AROUND The Clubs with Captain Moonlight. And these are tense times indeed for cockney comic Jim "Nick, Nick" Davidson, and his fellow cheeky chappie and classicist, Peter "Eye Eyeshade" Stothard, editor of the Times. Jimbo is up for membership at the Carlton; Pete fancies his chances at the Garrick. So far, Jimbo is going very well, but I'm a bit worried about Pete. Apparently, his chance to meet prospective fellow trencherers and barbuttonholers did not go terribly well. Quiet, left early, that sort of thing, whispers, or what pass for them in the Garrick, of "unclubbability". Perhaps he should have a word with Jim, few tips, spare gags, ice-breakers, "take my wife. Do take my wife", you know the form. Jim's agent is on 0171-836 1020, Pete. Heaven knows, clubland could do with livening up a bit. It used to be such fun. Did you know they used to have hackney carriage races up and down St James's Street? Terrific. You wouldn't get any of today's cabbies playing ball, would you? And does anybody remember Colonel Pierpoint? He was the member of White's who had the first central traffic island in London built there in 1864 because he was worried about being run down during all the shenanigans. Unfortunately, he was knocked over and killed by a cab while he was inspecting it. I still miss the Pelican Club, where Hughie Drummond was once accused of throwing the boar's head that had knocked a passing peer into the fireplace senseless. "Nonsense," replied Drummond. "It couldn't have been me. I've thrown nothing but jelly all evening." Next!
RIGHT. You, quite reasonably, want to know about the jar in that picture. It's an old mayonnaise jar. But, hold, there is more, for it is with some pride that I announce yet another first in British journalism. Yes, this is the first ever column to adopt some frogspawn as official columnar pets. That's them, in there. This will be fun, but also instructive and educational, as I shall be bringing you regular picture updates as the spawn continue the magical journey of life that will see them transformed from blobs into frogs fit to be kissed. Internet sites? Old hat. Nor are these any old common or garden spawn. They are descended from some frogs that belonged to somebody who worked for Gollancz. Lit frogs, then. Who said that my time on the back page of the Culture section had failed to have any effect? Precisely. And don't worry about the jar; by the time you read this, the spawn will be in rather more airy surroundings. Yes, indeed: Victoria, who works here, has an Auntie Pat who runs Abbey Pet Stores and Thompson's Artistic Florist, of Barking Road, Plaistow, London E13; and Auntie Pat is supplying a magnificent tank, yours for pounds 42.95, mine for rather less on account of the exclusive Moonlight endorsement. On!
YOU know, sometimes, I tend to think that the Captain rather hides his light under his old hat. Others barrel about trumpeting their exclusives; the Captain is from a rather different school, that of the polite cough, the wry shrug and the shy smile. But, really, this time, I just have to mention it. Only weeks ago, I brought to your attention the remarkable similarity between Chancellor Schroder of Germany and the late television quiz-show host, Eamonn Andrews. My picture (below right) should refresh your memory. And now what do we find? Only Schroder coming under fierce criticism in Germany for spending too much time on television quiz shows! What more proof do you need that this is the column read in the chanceries of Europe? Obviously, he read my item, thought about it, and immediately arranged to appear on, inter alia, the German version of You Bet (he lost and then had to take a granny from the audience out for a candle-lit meal as a forfeit). The power of the press, eh? Now then, have you ever seen Tony Blair and Michael Barrymore together? Next!
MONARCHY Corner. This, you will know, is the part of the paper that supports our royals. No wavering or havering according to prevailing zephyrs of fashion here. Imagine then, the Captain's concern when Taylor, my man in the shadow of Windsor Castle, reported that the Post Office in Peascod Street was selling, in full view, those wonderful videos specially commemorating the golden wedding of the Queen and Prince Philip in glorious colour for 99 pence, reduced from pounds 7.99, reduced from pounds 10. Talk about lese-majesteo! And the Post Office, too; just whose head do they suppose that is on the stamps? Well, my course as an officer was clear. Taylor was despatched to Peascod Street forthwith. And that is why I now hold on your behalf, readers, 19 copies of the video. All you have to do is write in, offering a decent home for these golden memories and they can be yours for 50p, incl p&p. Sorry? Well, they would have been cheaper, but the man in the Post Office refused to give me a discount for bulk purchase. God save the Queen!
BUFFALOES. And the series they all wanted to get, What To Do When Closely Encountering Wild Animals, continues the sage advice offered to our legendary environment correspondent, Sir Geoffrey Lean, by a comparatively unmarked Masai tracker over a campfire in the Kenyan bush. This week: the buffalo. If you meet one, immediately drop to the ground, lie on your back and flatten yourself as firmly as you can against the earth. The shape of the buffalo's horns will prevent it from tossing you up into the air, but will not prevent it from continuing to try. Strike it repeatedly on the nose with a sharp stick until it goes away. Meanwhile, Mr Knight of Slough has a solution to our quandary with the grizzly bear, whether to stay or run. "Never," writes Mr Knight, "go into bear country alone, and always ensure you can run faster than at least one of your companions. Voila!" Thank you, Mr Knight, Prof Dicky Dawkins would be proud of you! Bubbly! And this week's top tip: alligators drown if held under water.
STEADY! Yes, it's my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a potpourri of pertinence, a casserole of comment, and more. First, congratulations to John Evans, 50, of Marlpool, Derbyshire, who has balanced 402 cans of Coca-Cola, weighing 366lbs, on his head for 112 seconds. Well done, John! Next, the Captain's Lenten Service: running into problems here, I'm afraid, after last week's bright start when the Archbishop of Canterbury confided that he'd given up the drink. Still no word from Basil Hume, and Downing Street, in a flagrant dereliction of duty, is refusing to ask Britain's other top spiritual leader what he's forsworn. Shame! Next, an apology to Mohamed Al Fayed. Last week, due to a transmission error, I referred to him as "the Knightsbridge corner shop owner". This should, of course, have read "the Knightsbridge corners shop owner". Sorry, Mo! Next, no apology: it has been pointed out that last week I referred to "the triumph" by St Helens at Leeds in the Rugby League Cup when, in fact, they lost. Listen, they did much better than Wigan. Bye!
Hello, hello! PCs Hugh Shuall-Suspex and Phil McCollar pictured conducting an identity parade in a bid to nab an illegal immigrant from Muscovy. No one quacked, although "chummy" is thought to be the shifty- looking one third from the left. "At least none of them's black," said PC McCollar. All right, they were the plastic contestants in a charity race on the Thames. They were.