CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT: Beware brown shoes on the boulevard

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BONJOUR, mes cheres! Pretty racy greeting, yes, but in keeping with my theme for today, which is, yes, the Love Rat! A lot of them around, at present, I've just noticed. James Hewitt, for example, you know, and that chap, whatever his name was, the one who behaved so badly to lovely Tara Tara Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Now, the Captain has seen a fair few boulevards, matinees and thes dansants in his time, so I thought I would pass on my Nine Surefire Ways To Spot A Love Rat. 1) Wears brown shoes in town. 2) Given to remarking "I say!" in a particular way when an attractive lady enters the room. 3) Favours a thin moustache. 4) Hair shows obvious signs of over-familiarity with the comb. 5) If he can do both the fox trot and the frug, watch out! 6) Drives car shaped like a penis. 7) Mutters "Testing, testing" to himself and asks you to talk into his bowtie. 8) Calls himself "Captain", or some such. 9) Does not display stunning black and silver enamel effect Moonlight Badge on lapel. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Hark, who can this be, Calling The Captain? Why, it is my correspondent to the ever stimulating world of showbusiness, Ms Britt Bafter, freshly back from the South of France! "Captain, Eyes Wide Shut, the premiere, Kidman and Cruise, Leicester Square, Friday night, what larks! London's finest, Jemima Khan, Geri H, Carlton's Michael Green, all seated, as ordered, waiting for Tom and Nic. And waiting: 45 minutes, Captain! Well. We were all very upset, particularly Mikey Green. And how long did the little couple stay? Ten minutes, Captain, and then they were off to the Ivy for a slap-up beano or whatever it is Scientologists eat!" Ah, what little monkeys these celebrities can be! Next!

CARP KILLER. Do you know, it's getting more and more dangerous out there. There is, you will remember, a Great White shark off Padstow. On top of that, a water skier from Lichfield has been bitten on the foot by a pike which tried to drag him down into the murky depths of Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons. And now, the Captain understands, a fish farmer in Norfolk has imported some 4ft-long Israeli red-eyed albino grass carp, said to be capable of leaping 20ft into the air and battering fishermen to death. Sorry? Killers of the Deep Fried? Very funny. You wouldn't think so if you saw a red-eyed albino coming towards you at pace, matey. No, I don't think we'll be getting one for the Captain's Fish Tank. Sorry? Over there? Listen, we had that gag last week, and I wasn't fooled then. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Busy, busy! This time my telephone tinkle heralds the urgent tones of Russell Nib, top media correspondent. "Captain, this John Humphrys chap who's everywhere at the moment! Written some book about broadcasters dumbing down, apparently. Had a particular go at Tonight With Trevor McDonald, the ITV flagship cutting-edged future of TV current affairs which is currently undergoing an element of 'rescheduling'. 'Meretricious', I think, was the word used. Anyway, TWTM's top reporter, Johnathan Maitland, e-mailed Humphrys, thanking him for his comments and congratulating him on his recent brain-stretching contributions to the BBC's Today programme, including a fascinating discussion on the future of Britpop. So, I am led to understand, Humphrys then e-mailed Maitland back, questioning the point of, among other things, Trevor McDonald! Well, goodness me, Captain, this time Humphrys really has gone too far! Questioning the point of Sir Trevor? It's just not done. Everyone's very upset." I replace the receiver, once again contrasting the edgy hysteria of the world of broadcasting with the reflective calm of the sound, sensible trade of print journalism. Next!

WHAT? On my head, up there? You would be after something similar if you worked here, let me tell you! You've read about Desk Rage, this newly identified phenomenon where rising stress levels lead workers to vent their frustrations on their colleagues? They're all at in here, and, for some reason, the Captain seems to be the focus of ire. Yesterday, in the space of five minutes, I was abused verbally on two occasions, ducked a copy of Roget's Thesaurus thrown with considerable force, and was caught a glancing blow by the 1996 edition of Who's Who. And for why? All I do is sit, minding my own business, smoking a cigar, opening an occasional bottle of the Widow and dictating this article over my shoulder in between singing the odd snatch of "The Happy Wanderer (Fol Der Ree!)" and "Down At The Old Bull and Bush (Bush Bush!)". Ah, well. Now, where was I?

DUCKS. That's right: my amazing claim of last week that there is not a single reference to them in the pages of the Old Testament. A claim challenged, inter alios, by Mr Foy of Royston, who writes, tersely: "Duck. What Absalom specifically failed to do. Badge please." Mr Foy has a point; Absalom, as most of you will know, was trapped in the branches of a tree and killed when he did, indeed, fail to duck. Mr Foy: Badge! I am not quite so sure, though, about Mr Bassett of New Malden, and his view that Revelations 18:2 is, in fact, referring to a vicious attack with duck feathers when it records, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down". Nor, Mr Hinchcliffe of Shipdham, who calls in evidence Deuteronomy 22:11's "garment of divers sorts". However, scholarship must have its rewards: Badges!

BBRRNNGG! Delight, a call from Ms Una Tributable, my redoubtable political correspondent! "Captain, three for you! First, I am delighted to report that the bust of Oliver Cromwell, the one missing these weeks past from the Commons, has turned up in Westminster Hall, where it is forming part of an exhibition on the Palace of Westminster. In fact, only today I saw a group of Japanese tourists pointing at it in great excitement, under the impression, apparently, that it was a likeness of 'Lilliam Hague' before his makeover. Next: did you know that the Lib Dems' newly redesigned bird logo was going to be much plumper, and then young Kennedy was elected leader? Next: did you know that Commander Ashdown's top secret and personal leader's file, containing all manner of intriguing information, was last seen in young Kennedy's safe, despite an order from the Commander that it should be destroyed?" Gracious, it's all go over there, isn't it? Next!

ADO! Yes, it's the Captain's new competition, My Claim To Fame! And Ms Gunn of Bath writes: "Dear Captain, During an art lesson at school in the mid Sixties, we were asked to enter a poster competition organised by the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents. No more was heard until, driving through Camden many years later, what should I see leering down at me from a lamp-post? Yes! It was my Funeral Director carrying a coffin with a Christmas Wreath on top and a word bubble with the immortal phrase 'Don't let this be your Christmas Box'. I did try ringing RoSPA and asking for a copy but to no avail. Does this qualify for a badge in the current competition and could you or any of your contacts obtain a copy for me?" Ms Evans: Yes! Contacts: To work! Next, Mr Sandison, of Codicote, having been disqualified last week from the old competition, I Almost Met, for letting slip that he knew Valerie Singleton, is, in a breathtaking act of brassneckery, now attempting to enter Val as his claim to fame! Mr Sandison: Badge (but only because you also mention that you won a plastic telescope consolation prize in a competition in the Eagle in 1953)!

HALLELUIAH! Yes, it's back, the essential research tool for bright and stimulating conversation, my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany! And today's first silence filler, comes from France, where scientists have announced a formula for the meaning of life. It's Tn = Tc + (To -Tc)g-n, where Tn is time, Tc is the critical time for a species to die out, To is the start of evolution, g is the relationship between the length of a branch and its sub-branches, and minus n is the chronological ranking of each great mutation from one to seven. And if that doesn't get them going, mention Lucky the German guide dog, who is about to take on his fifth owner. The first died under a bus, the second fell off a pier, the third fell off a railway platform, and the fourth had another fatal traffic accident. "Lucky is a very good guide dog," said trainer Ernst Gerber, "but he needs to brush up a little on his skills." In Scaynes Hill, West Sussex, meanwhile, a reptile breeding centre has been given planning permission despite objections from residents that the banging of shells while tortoises copulate will make their lives a misery. And, finally, my new correspondent, Ms Kirk of Canberra, tells me that it's possible to buy a portable pillow known as the "Portillo" down there. Ms Kirk: thank you. Everyone else: Bye!

NOTHING like success: Ted "The Deal" Wessex-Windsor-Prince-Sire, legendary Hollywood producer, seen with his wife, Hyphen, and suitably dressed extras at the launch of his new mini-series, Royal Family On Ice Meet Vampire Killer Puffins, 2. No? All right, it's Ted and Hyphen with their new It's A Royal Knockout, watched by the Queen Mother (first puffin on left). Last Queen into the coffins is a custard! No? All right, it's the launch of an internet referendum on oil drilling round St Kilda. It is. PA

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