Captain Moolight: I can teach the Lords a thing or 75

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The Independent Online
AYE, AYE! Are we going to have some fun today! You will have seen that hereditary peers who want one of the 92 places left open for them in the reformed House of Lords must make their claim in 75 words or fewer. Their Lordships say this is not enough. Phoooff! The Captain will now produce a column of the usual searing brilliance in which each telling, witty item is exactly 75 words long. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Mon Dieu, it is my celebrity correspondent, Ms Britt Bafter, calling from St Tropez! I ask her if she is having a nice time. "Oui, oui, mon capitaine, except that every time I go into a discotheque, George Michael and Geri Halliwell are there." What, I ask is wrong with that? A charming couple, surely? "Mais oui, mon Capitaine, but they are always dancing, and they will dance only to their own records!" Crikey!

MARROW! Mrs Marshall of West Grimstead, "BA Hons", "Loose Coverer to the Cognoscenti", Writes To The Captain, enclosing a cutting from her local newspaper, the Salisbury Journal, which, she feels, "nicely illustrates the priorities of the country dweller". "In Whaddon," it reads. "a marrow was used to smash a pane of glass in a greenhouse at Spiders Island. The marrow was badly damaged." Splendid, Mrs Marshall. Accept one of my exclusive enamel effect Moonlight Badges!

SHARK! Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum! I expect you saw that a Great White, 15 feet long, capable of speeds up to 35 mph and able to smell one drop of blood in one million drops of water, has been spotted off Padstow. Let's hope someone's warned it about Rick Stein. As for me, I think I'll stick to the rather more tranquil waters of my aquarium, down there. Sorry? Don't be silly! Next!

BBRRNNGG! Oh, joy, a call from my legendary political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable. "Captain! Still no sign of the bust of Oliver Cromwell which went missing from the Commons, but I do have a late Ministers' Summer Holiday Update: Blair, ACL, Tuscany and Gascony; Brown, G, Cape Cod; Anderson, Janet, Minister for Tourism, a weekend at the Center Parc, Elverden, Suffolk." I'd see if you could get a job at the FO next time, Janet. Next!

LLAMAS. Following our fascinating investigations into the llama's habits, Ms Kirk of Canberra (yes, Australia!) writes: "The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910-11) contains the following account by Augustin de Zarak (1544): 'When the beast is tired and urged to go on, he turns his head round, and discharges his saliva, which has an unpleasant odour, into the rider's face'. I hope this is helpful." Thank you, Ms Kirk: Badge! But can you really ride a llama?

BBRRNNGG! It's the phone, and on it, my man at the BBC, Bert! "Captain! You are taking a continuing interest in the eclipse, aren't you?" I concede that, indeed, as part of my public service remit, I am trying to make up for the scant coverage the event received at the time. "Well, did you know the BBC turned the darkness up to make it more exciting?" Goodness! This calls for a Moonlight Investigation. Next!

DUCKS. Did you know that, try as you might, you will not find a single, specific mention of a duck in all the pages of the Old Testament? You won't, I promise you. And I'm so confident of this that anybody able to provide contradictory chapter and verse will be instantly rewarded with a Moonlight Badge. So that's that, then. It might be some consolation, though, to learn that they had mortgages in Babylon. Next!

BBRRNNGG! It's the BBC, responding to my Moonlight Investigation into the eclipse rigging allegations - the word from my man Bert that they turned up the darkness to make it more exciting. And it's ... a categorical denial! Well, thank goodness for that, as, pace the normally unimpeachable Bert, it would have been a very naughty thing to do, wouldn't it? Did you know, by the way, that in 924 Portugal was in darkness for two months?

POSTCARDS. Great news! Ms McKevett of Dundalk has sent me her promised postcard of the world record beating paella cooked in Valencia in 1992! And pretty remarkable, it is, you'll agree. Thank you, Ms McKevett. Badge! But, no, sorry, I don't think it merits another one for your dog, Monty, to go with his 1966 Butlins Beaver Badge. More good news is that Mr Coidan of Rochdale, inspired, has sent a postcard featuring spaghetti! Next!

BBRRNNGG! The telephone, and, on it, my legendary Lucullan restaurant critic, RAC Quart! "Captain! A hot one!" I wait for Conran's latest mot, MPW's latest jeu. "Last week, Captain, the new Burger King in London's Canary Wharf ran out of burgers!" Well. Whatever next? The Burger King burger, I reflect sadly, was, for obvious reasons, the preferred choice of Elvis; if the King were alive today, he would surely be spinning in his grave. Next!

KANGAROO. Everyone knows that when Captain Cook asked a convenient aborigine what these strange creatures were called, the aborigine, understandably not understanding, replied "Kan Ga Roo", which translates, loosely, as "Sorry, but I haven't got a clue what you're on about, mate". But could the same thing have happened with Pizarro, conqueror of Peru, and the llama? The Spanish for "What is its name?'' is, after all, "Como se llama?", isn't it? Just a thought.

GUILDFORD. Last week the Sorrento of Surrey was named the country's gout capital, thus confirming it as a place full of jolly people who know how to have a good time. RAC Quart, my restaurant critic, gives the following as his top Guildford eateries: the Malongho Tandoori, in Epsom Road, and the Spud-u-Like in the Friary Centre. There are also, he adds, Burger Kings at both the Ladymead Retail Park and in North Street.

FRIGHTENING. A Badge goes to Mr Hummer of Hook Norton, who has now convinced me that My Wife Could Have Assassinated Mrs Thatcher. Mrs Hummer was cooking in a stately home (Mr Hummer buttling) when Mrs Thatcher turned up by mistake at the kitchen door and had to be ushered through to the posh bit by Mrs Hummer, in possession at all times of a large carving knife. Your restraint does you credit, Mrs H!

STOP! I think it might be time to call a halt to I Almost Met, despite Mr Hummer's other story about having to swop his Stratford theatre seats with the Prince of Wales's detectives, and the Badge that Mr Sandison of Codicote would have got for failing to meet Juliette Binoche when they were both working in Islington; unfortunately, he adds that he has met Valerie Singleton, and so disqualifies himself. Bad luck, Mr Sandison!

NO, the competition now is My Claim To Fame. As you might expect, your limelight moment will be pretty widely defined. I think a useful benchmark would be my own award, some time ago now, of a Children's Newspaper Certificate of Merit for Handwriting. So write in immediately with your claim, and you could win not only a Moonlight Badge, but also, of course, a second snatch of the heady, intoxicating brew that is Celebrity.

BRRNNGG! Praise be, it's Ms Tributable again! "Captain, late, late Tory holiday update! John Redwood seen off Spain on a jet ski, and Liam Fox, health shadow, friend to both Natalie Imbruglia and Mother Teresa, has been down in a cage looking at sharks!" So that's why they're all doing runners to Padstow. Hmmm. Only 56 words. Something else. Oh, yes, Mr Barnes- Watts of Starcross: send me that photo of Kelso bus station immediately! Bye! Aaargh, 76!

POSH price: Victoria Beckham pictured yesterday with her husband David, the footballer, after announcing that from now on he would stick his head out for photographs only on the down payment of pounds 27,500, a copy of The Economist, and a three-piece suite. No? All right, senior staff sister Ann Widdecombe, 26, looks on grimly after a horrifying shark attack at Padstow. No? All right, it's a finalist at the Young Tailors' show. It is. Actually, that was 75 words, M'Lord, but I have to fill this space for aesthetic reasons. Thank you. PA