CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT: More laughs than the Chuckle Brothers

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The Independent Online
BELAY there! Today, I want to have a serious word with you about trivia. For it is now time to get really cracking with my ultimate millennial list, Captain Moonlight's Triumphs of The Millennium, a celebration of innovations that have had a major minor effect on the quality of all our lives. It will be a list building inexorably, interestingly and excitingly to a comprehensively remarkable conclusion in the heady days ahead. I am even offering that ultimate yet discreet black and silver enamel-effect symbol of discernment and exclusivity, the Moonlight Badge, for assistance in its compilation. Here follow the first 10: 1) The toothbrush (1498). 2) The collapsible silk opera hat (1832). 3) Hanging, drawing and quartering (1241). 4) Margarine (1869). 5) Logarithms (1614). 6) Bread and butter pudding (c1700). 7) The Venetian blind (1769) . 8) Robinson's Barley Water (1823). 9) The indoor swimming pool (1742). 10) The vaulting horse (1761). Just try to imagine life without any of that lot, then, fired, send me your suggestions. And remember, it's not every day you get a chance to participate in history. Or, for that matter, to get a Moonlight Badge. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Ah, yes, the harsh harbinger of fresh intelligence; or, as a colleague earlier in my distinguished career (he was a bit of a card) used to say, "Answer that, it might be the phone!" Great days. Anyway, it's none other than my lively showbiz correspondent, Ms Britt Bafter, who has this: "Captain, Summer Shows! Britt's Tips this time round include Gordon and Bunny Jay in Summer Spectacular 99 at the Spa Theatre, Bridlington; Trouble at Sea! starring the Chuckle Brothers at the Britannia Pier Theatre, Great Yarmouth; Freddie Starr, Johnnie Laff and Amethyst, at the Princess Theatre, Torquay; and, on the North Pier, Blackpool, Legends, tributes to Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Elvis, Tina Turner and Roy Orbison!" I thank Ms Bafter for these diverting prospects and wonder if anything else is "hot" in her world. "Funny you should ask, Captain. Do you remember the Sixties pop star, Heinz, key member of the Tornados, whose tune "Telstar" was once named by Lady Thatcher as one of her favourite records?" Indeed I do, I say: who could forget "Just Like Eddie"? "Well, wait for it, Captain, Heinz is 57 next month! Oh, and by the way, did you know Elvis had a collection of stuffed toy animals?" Remarkable. Some business, show business. Next!

BALLS. The little silver ones you use on cakes. We in the Moonlight family have noticed a distinct dearth of the little fellows in the shops recently. Fearing some EU directive concerned about choking, or vulnerable dental work, or metal fatigue, I got in touch with the silver-ball market leaders, Supercook, who operate from Leeds, the Monte Carlo of the West Riding. Thankfully, after consulting with a spokeswoman, I am able to confirm that the lack of balls is purely a temporary difficulty confined to the choicer parts of south London. In fact, the spokeswoman was able to point out a buoyancy in the market not only for Silver Balls but for Hundreds and Thousands, Sugar Stars, and Marzipan Fruits as well, due to a recent increase, which she was somewhat at a loss to explain, in the creation and consumption of fairy cakes. Thank you.

BBRRNNGG! Heavens above, it's my food and drink editor, the great RAC Quart! "Captain! Marco Pierre White, Yorkshireman, cook and angler! Spot of trouble down at Marlow Weir, in leafy Bucks, former favourite waters of MPW when he's in the mood to murder a few pike. Sorry? Yes, he's a coarse fisherman, all right, Captain! Yes, very funny. Anyway, he's been wading about in the weir with that Gordon Ramsay fellow in tow, and apparently that's very bad form in the coarse business. And then there was an expert coarse competition he wanted to take part in but they told him to get back to the kitchen, so it's all turned nasty and he doesn't go any more. Interested?" Hmmm. This seems pretty run of the mill (!) for White. I ask Quart to turn to a more pressing matter. But he is also at a loss to explain the fairy cake increase. Next!

KERRPPLLOPP! Yes, that's the sound of incoming e-mail responding in formidable numbers to my competition to discover the two most popular phrases among mobile phone users, not including "I'm on the train", which would be a runaway winner. And our runaway winner is Ms Swann of Newhaven, who e-mails: "Dear Captain, Based on my own journeys (between Newhaven Town and London Victoria via Lewes - and incidentally when are we going to see the famous bus stop photo?) the second to fifth commonest utterances of mobile users are: 'Hello, it's me.' 'I'm on the mobile.' 'Is Mummy there?' 'Signalling difficulties in the Purley area, apparently'." Well done, Ms Swann: Badge! Sorry? Ah, yes, Ms Swann's reference to the "famous bus stop photo". This is a photograph I have long promised to display, should anyone be interested, of what is claimed to be the least-used bus stop in Britain, near Lewes. Imagine, then, my feelings on receipt of Ms Swann's request. Imagine, too, my anguish, when I found I had lost the photo. That's why, instead, down there, I am showing you this week's mystery object. Identify it and a Moonlight Badge could be yours!

BBRRNNGG! Yes, it's my political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable, reporting from Westminster after a historic week of peace and elections. "Captain! The spoons in the House of Commons gift shop have been reduced to pounds 4.50! And I also understand, exclusively, that they are about to introduce a new range of toiletries specifically designed to appeal to Blair's Babes, including compacts engraved with the famous portcullis, lockets and silver frames for his photo, and holy medals commemorating his healing of a stutterer from Devon. Actually, I made the last three up, Captain. By the way, have you read about all these Frenchies taking over the London buses? Well, you might be interested to know that most of the people working in the gift shop are Spanish. Oh, and some bloke called Howard Davies is going to be the next Director-General of the BBC. Bye!" I replace the receiver, comforted to know that, as long as we have such watchdogs about, democracy is safe. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Blimey, enough! It is, though, my literary correspondent, Hugh Advance, with some thoughts on the passing of Christina Foyle: "Captain, do you think that when Miss Foyle arrives at the pearly gates she will have to get a chit from an assistant of St Peter which she will then have to take to another assistant of St Peter who will process it before she takes it back to the original assistant who will then let her in? And there was something else I was going to tell you. Now what was it? Oh, yes, Pearsons are about to buy Harper Collins. Bye!" Bye, Hugh.

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 decent bad habits? Pah! You can't get into the Westminster William Hill's for the ponies and even monkeys going on the leadership race. Pick the chunky knitwear out of that! Next: reinforce, buttress and bolster those stereotypes with Captain Moonlight. Ken Clarke, tubby-rumpled man of the people, spotted on the Tube, again! What? No, just the two stops, from Westminster to Temple. What? Walk? Do that tummy a favour, it must be almost a mile. Next!

WOW! Not an uncommon reaction to my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a great gallimaufry of good things, snippets and asides. First, Nature Notes. And bad news from Abadan, where it's reported that liberal dosings of poison have made the mice so big and strong that they're now eating cats. Well, that's what it says in the Tehran Times, even if it is only June. Good news, though, from Notting Hill, where the gum trees Elisabeth Murdoch has planted outside her beautiful home are doing very well. As are the Captain's tropical fish: see for yourself over there in the world's first virtual internet site (steady, Marco Pierre)! Pigeons are now living longer, too, you know. And the duck's quack does echo. Next, Moonlight Crime Watch, and on Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, policemen are being rewarded with giant lollipops if they use the new breathalyser kits; while in Bonn, a thief who broke into a truck marked "Whiskey" fainted when he found Whiskey the circus tiger; similarly, in Croydon, the shoe box stolen from a local doorstep contained nothing but the remains of Chippie, a former chipmunk; and in Letchworth, Mrs Davis of Baldock writes to tell me, a road rage victim who claims to have been attacked by a knife-wielding maniac may have only been assaulted with a half-baked baguette. Thank you, Mrs Davis: Badge! And, finally, I have had news of the Marquess of Cholmondeley. Bye!

VOTE for us or the little bear gets it: a typically uncompromising message from the shadow health secretary last week. Sorry? What big bear? Rough night, was it? All right, sorry. It is, in fact, vote for us and we'll give you a bear. No? The health shadow announcing a successful private inbeartility treatment programme? All right, it was an Action Research photocall. NEIL MUNNS/PA