Captain Moonlight

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Stand up to beef bullies

NOW: this German threat to ban our beef. Are we going to take it lying down? Or is there anybody out there who will join with the Captain in some action? This is the column, you will recall, which launched a retaliatory boycott against Malaysia during that difficulty over the Pergau Dam. And I am proud to say that since my announcement, on 6 March, not one single Malaysian pineapple chunk has passed this officer's lips. There have been times when it has been hard, but principles are principles, pineapples pineapples. My latest information from Kuala Lumpur is that Dr Mahathir is unrelenting; so be it, so am I. And I trust there are many readers who are still with me, chunkless and defiant. So let us now concentrate our powers of righteous withdrawal upon Bonn: I hereby inform Chancellor Kohl and his cronies that if they go ahead with this threatened ban I and my many readers will not be touching another bottle of Blue Nun. Ever. Be warned]

HUGH Grant Warning: stand by, another film coming: Sirens. Big interview in this week's Radio Times. Watch out, bound to be more. Coverage of one of his co-stars, Elle 'The Body' Macpherson, is beginning to build up worryingly. The tedious saga of Michael Aspel's tortuous love life seems in for a bit of a revival: be very careful when reading the Daily Mail is my advice; nothing much recently from Joanna Lumley: too damned quiet, if you ask me. I've certainly had enough of David Blunkett's new guide dog, too. And that Jonathan Dimbleby.

Raise some hell, Gore

THERE was a time when your literary figure lived up to public expectations and made a point of behaving badly whether he (it generally was a he) felt like it or not. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wilde, Waugh E, Behan, Thomas D: these men knew their duty. But these are dull times. And so the Captain receives an urgent message from Gore Vidal, an American writer, angrily complaining that the Daily Telegraph has falsely accused him of talking too loudly in a restaurant in Ravello. Golly. Mr Vidal also denies that he asked another party to leave the restaurant, and, disappointingly, that on another occasion in the same restaurant he belted out an enthusiastic rendition of New York, New York.

I don't know about you, but I would have thought Mr Vidal twice the man for jumping on a table, clearing his throat and breaking into 'Start spreading the news . . .' Anyway, Mr Vidal ends by wishing that Conrad Black, the urbane polymath, price cutter and legs man who owns the Daily Telegraph, be sent back to Canada along with his wife, the lovely thinker, Barbara Amiel, for allowing such falsehoods to be circulated. Loosen up, Gore. I am sending the sheet music of 'My Way' by return.

THAT Tony Blair (4): Westminster is agog, I hear, at the style and scale of Tony's leadership campaign. More than 250,000 glossy leaflets; swish, computerised offices near Westminster, all very slick and high-powered. Unofficial estimates have him spending three times as much as his rivals. I do hope it's all worth it. Word also reaches me that Michael Cockerell, clever television profiliste of, most recently, Alan Clark, Lord Deedes and Kenneth Clarke, wants to do Tony. Everyone very keen, apparently, although Kenneth Clarke is, I'm told, peeved about the cracks in the carefully constructed insouciant blokishness captured by Cockerell. But let's move on: have you noticed the growing resemblance between John Prescott (above) and Napoleon? The Captain has added the hat to help you.

The ones that got away

SO HERE we go again with our weekly meander down the information bypass. Yes, that's right, it's Captain Moonlight's Catch-Up Service, the digest that brings you right up to speed with those newsworthy events you just might have missed . . . And, first off, Pepsi the cat. PC Steve Hansom was called out when Pepsi's owner, Paul Tansey, 24, accused his neighbour, Scott Marshall, of teasing Pepsi. Mr Tansey allegedly took a swing at Mr Marshall. PC Hansom arrested him, put him in his car, and drove off to the police station in Sunderland, killing Pepsi, who had gone to sleep under the car . . . Prisoner Robert Shepard braided dental floss into a 20ft rope and used it to scale the wall and escape from the South Central Regional Jail in Charleston, West Virginia. Prison officials said Shepard had been buying a pack of floss a week and borrowing more from other inmates. 'Some types of dental floss can be braided into an almost unbreakable rope,' said a New York dentist. 'It would certainly bear the weight of

at least one man' . . . Eighty- seven-year-old Ida Powell was rushed to hospital after the candles on her birthday cake set fire to her dress in New Zealand . . . Early in the week we learnt that Gus, a 50-stone polar bear at New York's Central Park Zoo, was going to go into therapy because he couldn't stop swimming in circles. 'Gus is just obsessive,' said therapist Tim Desmond. 'I can help.' On Friday we learnt that Gus is now being given surprise treats like beach balls smeared with peanut butter . . . After Ireland beat Italy, four men arrived at St James's Hospital, Dublin, with their ears bitten off . . . A rainbow trout caught by Terry Winfield, of Gillingham, fell from the grasp of his wife, Kim, when she tried to take it out of the freezer and broke the big toe on her left foot. It was her 35th birthday . . . A minister with the Pathfinders, a Christian cult, took nine followers out into the middle of Lake Victoria in Tanzania and told them to follow him in walking on the water as Jesus Christ had done. They all drowned . . . Finally, showbusiness mourned the loss of Jonny Rivers, the Florida rodeo performer, whose mule called Sue made more than 16,000 dives from a 40ft tower into a tank of water. At its peak, Rivers' act comprised two towers and tanks, seven mules, a pony, a dog and a rhesus monkey.

Nice boat, shame about the price

I KNOW you've made your holiday plans for this year - may have already had it, may be there now for all I know - but what about next year? I have the holiday of a lifetime to offer you, on board this splendid yacht. The Talitha G is 271ft long, has a displacement of 1,500 tons and its twin Caterpillar diesel engines can achieve a speed of 16 knots. It was built in Germany, launched in 1929, and has been owned by the chairman of the Packard Motor Company, a Woolworth's heir, a Greek shipping magnate and the United States Navy, for whom it was USS Beaumont, a gunboat operating from Pearl Harbor with two 3in guns and a crew of 110. It now has a crew of 18; there would be your double cabin, and four others. Its present owner, who is prepared to offer it out to charter, has just had it completely redesigned and rebuilt in the naval dockyard at Devonport. He is

J Paul Getty Jr, recluse in recovery, philanthropist, cricket-

lover and rich person, whose second wife, Talitha, died of a heroin overdose in 1971. My colleague Fiammetta Rocco has been on board, and was impressed. She particularly liked the escape ladders, upholstered to match the cabin decor, and the repro Lutyens furniture, based on the Viceroy's palace in Delhi. Sorry? How much will the hire cost? dollars 28,000 a day. But before you rush, I should enter some reservations. You will have to be acceptable to Mr Getty (but the Captain will probably be able to swing that); you must use a specific brand of suntan oil to avoid damage to the furnishings; and there is a possibility of a delay in availability. It seems that Mr Getty is not completely happy with the dollars 20m rebuild, and may demand some slight modifications: apparently he cannot quite see the sea from his pillow.

Homer, TCP and me

WORLD Cup fever grips in the strangest ways. All week, for example, people have been coming up to me wanting to know more about John Motson (pictured below), the BBC chap commentating on many of the matches. Whence, they have asked, the curious speech patterns, the oddly affecting crikey-ish high-pitched timbre? What, they have demanded, is my favourite Motson moment? Is there any limit to the minutiae he can summon at will to plug those rare moments of accidie on the pitch? Has he taken that sheepskin coat with him? So, a Captain Moonlight Seven Point Profile: 1. John was born in Salford, edited his school magazine and worked in a bookshop before getting into the sports commentary game via the Barnet Press. 2. The historical figure he most identifies with is Homer, 'one of the first commentators'. 3. He would like to be remembered 'as a professional whose attitude was always right'. 4. He swears by Mycota Athlete's Foot Powder, Body Shop Peppermint Foot Lotion, TCP, and Boots Insect Repellent. 5. My favourite quote is 'And Socrates scores a goal which sums up the philosophy of Brazilian football', a couple of World Cups ago. 6. No, there is no limit to the minutiae he can summon at will to fill those rare moments of accidie. 7. No, he has not taken his sheepskin with him.

The brief for light relief

ADVOCACY is not what it was. The days of Rumpolean rodomontade and rhetoric have long departed in favour of

a droning, unfussy clarity. George Carman QC, the country's most fashionable lawyer, achieves his effect through doggedness, not flamboyance. These are dull times (cf Gore Vidal qv). Possibly the last legal exception is Gilbert Gray QC, a barrister of style and impressive substance who has overcome the handicap of a Yorkshire birth with wit and expansiveness. Mr Gray was seen last week enjoying himself in the defence of Shirley Wraith, the so-called 'Housewife from Hell' who was ordered by a slander jury to pay her husband pounds 69 after she had made allegations about the unfortunate medical consequences of his trips to Amsterdam brothels. David Wraith claimed he had visited them merely to gamble and drink champagne at pounds 69 a time, hence the award.

At one point, the court was shown a video tape of athletic cavorting at one of the brothels; Mr Justice Drake, according to reports, watched impassively while sucking a cough sweet. This prompted the Captain's memory of another case involving sexual untowardness and the services of Mr Gray. Both defendant and judge succumbed to coughs; the judge, in compassion, asked Mr Gray if his client would care for a Fisherman's Friend. 'Thank you very much, My Lord,' replied Mr Gray, 'but my client is in quite enough trouble already.'

(Photograph omitted)