So today I thought it would be a public service if I outlined for Tory MPs the sort of places one should hanker for a buckshee bed at; alternatively, you might find it useful as a guide to places where you are unlikely to come across Tory MPs. A useful rule of thumb is that if you see Princess Michael of Kent, you're generally in the wrong place. In Paris, for example, you might stay at the Hotel Lancaster; or, of course, the Duc de Saint-Simon; but my own favourite is the Hotel de Suede, overlooking the prime ministerial gardens of the Hotel de Matignon, where currently I find it rather soothing to watch M Balladur walking his poodle.
But France, I'm afraid, is all a little unfashionable at the moment. In Rome, try the Inghilterra; in Venice, you will note that the Cipriani has been recommended by Claus von Bulow and so stay at Pensione Segusto. But all those Italian buildings and churches and pictures can be fatiguing; my advice is to escape to the San Rocco at Orta. If you must go to the United States, stay in New York at the Carlyle.
India? The Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur is splendid but a little too discovered; the Captain much prefers the Chapslee at Simla. Those of a subcontinental and adventurous turn of mind should try the Lourdes Hotel in Quetta, avoiding the fried eggs. Finally, I was going to recommend The Silk Road in Ulan Bator (tel: Ulan Bator 50782) but there's always a chance of bumping into Mark Thatcher, so perhaps better not.
AS YOU KNOW, the Captain is not a man to indulge in easy slurs or stereotypes. There are those who categorise scientists, or, at least, male scientists, as people who favour jackets of an indeterminate shape, with felt-tip pens of different colours in the outside top pocket, worn over cardigans with crew necks, zips and stripes. Not I. Never. But I was rather taken with a fascinating item in the New Scientist. A reader has noted that he felt the hairs on his legs move while he was being X-rayed. He is inclined to blame the action of the X-rays on legs subjected to static electricity by the rapid removal of his trousers. Other correspondents are sceptical, preferring to blame the heat and hairiness of his legs. What seems beyond dispute, however, is that removing polyester trousers in a dry atmosphere can produce a static potential of 10 or more kilovolts. The total static potential of simultaneously untrousered British scientists must be awesome. Can it not be harnessed in some way?
Actually, while we're at it, I have another of these questions: I was once told that if the entire population of China jumped into the air at the same time, the world would spin off its axis. The implications are obviously disturbing: the ultimate weapon. But is it true?
THIS, as you know, is the column that supports small rodents. Things have really been looking up for the dormouse since I reported its dwindle and decline. Imagine, then, my alarm when I saw a report last week that Britain has been invaded by hungry rough-legged buzzards from Scandinavia. Nor was my worry merely for any dormouse dozing gently in peaceful ignorance. No, there was more: the reason given for the arrival of the buzzards was a dearth of lemmings. This was bad news, indeed, for a world without lemmings, particularly the Norwegian lemming (Lemmus lemmus), would be a far poorer place.
Did you know that lemmings can get so angry they literally die of rage; that the ancients believed they fell from the sky; that they have five toes on their hind feet and four on the front; that no one really knows why they suddenly and irregularly take off on mass migrations which generally end in death? The experts have theories, of course, to do with the reindeer eating all the moss, or with the native sedge and grass slowly poisoning them and driving them off. But these are the experts who dismiss the idea that lemmings commit mass suicide by hurling themselves into the sea, thus robbing us of the perfect symbol for the futility of life on earth.
The Captain, though, is here to tell you that all is not yet lost. Sweden and Finland, true, pretty lemmingless, but just south of Trondheim, absolutely teeming with them. Why? Nobody seems to know. Certainly fooled the buzzards, though.
GREAT CORRECTIONS Of Our Time: This, from the Yorkshire Evening Press last week: 'The letter (October 26) from John Whelan, the Conservative agent for Selby, which quoted from John Major's conference speech, should have read: 'We are the party of savings, of ownership, of property and of personal independence' and not as stated'. What was stated? '. . . the party of savings, of ownership, of property and of personal indulgence'.
BRRNNGG] You can't keep a good man down: Duane, the Captain's guide to the excitement and eccentric vowel sounds of the demi-monde, is on what he calls the blower once again. 'A diamond geezer, that George Walker, Captain,' he says. 'The George Walker whose daughter married the Marquess of Milford Haven?' 'The same, Captain.' 'The former boxer acquitted last week of a pounds 19m fraud who is as we speak entertaining his Milford Haven grandchildren at Euro Disney?' 'The same, Captain.' 'The former boxer who was removed from the company he founded, Brent Walker, then made bankrupt with debts of some pounds 180m and is now selling cigarettes to the Russians and suing Brent Walker for unfair dismissal? What about him?' 'Well, he was only on the blower to Brent Walker the day after the acquittal asking about his pension, wasn't he? Diamond geezer]'
LIFE must go on, though, you know. A fund-raising dinner for Tribune, the venerable leftist organ, last week, was attended by Tony Blair, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, representatives of Saatchi & Saatchi, Lowe Bell and, of course, Ian Greer Associates, subject of a moving tribute from Tribune chairman Peter Hain for all the good they had done Labour just recently.
YOU MIGHT have thought that Norman Lamont seemed a bit of an unforgiving cove, that all these speeches pointing up divisions in the Conservative Party had been motivated more by malice than mission. Wrong. Last week, Mr Lamont returned to the Treasury, all smiles. True, it was for a party, and the wine was really quite a decent one. But consider the host: Jim Hibberd.
Jim who? Precisely. It was Jim, a Treasury economic forecaster, who put Norman on to the famous Little Green Shoots of Recovery. Caught up in Jim's enthusiasm, Norman lost no opportunity to advertise said shoots, which, sadly, proved as illusory as a lot of other things in the little green category. Now Norman is rubbing along on around pounds 100,000 working in the City. And Jim's off to a cushy little number in Washington for the Treasury. All forgiven, then. What do you mean, what about us?
CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT'S Free Media Consultancy Service. Memo to Dr Brian Mawhinney, Secretary of State for Transport, doughty defender across the nation's screens last week of the Government's lust to asphalt: ignore the advice about giving a big smile at the end of the interview. It's really frightening.
SQUEAKY CLEAN: Leading Tory backbenchers Simon Snoutte-Troffe (Streatham SSW) and Nigel Backe-Andour (Eden E) (right) pictured prior to giving evidence to Mr Major's inquiry into the standards of public office holders.
Mr Snoutte-Troffe and Mr Backe-Andour have abandoned consultancies in the leisure industry and given all their worldly wealth to charity. Mr Backe-Andour is wearing his grandmother's old shower mat, which he has lined with her old hearth rug. There is nothing up his sleeve. The vest, apparently, was in one piece before he attended a meeting of the 1922 Committee. Mr Snoutte-Troffe had just been caught in the rain, hence the shrinkage. The jacket, which is non-slip, is the one he wears for meetings with the Chief Whip. The buckles on the trousers are to prevent him being inadvertently bribed. No? You're right: this is, in fact, the work of young London fashion designer Craig Morrison. The two models are showing off outfits made from moulded rubber looking like nails and spikes mixed with artificial fur trimming, wool and fine leather. Honestly, I promise you. No, really.
THE CAPTAIN'S CATCH-UP SERVICE ABANDON incredulity all who enter here] Yes, it's time for the only weekly news digest that amazes as much as it informs . . . Movie-mad Carl Geter tried on a crash helmet once owned by actor Steve McQueen only for it to get stuck. That was three months ago, but Carl, a Los Angeles travel agent, won't let doctors cut it off. 'It's become part of me,' he said. . . A drunk cut off his friend's head with an axe during a game of dare, police in Stargard, Poland, said . . . A moped rider swallowed his false teeth in fright when police pulled him over for speeding in Bergheim, Germany . . .
Eleven spectators were injured when the world's fattest trapeze artist fell on them in Paris . . . The name of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana pub in Rhodes Minnis, Kent, has been changed to The Battle of Britain . . . The Mayor of Pieve di Curtarolo, near Padua, has banned villagers from hanging washing from their balconies. 'Certain families, I won't say which, had no shame. They were hanging all sorts of things out and it wasn't fair on people walking past,' said a spokesman . . . and, finally, it was revealed that the KGB used to demoralise visiting American politicians by giving them a pool table with undersized pockets, making it impossible to pot a ball.
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