Captain Moonlight: Be swinging, be dodgy, be young at heart

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The Independent Online
AVAST! How are you today? The odd twinge, not racing about quite as lissomly as of yore? And then there's all this fuss about the growing menace of ageism, discrimination in the workplace, that sort of thing. Worrying, isn't it? But, as usual, the Captain can help. Just follow these handy tips and people will simply not think of you as old at all! 1) While walking around, play imaginary but vigorous tennis shots (a rush to the imaginary net to return a drop shot is particularly effective, I find). 2) Drop some youthful catch-phrases casually into conversation. "Swinging" and "Dodgy" seem to provoke the strongest reaction. 3) Not hearing quite as sharply as you did, just a little Mutt and Jeff? Develop a cool, enigmatic smile (cf the Captain's, above) and, if in doubt, use one of my all-purpose replies, such as, "You wish", or "In your dreams, daddio". 4) Don't wear your cardigan after March. 5) Offer people your seat; but, on no account, hold open the door. A real giveaway. 6) No humming, particularly Beatles tunes. 7) Ostentatiously bite into discreetly prepared apples. 8) Talk about football a lot. 9) Don't sign letters "Yours aye". 10) Boast regularly that you are a Captain Moonlight reader. Thank you. Sorry? You're young? Listen, don't look a gift horse in the mouth, cut these crucial tips out and keep them in the sock/whatnots drawer. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Yes, it's the familiar sound that can mean only one thing: Someone is Calling The Captain! And, happy day, it is my redoubtable political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable. "Captain! Might have one of those scoop thingies! It's to do with Mr William "Big Win" Hague's reshuffle, the one that confirms what I, almost alone, have been saying for a very long time: Willie's a Winner. Anyway, you must have read about Theresa May, the new education shadow, the one who's come from nowhere? Well, what no one else seems to have noticed is that she has this sister, Vanessa, who is a real whizz with the violin and is internationally renowned for her way with it and the good looks she shares with Theresa!" Hmmm. I thank Ms Tributable and then consult my books of record, which confirm that not only are Theresa and Vanessa unrelated, but they don't even spell their surnames the same way. This is worrying, and throws into some doubt one of Ms Tributable's earlier big "scoop thingies" about the Prime Minister's elder brother, the well-known dancer and entertainer. Next!

PULVERISE, shred and shed those stereotypes with Captain Moonlight. You thought the Lib Dems were nice and earnest, well-intentioned, but woefully short on some bad habits? Pah! These guys are mean! Plain brown envelopes are now arriving in all the right places in Westminster, containing all manner of anonymous insinuation and imprecation against leadership contenders. Do you know, there is even a newspaper cutting being sent round which claims that Charles Kennedy used to take taxis when he was a student. Just how underhand, mean and vicious can you get? Next!

MYSTERY. That was what surrounded the photograph I showed you last week, and which I reproduce again today. I printed it, you will, of course, remember, because I had lost my photograph of what is claimed to be the least used bus stop in Britain, just outside Lewes. This was particularly irritating because a reader (thank you, again, Ms Swann of Newhaven!) had at long last expressed a desire to see it and they don't like you leaving a blank space round here. Bravely turning what could have been a disaster into another triumph, I placed in its stead the said mysterious image and challenged you to identify it, offering my exclusive black and silver enamel-effect Moonlight Badges as an inducement. Well. A Mr Sails thought it might be the least used bus; sorry, Mr Sails! Mr Standfield of Harrow wrote: "The aerial shows it to be the vehicle with the first mobile phone. The driver, Bo Dafohn, is saying, `Hullo, it's me. Yes, I'm in the Delage. I'm in Lewes High Street. Where did you say that bus stop was?' Or," continues Mr Standfield, "is it merely an early TV detector van?" Interesting, Mr Standfield. Ms Coppard of Sheffield, in a shamelessly naked bid for a Badge, wonders if it might be the first delivery van of those titans of the grocery game in the North-west, the good old family firm, Nevins (do pop into the Captain's shop, if you can, Barton Road, Stretford). No, Ms Coppard. But do have a Badge, especially as you also provide an intriguing piece of transport info, namely that some buses in Sheffield go to a place called Halfway. Next, Mr West of Meols: "I think it is an early type of television detector van." Oh, hang the suspense, you and Mr Standfield are right, Mr West. Badges!

BBRRNNGG! Yes, it's the telephone, and, on it, Russell Nib, my media correspondent. "Captain! A couple for you. First, proof of how seriously the Express takes its seven-day operation: when Rosie Boycott is involved in minor collisions of a vehicular nature on a Sunday and is asked to identify herself, she announces loudly: `I am the editor of the Sunday Express', rather than `I am the editor of the Daily Express'. Second, I am given to understand that a representative of one of our smaller-sized newspapers, pursuing its long-held and obsessive belief that David Blunkett is not really blind, threw a ball at him to see if he would catch it. Bye!" Remarkable. Thank you, Russell.

CRUMBS! Mr Whitaker, the foreign editor here, a man with his finger firmly on the global pulse, his foot on the world ball and his mind keenly concentrated on the issues that affect us all, has brought me an empty wrapper which contained 12 fairy cakes before the Whitaker family got their Ted Heaths round them. This follows my revelation last week that there has been an unexplained upsurge in demand for fairy cakes in this country, and consequently, too, for the little silver balls that decorate them. The importance of Mr Whitaker's former cakes is their point of origin: Spain. Clearly, such is the demand that fairy cakes are now being shipped in from all over the world. I told you Mr Whitaker was on top of things. Nothing moves. Next!

STEADY! Yes, it's my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a triumph of the apparently inconsequential. And, first, the Marquess of Cholmondeley, the Lord Great Chamberlain. I wrote to the Marquess asking him exactly what he did; after some delay, I have now had a reply from his clerk. Sorry? No, no, I'm sure he does know himself, he's probably a bit busy (he's a film director, you know). An interesting letter, but nothing about the LGC being entitled to the bed used by the monarch the night before the coronation. Have written asking. Will let you know soonest I receive. Next, can anybody explain how it is that when someone else sits in your chair, it's always hot when you sit down in it again? Next, as I was taking my evening sail down the Thames last week, I couldn't help noticing a large white van in the drive of David Mellor's elegant riverside home. Taking the man of the people thing a bit far, that, though, Dave, isn't it? Next, someone once told me that if the population of China all jumped into the air at the same time the earth would spin off its axis. Can this be true? And could they use it as a threat? Next, this week's additions to the Captain's list of lists, Triumphs of the Millennium, are: the cat's- eye, 1933; the baked bean, 1829; the parking meter, 1835; the potato crisp, 1853; the self-twist yarn spinner, 1961; and the concrete mixer, 1857. And, finally, I am given to understand that there are some people out there who believe the Moonlight Badge to be a figment of the poor old Captain's fevered imagination. Enough! Would winners please submit a tasteful photograph of themselves wearing this season's premier fashion accoutrement so that we can nail this foul canard once and for all? Thank you. Bye!

GOOD Grief! Wait till Geoffrey Lean, our crusading GM writer, sees this! No? All right, it's Wal-Mart, the invading US supermarket giant, showing they really mean business, two for a pound. No? W Hague and Ffion with their heads sticking through one of those trick photo thingies you get at Blackpool? No? Edward and Sophie? Yet another Ascot hat? All right, the twins are part of a stunt designed to underline that our toms are GM-free. They are.