoted readers over the years. Naming names is always invidious, but I must give special mentions to Judith Chalmers, my old chum Nicholas Parsons, Lord Caithness, and a Mrs Graff, wife of a jeweller, whose brooch, I was told, was worth "your house, my house and four other houses". Such a pity that neither the editor of Hello!, Maggie Koumi, nor my old friend the Marquesa de Varela, the magazine's legendary "social co-ordinator", had turned up by the time I left, which was when I heard that Jenny, Lady Chelsea, was proposing to people. Pip, pip!

n SOMETHING missing in your life? You've bought your Thomas Pink shirt and are wondering what else to do. The Captain can help. Perusing, as is my custom, Classic Car Weekly, I came across a human cannon for sale, pounds 1,200. Mr Brown of Royston, Herts, the vendor, thinks it the last one in existence. He is very cagey about explaining how it works unless you buy it, but is most persuasive about careful owners, a puff of smoke, and the human landing safely some distance away. He also makes a joke about mothers-in-law which I will not venture to repeat at present. Volunteers, please.

WERE you in London last week? If so, did you spot 5,000 Japanese ladies? You did? The Captain can explain. They were, in fact, 5,000 Japanese home lingerie saleswomen brought here by their grateful employers in recognition of all the lingerie they have been selling at lingerie parties. The highlight was a rally for the 5,000 at Alexandra Palace. The organisers were a bit coy on detail, but I suspect that a mass oath of loyalty to lingerie selling was taken, which might explain that mighty throaty cry heard as far away as Muswell Hill on Thursday evening. I wonder if I could interest my new sponsor, Thomas Pink, in shirt parties? Michael Portillo would, I feel, make a most persuasive host. Meanwhile, I hear that Tory Central Office has commissioned a new set of photographs of Mr Major in readiness for the election. The order is for something softer, more relaxed. No, not the Thai silk shirt, John! But, perhaps, a Thomas Pink polo shirt? Just call, and I'll send round the vouchers.

n ALL right, all right, I might be a bit slow, but immediacy isn't absolutely everything, you know. So come back with me to the night of 14 February. Yes, quite right, we are indeed talking of the night of St Valentine's Day, when the restaurants of the land fill with couples, flirting couples, intense couples, couples with flames to fan, tend or rekindle as the night for romance works its old magic to the sound of strings and (you carry on if you want to). But, wait, what metropolitan couple is this, ensconced in that exclusive London eaterie, Christopher's? Why, yes, it is: it's Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, together with his editor-in-chief, Peter Preston. Sweet, really.

I MUST say that I'm enjoying my new position, here among the wonderful bunch of kids who put together our Real Life section. This week I am particularly taken by Hester Lacey's brave piece putting in a good word for counsellors following the disgraceful piece of subterfuge - exclusively almost revealed here last week - that saw Bernard Manning acquiring membership of the British Association for Counselling. My fans know that the Captain would not be the same officer without the services of his personal stress counsellor, Ingrid, who is Swedish. By the way, owing to a transmission error, last week I reproduced a picture purporting to be that of Ingrid which was, in fact, a picture of the late Hattie Jacques dressed as a matron. Apologies all round! The real Ingrid is shown on the left.

n MONARCHISTS! This is your safe haven, where the Captain protects you from the republicanism rampant in the rest of this newspaper! And my compliments to that splendid mouthful, Ysenda Maxtone Graham, for a heartfelt piece in the Church Times, attacking the Independent on Sunday for being rude to the Queen. Ysenda tells us that she writes "ugh!" in our margins and doesn't know how anybody who loves the Queen can read us. Come and shelter with us here, dear! And now: a plea. I note that later in the month the Prince of Wales will be attending a gala at the Albert Hall for the Prince's Youth Business Trust. It will feature Barry Manilow, Shirley Bassey and Stephen Fry. Hasn't this poor man suffered enough?

YES, it's Interactive Corner, that part of the column which addresses the issues currently concerning me and my readership and hands out gift vouchers for Thomas Pink shirts, cuff-links and things like that. And first, Mr Vincent of Andover points out that Frank Sinatra sounds like Eartha Kitt when played faster, not slower. Mr Thomas of Fulham would like you to know that the Russian for hooligan is not hooligan but gooligan. Lots of squirrel recipes, thank you, and one for racoon. What we need though, is someone to provide the squirrel, someone to cook it, and someone to eat it. Volunteers, please! And, on what makes a good Manchester Tart, Brian from Eccles claims that cornflakes must be added to the jam and custard and casts doubts on the credentials of my Mancunian friend, Stan from Swinton, suggesting that Swinton has nothing to be proud about. Stan is remaining aloof. Captain Moonlight in Russian, by the way, is Kapitan Loony Svyet. The photograph below, taken in an Asian tiger economy, was submitted by Mr Cruft of Vauxhall.

n AND NOW for the grand unveiling of the curtained Captain, to reveal Mr Pink's tremendous new logo. Stand by. Erhum. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am afraid that we have a little trouble with the unveiling mechanism. No, sorry, it's no good. But we'll have it sorted out by next week, Mr Pink, I promise. Thank you.

WELCOME to an occasional series in which the Captain provides a striking illustration of a well-known phrase or saying. You will doubtless now be racking your brains for the well-known phrase or saying about the two prelates and the fish, something along the lines of "It is a wise cardinal who holds on tightly to a slippery fish". But I must warn you that any wordplays on "soul" and "sole" would be a bit of a red herring, and that you would also be wide of the mark if you were working on a variation of "Holy mackerel". This is because the two men are Thames boatmen and not cardinals. They are, in fact, father and son, Eric and Bob Lupton. Eric is 79, Bob is 43; the fish is a mullet. And that mullet, I think you'll agree, is stunned.

Photograph by DAVE CHERKIN/PA

The Captain's Catch-up Service

HELLO, good to have you along on the weekly news review that gives you pause, something to think on, happen ... Dean Gould, 31, of Felixstowe, set a new world record by threading a needle 3,471 times in two hours. He also set another record by flipping and catching 1,016 beer mats in one go ... Jack Dunns, of Sydney, escaped a fire that destroyed his home when he was awoken by the sound of his piano's strings popping ... Dr Arvo Nikula, a Finnish obstetrician, died when the newborn baby he was holding upside down kicked him on the right temple, triggering a fatal haemorrhage ... Following a disagreement, Mrs Patricia Morgan, lady mayoress of Brecon, poured a pint of bitter over the head of her husband, the mayor, Mr Mark Morgan, as he sat in Brecon Workingmen's Club ... More than 100 women wrecked the Treorchy Health and Leisure Club, causing pounds 1,600 of damage, when a show by a male stripper was cancelled ... Pauline Taylor of Flagstaff, Arizona, alerted police when she heard noises coming from a bank. The police arrived and found three men trying to crack a safe. These turned out to be Mrs Taylor's husband and her two brothers ... Cockroaches scored higher in reasoning tests than an Irish Setter, according to research released in Bonn. Professor Jon Gudegast also discovered that cockroaches can distinguish a box labelled "bread" from one labelled "nails" ... Charles Manson, the mass murderer, will shortly release an exercise video. "Charlie regrets the lives he took," said video promoter Fred Zalemond. "Now he's saving lives by protecting people from heart attacks and strokes." ... British Rail, it emerged, patented plans in 1973 for a thermo-nuclear flying saucer. Sadly, the plans amounted to nothing because experts believed that passengers would have been irradiated shortly after departure ... Anton Kretz, of Zug, Switzerland, broke down and wept after he lost custody of the family dog in a divorce action, so the judge gave him the money to buy another one ... And, finally, a hosepipe ban was imposed on parts of Kent.