A festive head start ... propping up the Bar ... in bed with my wife

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JINGLE! And, today, the Captain's Christmas Service brings you an exclusive guide to some of the things you can look forward to reading in the newspapers over the festive season. This also gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to my colleagues, whose dedication to bringing out their organs laughs in the face of a paucity of anything actually happening or indeed the regularity with which the same few things happen every year. So just cross off these headlines as they happen: 1) Queen's Xmas Message Of Hope 2) Di's Lonely Xmas 3) Xmas Cheer For Our Boys In Bosnia 4) Drunken Santa Who Headbutted Child Had "Emotional Problems", Court Told 5) Xmas Club Treasurer Goes Missing 6) And So Does The Chairman's Wife 7) Kiddies' Xmas Kitten Torn To Pieces In Boxing Day Hunt Horror (see picture) 8) Siberian Warbler Spotted In Suffolk (see picture) 9) Linda McCartney Caught With Goose 10) Another Quiet Xmas For John And Norma.

n Observer Shame. This week we go right back in time to the spell Andrew Jaspan, editor of the Observer, spent as a sub-editor on the Daily Telegraph in Manchester. This spell might have been longer if it had not been for an unfortunate incident about which I will not be drawn. Oh, all right then. It has to do with Jaspan somehow imagining that it would be perfectly acceptable to refer to Ian Smith, the Rhodesian premier, as "Smithy" in a headline in the Daily Telegraph, as in "Smithy Stands Firm" or some such. But at least he had the excuse of youth, then. Next!

THIS IS the time of year when, by long tradition, the Captain likes to draw certain sad plights to your attention. And today I would like to tell you about a small, white-haired old man who is often to be seen in the area around the Temple. George Carman is 66. He is also Blackpool's gift to the Bar, the man with a way with witnesses and the finest curl to his lip since Erich von Stroheim popped his riding crop. But lately George has been finding life as head of his chambers increasingly irksome, involving as it does all sorts of minor administrative matters. But it has been pointed out to him that stepping down might conceivably be construed as a sign of waning powers, and that, in short, as we lawyers say, the old briefs might dry. He has, therefore, decided, reluctantly, to soldier on. So, please, any solicitors reading, do give George a call. It's not very much to ask, and it would mean an awful lot to him.

n LET'S BE FRANK. I owe the Princess of Wales an apology over my suggestion that the source for her pithy remark in the Panorama interview, "knowledge is power", was Reg Holdsworth, the former supermarket boss in Coronation Street who has now left for a frozen fish position in Lowestoft. A Mr Frost of Streatham has now been in touch to remind me that knowledge and power are the dominant theme of Michel Foucault, philosopher, critic, and author of Madness and Civilisation, The History of Sexuality, and Discipline and Punish, much more up the Princess's street. Thank you, Mr Frost, I had quite forgotten about the old Foucault. (Not, of course, as most readers will know, the same old Foucault as the Foucault of Foucault's Pendulum, for whom knowledge was swinging both ways.) Mr Frost wonders if this might be worth a bottle of port. Yes!

AND NOW for a link. Talk of port brings me to my competition to find a suitable recipient for this pounds 54 bottle of '66 port my sponsors have fobbed me off with instead of the far superior '63. Yes, I know, typical, but you just can't find good sponsors these days. Anyway, tired with all the publicity Camus gets for his blatherings about football, I decided to award it to the most apt philosophical summation of the meaning, message and importance of rugby league. An improved entry after a disappointing first week, but we're still not quite there. So, one more week. Front runners: Mr Large of Gosforth: "Ah, the fifth tackle, where Art and Fate collide"; the Vicar of Knaresborough, who overheard this gnomic utterance at Fartown in 1974: "Huddersfield, you're playing like bloody Methodists"; Ms Devereux of St Erth: "Short shorts, big thighs, pies". However, I regret to announce that Mr Vincent of Poole has been banned from reading this column sine die after his unflattering entry on the greatest game. And your family too!

n YES, IT'S XMAS party time with Captain Moonlight! And I love the conversations. This woman told me the other night, if I heard her aright over the crunch of the canape and the squeak of punctured cocktail sausages, that her cleaner had said at the time of the engagement of the Prince and Princess of Wales that no good would come of it. What, I asked eagerly, was the cleaner saying now? She said she didn't know because the cleaner had retired three years ago. "Really," I said. Yes, she said, the house was in a terrible mess. Then I met an anaesthetist, always good fun at a party, I find. He told me that just before he put his patients under, he always asked them to describe what they thought were the wonders of the world and one man had said it was the variety of goods on offer at Sainsbury's. More party conversation with Captain Moonlight next week!

BRRNNGG! And, indeed, it is Ms Una Tributable, my political correspondent. "Una," I say, "What's the feeling about Charles Lewington, political editor of the Sunday Express, being made chief Tory spin doctor?" "At last it's official," replies Una, a reference to his Express output which I thought a touch cruel. But he's clearly one to watch. On Wednesday evening, hours before his appointment was announced, he was deriding this newspaper's suggestion that he was in line for the job. And to our editor, who, beneath that amenable exterior, is not a man to cross, let me tell you. No. Not only that, but two former colleagues on the Western Daily Press have firm but completely opposing recollections of his political affiliations. His nickname, for reasons of mien, was Lord Snooty and is now The Wine Waiter. Another Moonlight Exclusive Thingie: He likes the Ink Spots.

n AND ANOTHER Moonlight Exclusive Thingie. This Liz Noel, the one who's been selected to fight Tony Blair's seat for the Tories. She once shared a bed with my wife in Bucharest. They were on a fact-finding mission. I can tell you that she doesn't snore. No, entirely innocent, question of limited room. Anyone suggesting differently will find themselves answering to my friend Mr George Carman, who, as you have already learnt, is eager to get stuck in. Thank you.

SORRY? WHAT BOX? Up at the top there? Good grief, I've forgotten to put the Christmas decorations up! Always the way, isn't it, at this time of year? But don't worry, I'll be well tinselled up next week, I promise. Better get a stocking up as well. Chestnuts roasting on a da da dee dee da, everybody join in! Including you, George!

AND SOME would have it that the Princess of Wales doesn't have a sense of humour! I am indeed honoured to be able to reproduce, here, for the first time, exclusively, the Princess's Christmas card. You thought the Prince's card, featuring the young princes in a couple of flower pots, was wacky? Look at this little effort! The Princess herself is in the middle background, and you can just make out the princes, sitting on the left. No prizes for guessing who the geezer in the kilt is supposed to be! And that fish? Let me give you a hint: Sharker Bowles. No, of course, it's not. It is, in fact, an equally exclusive glimpse of what really goes on inside The Harbour Club. All right, all right, it's Keiko the killer whale, the one featured in the film Free Willy, performing in Mexico City last week.

Photograph: AP

The Captain's catch-up Service

AND NOW, yes, time for the Captain's weekly amble along the super information byway ... Workmen carrying out cavity wall insulation at Liz Tyler's home on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, drilled too deep and pumped the built-in wardrobe in her bedroom full of foam. It took her three days to clean her clothes ... Private detectives in Rome are protesting because a new law says they can only spy on someone after first notifying them of that intention ... A car thief in Otley drove off from the Safeway car park with the owner's mother-in-law in the back seat. Nancy Lockwood was ordered out by the thief when he noticed her. "It's not often your mother gets whipped away, is it?" said her daughter ... Elvis Presley often ate squirrels as a child, according to a new BBC Arena programme entitled The Burger and the King ... Tony Benn, in another television programme, asserted that there is a sewage pump under the Palace of Westminster powered by a steam engine ... and, finally, Anne Osinga, 60, chairman of a bird protection society in Holland, was taken to hospital with concussion and a broken cheekbone after a dead goose plunged 75ft and hit him on the head.