Captain Moonlight: Bus queues, bulldogs and boogying at the YC bash

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The Independent Online
WE MEDIA types don't hang around, you know. Last week London Transport announced that it was applying to have a byelaw forbidding queue-jumping abolished and before you could say room for one more on top the demise of the queue had been announced, analysed, done and dusted, another stop on the downward path of this once great nation of ours. A slight problem with it all is that London Transport is making the application because it believes the queue is so firmly bedded in the British psyche that there is no need to enforce it. Robin Pulford, an LT spokesman, claims that 99.9 per cent of his queues work without problems. Strolling, as I do, in the City and down Regent Street last week, I had to agree with him. Orderly queues everywhere, except, curiously, at one bus stop in Regent Street, for the Number 12, where people barged in from all directions, including a silver-haired man of a certain age whose late run from outside the Angus Steak House would not have disgraced a running back for the Cincinnati Bengals. Curious because the Number 12 goes to Peckham, an area pinpointed as problematical by Mr Pulford only hours before. More work is needed on this. Gill Mackenzie, secretary of the Polite Society, reports no especial problems with queues, beyond a little local difficulty recently in Oxford with foreign students in fish and chip shops. Re unruly foreigners, Mr Pulford was challenged by German television, which took exception to some slightly incautious remarks he made about 'the worst queuers in the world' during a radio interview. But Mr Pulford was not to be outfaced, recounting a disturbing personal experience at a German bus stop in the Sixties when a little old lady was trampled in the scramble. Climbdown of German television, LT triumphant. The Polite Society, by the way, has decreed 7 October National Day of Courtesy, which prompts the Captain to send his compliments to Beeston's, the Suffolk bus company: could you possibly persuade your drivers that vigorous vertical gestures with a cupped hand are not in the best traditions of public service? Thank you.

LADY Thatcher, 68, bit of a plain talker. Last week, South Africa. Before that, this, loudly, at a reception abroad where she spotted the noble figure of Ferdinand Mount, her former policy adviser, now editor of the Times Literary Supplement: 'Ferdie, what are we going to do about the Royal Family? They're so stupid.'

A FINE dresser, President Mandela. Beautiful suits, splendidly conservative shirts and ties. Savile Row? Jermyn Street? Not a bit of it. Nelson Mandela buys his suits, shirts and ties from Grays, of Johannesburg, the outfitters owned by his friend, Yussuf Furpee. The business was started by Mr Furpee's father; other clients include Chief Buthelezi. Mr Mandela takes a great interest in clothes, says Mr Furpee. His solution to the eternal debate between the patrician four buttons on the sleeve and the more demotic three has the true Mandelan stamp: he wears both. Mr Furpee says he is trying to tempt him away from his favoured restrained blue and grey suit materials into something a little brighter, like brown. Mr Mandela is resisting; very wisely, in my opinion. Sorry? That grey double-breasted number John Major was wearing when he met Mr Mandela last week and spoke so memorably about the dawn of a new era? Well, yes, it did seem a little on the large side. Who made it? Funny thing, that. Downing Street wouldn't tell me, and nobody else wanted to own up. Austin Reed's denial, for example, was like lightning. Marks and Spencer? No comment. C&A? No. I should tell you, too, that Mr Mandela introduced Mr Major to Mr Furpee with the comment that 'this is the man who makes me look immaculate'. Mr Major agreed, but did not take his chance. Frankly, I preferred him in his zoot-suit period, as in my picture from 1970.

AN APOLOGY: last week the Captain may have inadvertently given the impression that this fashionable linkage of football and the intellect was a load of tosh. And so I believed, until I read on Friday that Rodney Marsh, formerly of Queen's Park Rangers, Manchester City and England, was a devotee of Herman Hesse's Siddartha and Lord Macaulay's History of England. Siddartha, OK, sure, trendy in the Sixties, but Macaulay? Remarkable] Still, he was an inside forward. Marsh, I mean. And Eric Cantona reads Verlaine. And what about that Socrates, used to play for Brazil. He was an inside forward, too, wasn't he?

YOU probably think the Captain's life a matter of beer and skittles; a confidence here, a breezy dictation from a menu there, the clipped order to a cabbie and a quick scribble. Not so: there can be frustration in amongst the old joie de vivre. Take, for example, the story involving Simon Heffer, the grave and weighty Right-thinking new deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, Richard Littlejohn, the tabloid version, columnist, 'irritant of the year', satellite television personality, and Mr and Mrs John Patten (he was, you may remember, Secretary of State for Education). All were gathered at the Heffer Essex home, and all were staying the night. A convivial time was had by all. The Pattens, according to wont, retired first. Littlejohn, following later, mistook his room and climbed into bed with the Pattens. A good story, I think you'll agree, with several attractive ingredients. Unfortunately and unsportingly, Heffer chooses to cast doubt upon it. Heigh-ho, another world exclusive gone. Now, what's next?

A FINE memorial service in London last week for Stan Gebler Davies, Independent columnist, a droll and rueful Irishman whose elegance as a writer was matched only by the crumple of his person. It was at St Etheldreda's, Ely Place. There was a wake in the crypt with large impromptu performances and impoverished poets wandering and wondering about the chances of small loans. During the service a cartoonist slumbered gently while two publicans spoke loudly about the cost of living. Stan, you should have been there.

SUCH a fuss about cannabis. It has brought a lot of solace over the years to a lot of people, including Carthaginian galley slaves, a job with satisfaction and benefits I would have thought not that far removed from leading the Liberal Democrats. Perhaps my brother officer, Captain Paddy, would be more relaxed about it all if he had been to university and chilled out a little rather than learning to kill silently in the Marines. Or perhaps not: Tony Blair, Oxford lead singer and sex machine in a band whose very name was a tribute to the Grateful Dead, is dead against the stuff. Actually, the Tories might be a better bet: Jonathan Aitken famously supported legalisation in the Sixties, and there have been claims that Michael Howard had a toke or two at Cambridge. Mr Howard has denied this and is in quite enough trouble already. John Major, though, is interesting. Honestly. Anyone brought up in Brixton must have consumed huge amounts of cannabis passively, which may account for his 'laid-back' approach. Some of us also noted that Paddy didn't turn up for the Lib Dem disco in Brighton. Tony Blair, on the other hand, is promised for Young Labour's disco in Blackpool, while Major always turns up for the YC bash, as befits a man who chose that bouncy get-down Diana Ross number 'The Happening' on Desert Island Discs. Er, Right On]

LISTEN, we all did a lot of crazy things in the Sixties. But do we deserve to be forever haunted by them? All those angry poets, for example. One was called Adrian Mitchell. Now he's the New Statesman's poetry editor. Last week the New Statesman published a poem by another Sixties figure, Tom Pickard, entitled 'Hidden Agenda, My Manifesto For the Leadership of the Labour Party', in which Larkin's four-letter word was repeated 79 times in 79 lines. Er, Right On] Dead daring. Larkin awful poem, though. It was a taster for an eight-page poetry supplement this week. Crikey. Hold that rush. Actually, wasn't the New Statesman quite a good magazine in the Sixties?

THEY shall not pass: new special measures in force at Whitemoor jail yesterday following a crackdown by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary. 'This really is No More Mr Nice Guy,' said Mr Howard, 'Those ruched curtains will be out by Monday.' The dogs are trained to sit motionless for hours. No, of course not: it's not even Mr Howard's country home. It is in fact a house in Mile End, London, and an outstanding example of why, despite homogenisation, the creeping, smothering blandness of our times, Loyd Grossman, and thin people in black suits with buttoned, tieless shirts, there will always be interesting and witty English front gardens. Other nations may express themselves by dressing up or singing songs; the English have front gardens. Mr Wemmick, clerk, and owner of a small castellated villa with flag and cannon in Great Expectations, would surely approve, as would his great creator. What larks]

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