n NOW. AS DOGGED readers will know, the Captain is extremely keen on culture, art, literature, all that sort of thing. And I am glad to see that I am not alone. Increasingly, as I travel around this great country of ours, I notice that commerce is beginning to embrace the higher things in life. W & J Graham are an obvious example of this enlightened trend. But today my accolade goes to those organisations that defy petty incongruity in pursuit of resonant association. Take my two pictured examples. You just know, somehow, that the Spirit of Bloomsbury would be enchanted to see her name immortalised in a burger bar at the Russell Hotel. I must say that I thought the other sign was an advertisement for Roman Catholic family planning until I was told that it referred to a supermarket in Thomas More Street, near Tower Bridge. In Bromley, too, they have The H G Wells Coffee Lounge. Perhaps you know some other pleasing examples of our living heritage. The best offerings will receive a bottle of the sponsor's most excellent product. That's W & J Graham's Port, by the way. Next!
LET'S DO one of those link thingies. The last item was about heritage. This one is about Virginia Bottomley, who is the Heritage Secretary. Neat, eh? But let's move on. She does the lottery, you know. How would you feel about a Bottomley jackpot scoop? Exactly. So I rang the chap who runs her syndicate, who is also her husband, Peter, and asked him for his numbers, thinking that we could all use them every week and so spare Virginia the embarrassment of winning a lot. But Peter was a bit too canny for me, I'm afraid. He confirmed that it was a syndicate of five, each contributing 20p, but he was cagey on the numbers. He invited me to name six and then said I had got two right. This made me feel a bit like one of those investigative reporters, but wasn't much use. The numbers, for what they're worth, are: 17, 34, 37, 41, 46, and 28. Good luck!
n THESE ARE not happy times for the Guardian. Tony Blair is very miffed. It seems that the new editor, Alan Rusbridger, has somewhat misinterpreted the traditional function of his newspaper and has been publishing stories which might be interpreted as a teensy bit unhelpful to the Party. You know the sort of thing: reports of disaffection in the ranks, leaks of documents written by unelected advisers who wear suits without ties recommending that elderly leftwingers objecting to the pace of change be taken out and shot. Anyway, Tony has been on the radio saying he prefers the Sun for accuracy; and a clear-the-air meeting ended with Rusbridger being called "a pompous public school prat", which seems a bit rich when you work for Tony Blair. And now news of another setback for Rusbridger in his mission to liven the old thing up. Last week he was at the Literary Review lunch which featured the Princess of Wales and that limerick. Manfully struggling through the throng, he was seen in close conversation with the Princess, but came away looking considerably downcast, hurt and despondent, for, I understand, she had told him that she didn't read the Guardian. The Captain writes: Astonishing!
ACTUALLY, while we're talking (another link, you notice) about unread newspapers, I have news of Andrew Jaspan, editor of the Observer. And, like the Captain, Mr Jaspan has clearly been taught that if you're not sure you can remember something, you should always write it down and keep the note close by you. This came in very handy recently when someone asked him what the defining qualities of his newspaper were. I wish I could tell you what was on the note he produced from his pocket, but, sadly, nobody seems able to remember.
n BRRNNGG! It is the telephone, and, on the other end, John Humphrys, of BBC news and current affairs fame, wishing to interview me about an item in last week's column. How, he demands to know, do I do it? The tone is not one of admiration. My suggestion that he did not like the other presenter getting to say goodbye at the end of the Six O'Clock News, he says, was almost perversely brilliant (I paraphrase), being, as it was, the exact opposite of the truth, which is that he insists on not saying goodbye because he thinks two people doing it is silly. The important thing, he explains, is who says "Good Evening", as this signifies who is the main presenter, the one who gets to do the interviews. But, he says, he doesn't want to make too much of it. Nonsense, I say, the Captain has a mission to entertain, but he also has a duty to History. And while we're at it, I should like to scotch a rumour rife in the world of catering and politics, namely that the pipe of the Rt Hon Tony Benn, PC, MP, activated a smoke alarm and caused the full-scale nocturnal evacuation of the Queen's Hotel, Leeds, last month. It was, in fact, a pan in the kitchen. So there.
BRRNNGG! The telephone rings, again. It is Les Majeste, my royal correspondent, from an Eton callbox. Les tells me that Prince William has been beagling. This seems to me to be what we journalists call a "hot story", but when Les goes on to say that the Prince didn't like it much and won't be going again, I become less excited and remind Les sternly that Lord Wakeham has asked us all to respect the Prince's privacy during his time at school. Next!
n WELL, TALK about a let-down! I had been looking forward to a press conference given by Helmut Kohl to launch his new work, Culinary Journey Through German States, in the belief that the Big Man was about to reveal the secrets of his approach to the table. This is, after all, the Helmut who ate lobster, poached turbot, smoked salmon, sorbet, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, two veg, souffle of English berries, and petit fours at the Guildhall VE-Day banquet before going on to Terence Conran's Le Pont de la Tour, where he had another three course meal. I'll bet he drinks Graham's Port! So I sent along Heinz, 57, my gastronomic correspondent, to get the griff. And then Helmut failed to show. Can't think what he could have been doing. Mrs Helmut, who is doing most of the work, pitched up to explain that all recipes were under wraps until official publication in January. And what was the best she could manage prior to that? A handy hint that stirring mineral water into cottage cheese makes it looser. Helmut and cottage cheese? As Heinz so pithily put it: "Donner und Blitzen, mein Kapitan!"
The Captain's catch-up Service
A BIG Moonlight welcome to the news review with attitude ... Dynasty Mandingo SS Primrose, a Holstein cow also known as Rosie, was named Express Dairies Cow Of The Year. Rosie, a mother of two, has already produced 15,000 pints this year, twice the average ... There are now only six people in Egypt who still wear a fez, according to Mohammed al-Tarbushi, who makes them in Cairo ... Rhino, one of the stars of the Gladiators TV show, eats 18 Weetabix for breakfast ... A suspect who was bundled into the back seat of a panda car in Durham by two policemen climbed straight into the front seat and drove off ... A golfer standing on a green in Tokyo was killed when a 220-yard shot from his playing partner hit him on the head. But the ball bounced off for a hole in one ... A pupil at Queen's School, Bushey, received whiplash injuries opening a packet of sweets ... and, finally, another cow fell 50 feet off a cliff in Branscombe, Devon, bounced off the roof of a holiday chalet and landed on the beach. A coastguard spokesman said: "The old lady inside the chalet got the shock of her life. It's not a common thing to have cows landing on your roof." The cow survived.
YOU CAN'T BE TOO CAREFUL: Sydney "Smudger" Tapscott, England canasta captain, was taking no chances last week when he was presented to the Princess of Wales at an embroidery convention outside Thirsk. The portable bubble he is pictured wearing was built to his own design, from an idea given to him by his wife, Esme, a former formation dancer. "Basically," said Sydney, "It allows a friendly open approach without any of the dangers that a closer intimacy can bring. No names, no pack-drill. I also have a ledge in here for canapes." Sydney said the Princess had been delightful and had made no mention of the bubble. "We talked about doilies mostly," he added. "It seemed safest." Unfortunately, it's not true. It was the Princess talking to Flight Lt Warren Ward at RAF Wittering last week. She is an honorary air commodore, you know. Really.
Photograph by JOHN STILLWELL/PAReuse content