CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT: Please welcome our very own Brooklyn

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The Independent Online
BBRRNNGG! Ah, yes, the shrill jangle that gives urgent notice of another illuminating insight into the fascinating world of power and celebrity! For it is the telephone, and, on it, my food and drink editor, RAC Quart, with a hot one. "Captain! Rupert Murdoch, media moloch, broadcasting behemoth, print paladin, book barbarossa, and man in love!" Goodness: what can Quart have discovered? The date and place where the antipodean Ajax and his oriental Artemis, Ms Wendy Deng, 31, will plight their troth (my money is on a beach, barefoot, with garlands)? Or some fresh token of the beguiled baron's infatuation with his fetching fiancee and employee? "Fish, Captain! Sea bass. Two big ones. I came across them on the Wandsworth Road, south London, in a van, outside that fish shop there. Special to Mr Murdoch, they told me. Only to be expected, of course." I confess a certain bafflement. "You've been out east, Captain!" replies Quart. "You should know about sea bass, especially in sake kasu paste. Who can forget the Chinese proverb `A double bass works wonders, works wonders, so try some tonight, especially if your long journey through the seasons of life has brought you to the kingdom of the brass monkey'? Say no more, Captain." Indeed. Next!

ACTUALLY, talking of displaced and powerful Australians of a certain age, I must tell you that I received a letter last week from a Sue G, of Sussex. Sue is just back from a trip "down under"; while there she visited a cafe called The Arab, in Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road outside Melbourne, and found framed on the wall a newspaper cutting from December 1961 recalling the days of "The Coffee Shop Craze". The cutting is accompanied by a photograph of various members of the clientele, which I reproduce below, courtesy of Sue's interesting way with a camera. Sue was told that the one on the left is, in fact, Professor Germaine Greer. Never one to rely on alleged and unchecked information, I immediately faxed Prof Greer with the photo, and although very busy publicising her excellent new book, The Whole Woman, she did find time to fax back this concise reply: "I doubt it". What do you think? Ring 0171-293 2462 now and Tell The Captain!

NORTHAMPTON. One of the more unsavoury aspects of the discovery of Mr Joe Ashton, the Labour Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw, Notts, in the Siam Sauna, Northampton, during the course of a police raid on the premises, has been the chorus of metropolitan sneering that has greeted Mr Ashton's choice of venue. Ignorance is never attractive, and even less so when joined by mockery. Here follows the Captain's list of 10 interesting things about Northampton: 1) King John bought a pair of boots in Northampton for nine pence. 2) Des O'Connor lived in Northampton before he was famous. 3) The town is home to the Citroen 2CV owners' club of Great Britain. They've got more than 3,500 members and also welcome owners of Dyanes, Amis, Meharis, Fourgonettes and Bijous. 4) The car-park at Neto is very good for skateboarding. 5) Queen Victoria's wedding slippers and an elephant's boot can be found in the town's museum. 6) The Westonia take-away on the Wellingborough Road (up by Weston Favell) serves very good chips. 7) It used to be possible to take a guided tour round the Barclaycard offices, but you can't do it anymore. 8) The Vault night-club used to be called The Panache. 9) For authentic Thai cuisine in an authentic setting, visit the River Kwai, in Wellington Place.10) The mum of the actress who plays Doreen in Birds of a Feather lives in Kingsthorpe. Thank you. Did you know, by the way, that one of Mr Ashton's hobbies is do-it-yourself?

LIFE! Yes, praise be, the miracle has taken place! I talk, of course, of the Captain's frogspawn, the official columnar pets, and the magical mutation that brings the twiddly bits. You will remember the drama when their Nanny, Victoria, telephoned to say "Captain, they're all dead!"; and my refusal just to accept it, followed by an anxious wait. Thank you for all your letters and messages of support: I can now announce that we definitely have one little chap, Brooklyn, and possibly more (I wouldn't like to be premature after all the shocks we've had: it could be the same tadpole that keeps emerging from the greenery and then popping back). Soon, there will be the excitement of feeding them meat (did you know tadpoles were carnivores?) and then the release into the wild. Do you have a pond? Meanwhile, have a look at my picture and see if you can spot Brooklyn. The Captain Muses: Do you think there could be a deal with Hello! in this?

ACTUALLY, talking of frogspawn, I was told a most affecting story the other day. It was all about this marvellous, forgotten pond in the grounds of this wonderful old house in Oxfordshire where frogs had spawned for immemorial generations, and how a sweet old lady living close by was very worried for the froggy future when she learnt that the house was up for sale. Picture, then, her unconfined joy when she heard that the new owner was Richard Branson! And so he filled in the pond with concrete and turned it into a helipad. Sorry? Hmmm. Let me have a look. No, that can't be right, can it? I'll check with his office. Just hang on.

ABREAST. That's the Captain's favoured position, vis a vis trends, the Zeitgeist and that sort of thing. So I thought you should know that there's this very interesting quiz show called Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? on the television at the moment. You keep doubling your money by answering multiple-choice questions correctly, and you can do things like phone a friend to see if he or she knows the answer. All very exciting, and I thought perhaps we might play it here. My original twist is to do with the prizes. Do you remember the 19 videos of the Queen's golden wedding celebrations that I snapped up from Windsor post office for 99p a shot? Right! So here goes: which of the following are not on the menu at the River Kwai restaurant in Northampton: a) Kwaytiew Pao Pug b) Black Forest gateau c) Dahoo Pad Krapow d) Pie and chips? Want to try for two videos? OK: which of the following has not visited Northampton: a) Joe Ashton b) Errol Flynn c) Derek Nimmo d) Ms Wendy Deng? Now just ring 0171-293 2462 and play Who Wants To Own A Royal Video? ! Sorry? What about a friend? No problem: the Captain nominates everyone's friend, Mr Tony Blair, who is on 0171-930 4433. Next!

BBRRNNGG! It's Richard Branson's press office, spluttering. Crikey. Richard, they want you to know, is the most tremendous friend of wildlife. He has absolutely huge amounts of frogspawn on his Oxfordshire estate. And he doesn't even have a helipad. Goodness. Glad to set the record straight! Why do people make up these stories about him?

BBRRNNGG! Again(!), and this time it's my redoubtable political correspondent, Ms Una Tributable. "Captain! John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister and deep-sea diver! A little truculent at the moment! When lovely Patricia Hewitt complained at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party that council tax rises weren't going to be very helpful in her constituency, John was not his usual charming self. `You're a bloody Treasury minister,' he told her, `it's your bloody fault!' " Well. Perhaps the poor man needs a holiday. Next!

STEADY! Yes, it's the acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a casserole of chuckles, a smorgasbord of smiles, a bouillabaisse of briefings. First, Captain's Congratulations to Errol Thomas, 43, of Queensland, Australia,who wrestled with a crocodile and then jumped on its back until it spat out his pet dog, JD. Next, an apology. In last week's column, should, of course, have read . Next, did you know that Charlton Heston and Bobby Davro are both afraid of spiders? Next, if your angora sweater persists in leaving fluff over everything, just spray it with hair lacquer. Captain's Crimewatch: A framed portrait of Jack Straw has been stolen from a community centre in Blackburn. Finally, Captain's Important Messages: 1) Nothing in this column, as far as I know, has been genetically modified. 2) None of the statements contained in this column are to be relied on as statements or representations of fact, and readers must satisfy themselves by inspection or otherwise as to their correctness. Thank you. Bye!

SHAME of a Nation: Yes, this shed, pictured on its way, is what our Queen Mum has been reduced to by that pounds 4m overdraft. Can we stand by? Send your cheques (made out, for convenience, to `Captain Moonlight') now! Actually, it's going to the Ideal Home Show. It is FIONA HANSON/PA