Praise and recognition where they are due: that has always been the Captain's watchword. So it gave me no pleasure last week to see the unstinting efforts of Mr Michael Portillo to seize the public imagination going largely unrewarded. He started off by announcing, crisply, the exciting news about the Eurofighter, another great advance in civilisation being spearheaded by Britain, and then had to watch as Mr Michael Heseltine got to pose in it at Farnborough. Next, with Mr Malcolm Rifkind in Mongolia, he nobly gave up a lot of his time to lead Britain's bravely unquestioning support for the US bombing raids, and then had to listen as the CNN Pentagon correspondent forgot his name and called him "the British official". As a consolation, I give (below) a tantalising hint of what might have been at Farnborough. Move over, Tommy Cruise!
Dutifully, on your behalf, the Captain attended the relaunch party last week for Punch, knowing you all would be burning to know more about the revived magazine's proprietor, Mr Mohammed al-Fayed, the Egyptian who owns that rather garish corner shop in Knightsbridge (oh, all right, four corners). Dutifully, I sipped champagne, when it came my way, and eyed oysters doubtfully; and Terry Wogan, Nanette Newman, Paul Johnson, Lorraine Chase and other assorted titans of the humour game. Lionel Blair, sadly, was not present. Lorraine, on the other hand, always is: I confidently expect a slot for her at the next state opening of Parliament. Anyway, Mr Fayed arrived, escorted by his maitre d', Mr Mick Cole, the chap with the hair who used to be a BBC television reporter. "Mr Fayed," I asked him, after shaking his hand, "what is your favourite joke?" Mr Fayed didn't seem to have one. But he did disclose, exclusively, that "the joke is everything ... you have to have a sense of humour ... it is important to laugh ... lovely to see you, lovely to see you". I was about to ask him for an example of Egyptian humour when Mr Cole interrupted and said that Mr Fayed was only a guest and led him off. Later, the editor of the Sunday Times furnished me with an interesting example of Mr Fayed's humour which I was going to share with you until my eye fell upon the dapper figure of Mr George Carman. Just before I left, as I was asking him where he had got all the the blondes in the black frocks from, Mr Cole expressed the hope that I would be writing a positive piece. No worries, Mick!
All in all, a good week for meeting rich men. There I was, as usual, in the Conran Shop, when, suddenly, there came a wail of dismay from near the check-out (actually, I don't think they have anything as vulgar as a "check-out" in the Conran Shop; it's probably called La Checkuterie, or something like that). This wail was emerging from out of Michael Green, the television tycoon, head of Carlton Communications, a man reputed to be worth, oh, about pounds 50m. Unfortunately, it seemed that he hadn't brought any of it with him. What to do? The Captain, a man whose sympathies are not precluded by the possession of pounds 50m, was at his side in an instant, brandishing his own trusty credit card. Green, for some reason, refused my gallant offer, and arranged to pay later. Actually, I was more than a little relieved, for a glance into the mogul's trolley disclosed purchases likely to keep Sir Terence in Sri Lankan tiger prawns and minimal knick- knacks for quite some time. Next!
I was very pleased to see that Baroness Blackstone (take in "Dishy Tessa Blackstone ... formidable bluestocking ... Blairite ... Master of Birkbeck") is being tipped as the Leader in the Lords in Mr Tony Blair's administration because it gives me an opportunity to tell you a story about her. I was once charged with compiling an article comparing the basic general knowledge of a set of schoolchildren with that of various public figures, who were encouraged to participate by a donation to charity. Curiously, the baroness was one of a very few selected who refused to take part, which I didn't think very brave, or charitable. Malcolm Rifkind was another, as it happens. One who did compete was Lord Archer. He answered the questions as he was driving his car up the M40 and was in splendidly Tiggerish form until we came to the question, "Who was the father of Abel?" Strangely, and not a little embarrassingly for one who had written a bestselling book entitled Kane and Abel, his Lordship seemed to be struggling a bit with it, and was still struggling with it when, unfortunately, we were cut off. But I am delighted to be able to tell you that he was able to produce the correct answer when we were reconnected. My admiration for this feat remains quite undimmed.
Make that anniversary special with Captain Moonlight. And an interesting leaflet reaches me, composed by a group of former employees of Captain Robert Maxwell, announcing that November the Fifth is a "day to celebrate. It's the anniversary of his final swim!" So they are off to Tenerife, where the other Captain spent his last evening, to celebrate. For a week. I do like a knees-up with attitude, although I would tend to advise against any boating excursions. And I must say that, at pounds 170 for flight and lodging, it seems excellent value. What's more, if they get sufficient numbers, it could be even cheaper. Anybody anxious to join in should contact this Captain, and I will put you in touch. Next!
BBRRNNGG! And, on the telephone, my doughty political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable, back from Tuscan villa-hopping. "Captain!" she shouts. "Una!" I say, ready and eager for the summer's griff and gleanings, the latest from the inside track as the Westminster battle begins to clang and crash again. "Captain," shouts Una, "did you know that the branch of Boots opposite the Palace of Westminster has one of the highest sales of condoms in the country?" There is a moment of silence between us. "Is that," I then ask, "by volume, or proportionally?" "Proportionally," replies Una. "The other two top-selling items are sandwiches and tights." I thank Una for this, and replace the receiver thoughtfully.
Captain Moonlight's Miscellany. And before we go any further, I should tell you that the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery is playing host to an exhibition of buttonhooks this month. On display will be the collections of several members of the Buttonhook Society, plus the museum's own collection ... The great debate, launched in these columns, following my visit to the Guernsey Tomato Museum, as to whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, goes on. Mr G Langley of Brislington reminds me that just after the war, as well as snoek, many people also enjoyed tinned tomato jam from South Africa. And Mr J Parke, of Barnes, would like it known that he invariably eats melons sliced and doused in vinegar, salt and pepper. Remarkable, thank you both. Finally, the Captain's doctor, a long-suffering man, has sent me this wonderful postcard from his holiday spot in the Dordogne. Thank you, doctor!
One thing you can't do with these Tory backroom boys is relax. Just when you thought evil eyes and negative campaigning was their thing, they've changed tack completely and decided to push Norma as the figurehead of their campaign. I present here, exclusively, the next poster in the campaign. You might notice a slight nod to Eugene Delacroix's masterpiece, Liberty Leading The People. Liberty, it will be recalled, was bare breasted, but Central Office, tasteful as ever, and mindful of Norma's modesty, have incorporated that rather fetching jumper. Allons avec Norma!
The Captain's Catch-up Service
And now, once again, your chance to get abreast of some of the week's more interesting news items ... Filming of Madonna's new film, Evita, was thrown into chaos after the director requested lots of puddles on the set and was brought 200 poodles ... David Williams, of Shropshire, is eating 40 packets of cheese biscuits a day in an attempt to find packets containing a gold disc worth pounds 10,000 ... Clive McCloud, of north-west London, was jailed for stealing a cockatoo. Police arrested him when Primrose the cockatoo, which he was trying to pass off as Billy, squawked "Hello, I'm Primrose" in front of them ... A mobile army catering unit bought by Elvis Presley for his service mates when he left the US Army is being used as a roadside diner in Kazakhstan ... The starter of a marathon in Moscow fired the small rocket from his pistol straight into the buttocks of Valentina Slobina, one of the runners ... Eric Hutchinson, the man in charge of restoring Birmingham's Silver Blades ice-rink to its former glory, is recovering from a broken arm after slipping on the ice ... and finally, it was revealed, to my horror, that the origin of Bill and Ben's famous phrase, "Flobadob", was the sound made by the young brothers of Bill and Ben's creator, Hilda Brabban, breaking wind in the bath.Reuse content