CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT: I'm right behind Cliff's millennium prayer

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The Independent Online
AHOY and welcome to the world's only post-modern pre-millennial diary column sponsored by a port company with the initials W and J! And may I start by thanking all of you who so kindly wrote in to point out that one of the bulbs in my sophisticated logo arrangement wasn't working last week. I have had a quiet word with my technical and logistical delivery support team and have received a firm assurance that everything will be "AOK" today. So, on with business! And I couldn't help noticing that New Labour is looking for a New campaign song to replace, you must remember, "Things Can Only Get Better". And who better placed to come up with suggestions than you? Not only will you earn the undying gratitude of our PM, Millbank, and the nation, but the Captain will also reward you with one of his shiny, black and silver enamel-effect Moonlight Badges, or, if you insist, a bottle of port. Here are the Captainly suggestions (try to imagine them being performed by the PM, with full Cabinet backing): 1) "Happiness", theme of the great Ken Dodd. 2) "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" (rap mix, Cabinet hum). 3) "Bleep Right On To The End Of The Road". 4) "All Right Now". 5) "(I Can't Live In A) World Without Love", by Peter and Gordon. 6) "Mandy". 7) "Home, Home Slightly Beyond My Range". 8) "When I Saw You Standing, Blair". 9) "Fly Me To The Hoon". 10) "Irvine The Mood For New Wallpaper". 11) "Poor Do, Ron, Ron". 12) "Straw My Everything". 13) "Arms Sales Till The Sun Sets". Or perhaps they should just stick with the old one. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Do you know, even after all these years, I still get quite a thrill from the merry tinkle of the telephone: what intriguing indiscretion, what little peccadillo, is about to be revealed? And, promisingly, it is none other than my media editor, Russell Nib: "Captain! Feng Shui magazine has had a rejig! New editor, new typefaces, new sections!" Splendid, I'm sure, but you would have thought they'd have got it right the first time, wouldn't you? Next!

DID You Know With Captain Moonlight (1). Did you know that Her Majesty The Queen is a big rugby league fan? She is. No surprise to the Captain, who, as a devoted monarchist, is well aware of Her Discernment. Anyway, only last week, Kerry Sibraa, former president of the Australian Senate, related that, on the occasion of his audience with Her Majesty, she told him she thought Wigan against Hull in the 1985 cup final was the most cracking rugby league match ever. Well. Not a bad call. There is, of course, the 1961 tussle between Wigan and St Helens; and, of course, the St Helens and Wigan encounter of 1966; but, certainly, many observers think that the inspired play of the two Parramatta aces, Kenny for Wigan, and Sterling for Hull, clinch it for the 1985 game, at least until the remarkable victory for St Helens against the Bradford Bulls in 1996. And then it occurred to me that Her Majesty must have met Mr Sibraa prior to the 1996 scrap, and has probably subsequently revised her opinion. So I have written to ask. I'll let you know when She answers. Next!

BBRRNNGG! How nice, a call from my literary editor, Hugh Advance. "Captain, this John Major book, his memoirs, surprise best seller! People are stopping at nothing to get hold of it! One man picked up a copy in a Suffolk bookshop the other week, waited until there were no other customers in the shop, then sidled up to the bookseller saying, `It's not for me, it's for my wife'." Remarkable. Next!

RAISED VOICES! All sorts of jostling! Yes, competition is really hotting up in the Captain's First Calendar Of The New Millennium Competition. Today's entry is the Historic Farm Tractors calendar, available from Voyageur Press, PO Box 338, Stillwater, MN 55082, USA; and pictured, down there, is Miss November, the very splendid 1938 Massey-Harris 101 Senior with an L-head, six-cylinder, bore and stroke engine turning out 30 drawbar and 35 belt hp at 1,500 rpm. Next week: The Ferret Calendar, featuring Flying Ferrets (on skateboard), January, and Sandy McFerret, golfer, July. On!

YOU DECIDE with Captain Moonlight. Last week, you should remember, if you were paying attention, I offered you a choice of items for my new partwork section. Did you want some more ballroom dancing instructions; another knitting pattern; or the recipe for Ken Dodd's Quick Fish Pie, the one in the book put together by the Friends of Fakenham High School and College, the one to which T Blair contributed ragout of lamb with couscous? And the vote, overwhelmingly, was for ... Ken Dodd's Quick Fish Pie! So here we go: take four large potatoes, one pound of cod, half a small onion, finely chopped, four ounces of grated cheese, white sauce and seasoning. Peel, dice and boil the potatoes; skin and chop fish into small chunks; grease long shallow dish, spread out the fish and cooked potatoes; add the onion and seasoning; stir most of the grated cheese into the white sauce and pour evenly to cover the potatoes and fish; sprinkle the remainder of the grated cheese over the top and cook in a moderate oven for approximately 30 minutes; serve hot with freshly cooked vegetables. Mmm! Thanks, Ken! By the way, has anybody else noticed the amazing resemblance between Ken and ... Tony Blair? Next!

BBRRNNGG! Coming in, loud and clear, Ms Una Tributable, the Captain's political correspondent: "Captain! Still no word on the policeman's helmet that went missing from the Palace of Westminster! If I were the local constabulary, I should be keeping a very tight grip on truncheons. Next, Charles Clarke, large Home Office minister, bit rattled when pressed on the Government's free-range approach to statistics on ITV's Tonight With Trevor McDonald programme. Refused to shake hands with producer afterwards: `I'm not going to shake your hand. You are an affront to democracy!' Ooooh! Next, I understand that Bob Ayling, British Airways chief, has invited Tony Blair to take a trip on his millennium wheel before anyone else has a go. The only snag is that it will be before all the safety checks are carried out, so Tony, I gather, is refusing to go up unless the entire parliamentary party comes up as well. Bye!" Dear. Can such things be?

DID You Know With Captain Moonlight (2). Did you know that William Hague is a member of Pratt's? Did you know, too, that the waiters at Pratt's are all addressed as "George"? And that the waiters at the Beefsteak are all called "Charles"? No, I don't know if there's a club where all the waiters are called "William", although I do know that's what you ask for at the end of the meal in posh restaurants. Oi! Next!

PORT! Yes, this is the bit where I give away bottles of the stuff: and Mr Sladen of Woodstock is so eager to get his hands on the rich red ruby that he has submitted entries to both My Claim To Fame and Britain's Jolliest Place, my latest humdinger, introduced after Aberdeen got all that publicity for being Britain's Glummest Place. ClaimTo Fame: playing an Egyptian soldier in a student production of Christopher Fry's The Firstborn, Mr Sladen sported rented sandals that had been worn by Tony Britton in the original production! Britain's Jolliest Place: "Filey - it's the only place that rhymes with smiley". Hmmm. I much preferred this, from Mr Calvert: "May I take this opportunity to suggest that anywhere your column is read on a Sunday will be a jolly place?" That's terrific, Mr Calvert: Port! Mr Sladen: Why don't you have one too!

NOW, another popular feature, Ask The Symingtons, in which readers get to quiz the Anglo-Portuguese family which owns W & J Graham and much else besides, including magnificent estates up the Douro graced by no fewer than two visits by Mr Major when he was prime minister, although he doesn't seem to have been invited back since. And today's first question (1) is from Mr Wilson of Edinburgh, who wants to know about Port and Lemon. "Perhaps," he writes, "you would Ask The Symingtons, does one serve this in a cocktail glass, a wine glass, or, indeed, a pint tumbler? Do you use a whole lemon, a half, or just a twist? I have a lemon, perhaps you could oblige with the other ingredients." And the second question (2) comes from Mr Wright of the Wirral, who wants to know: "What's going to win the 3.30 at Doncaster?". The Symingtons Answer: " (1) Mr Wilson appears confused as to what the drink Port and Lemon really is! The normal usage would be Port mixed with Lemonade, (a strange mixture even using an inferior brand of Port) and comes from around the period of the First World War. Here at Graham's we prefer to enjoy the full- bodied, luscious sweetness of our fine Ports in their original, pure and unadulterated form. (2) A horse. Thank you." Hmmm. Plugs and a joke. Perhaps they should be doing the whole column. Sorry?

ENOUGH! The amount of acclaim cascading onto my Moonlight Miscellany, a veritable port and lemon of this, that and the other, is becoming embarrassing. And first, a big welcome to Mr Barry Hearn, multi-talented accountant and sports promoter of the glove and the cue. Mr Hearn was telephoned the other day and invited to take part in a Vox Pop. "Vox Pop? What's that?" said Bazza, "I can't keep up with this new computer jargon." Next, the Captain understands, James Hewitt has submitted a proposal to a Channel 4 travel programme to go off hunting for dinosaurs with an unnamed companion. That sounds about right. Can't wait for the book. Next, the Captain is right behind Sir Cliff's new single, "The Millennium Prayer", even if it has been banned by Radio Two. And I have a copy which I will be extremely happy to give to anybody who wants it. Next, Memo to New Labour: it's all very well getting that waxwork of the Dalai Lama out of the way for old Jiang's visit; but hasn't anybody noticed that John Smith's still in there? Quick! Finally, this week's leaf from the Captain's Common Place Book comes from the great Major Ron Ferguson: "Swearing at the polo club? It's a load of bollocks!" Bye!

LORDY! These were the poignant scenes in the House of Lords on Friday as peers who had failed to make the final 75 were ceremonially ejected by Sir Hector Swishleerer, Old Stick and Gentleman-in-Waiting (the 12th of this month, Bow Street, 10.30). The always colourful 22nd Earl of Clacton is the one having his peer ear felt, as Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (at the back) and a Mr Christopher Evans (front, in hiding for some reason) look on grimly. No? All right, it's some sort of PR stunt to do with Christmas. I think. NEIL MUNNS/PA

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