CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT : Proud to be British ... some names for Nolan

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The Independent Online
SO THAT'S it then, until VJ Day. Bunting down, Dame Vera resting. But wasn't it wonderful, the way the nation recaptured the indomitable spirit that pulled us through?

You will have your own outstanding image of the present paying homage to the past: a grandchild with a grandfather, the Royal ladies at Buckingham Palace, Cliff Richard giving his irrepressible all. The Captain's, though, came at the marvellous VE night party thrown by Emma Soames, sister of Nicholas, the dieting but not noticeably diminishing defence minister. Who there - Mick Jagger, Brig' Parker Bowles, King Michael of Romania, Big Nick himself - will ever forget the sight of Wafic Said, Middle East Middle Man, former Kensington kebab bar owner and comrade-in-arms (I use the phrase strictly in its colloquial sense) of Jonathan Aitken and Mark Thatcher, triumphantly waving two Union Jacks in the air? It made me feel proud. Share the moment through my photograph.

And while we're at it, I have some other vignettes that I think you will agree give a special flavour of contemporary Britain. 1)In the East End of London last week, drivers carefully steered round two Asian businessmen who had been shot in the legs by a gang of men wearing balaclavas. 2)In the West End, a man was threatening to jump from a third-storey ledge when a bulky figure resembling the character in the television series Cracker elbowed his way to the front saying "Let me through, I'm a police psychologist", and then shouted "Jump!". 3) Nelson's Column is to be floodlit, courtesy of a Hong Kong Chinese-language newspaper, which will have its name inscribed on posts around the column.

n NOW, this new Sleazebuster Watchdog General, or, if you prefer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, proposed by Lord Nolan to keep an independent eye on our legislators. You want to know who it will be; the Captain has been inquiring. Lord Nolan, I can tell you, has said that the post should not necessarily go to a retired judge. The second thing is that on Thursday night in the House, MPs, already blanching at the prospect of full disclosure of earnings, choked on their refreshments when a rumour swept round that Dennis Skinner was to take up the position. Alas, just a rumour. Here follow The Captain's Top Ten Tips: 1) Lord Scarman, 2) Baroness Warnock, 3) Bruce Forsyth, 4) Lord Archer, 5) Major Ronald Ferguson, 6) Sir Isaiah Berlin, 7) Elizabeth Hurley, 8) Wallace Arnold, 9) Alex "Hurricane" Higgins 10) Perri 6.

THERE are people who suggest that John Redwood, the Secretary of State for Wales, is not of this world. Something about his look and manner has reminded them of the planet Vulcan, where that fellow with the ears on Star Trek came from. Well, I can tell you that the matter will be settled once and for all on Tuesday in Kingston. That is where Redwood will be turning out for the Lords & Commons cricket XI against BBC Westminster, and no extraterrestial, however well trained or briefed, could possibly reproduce a late cut. Derek Fatchett, the Labour MP for Leeds Central and captain for the day, says he knows nothing of Redwood's prowess, confining himself to the hope that he manages more runs than the Tory vote in Wales in the local elections. Inquiries at the Welsh Office also drew a blank. I shall report next week. Sadly, I discover that neither Jeremy Paxman nor John Humphrys will be available to open the BBC attack. Fatchett, meanwhile, tells me his team is looking for a sponsor. He was less than impressed by my suggestion of Mohamed al-Fayed; perhaps Lord Nolan could give a nudge to one of his colleagues who are making so much out of legal aid.

n KITTY KELLEY Warning: These many years now, we have been promised that Ms Kelley, the frank biographer of Frank Sinatra, would be producing a frank biography of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Well, frankly, you might feel, this corner of the market is a bit full, what with Mortons and Dimblebys and Hewitts. Nevertheless, I understand that Ms Kelley presses on, and is now producing a book about the whole goddamn family. Moreover, she has discovered an entirely new angle; she is writing, I am told, a nice book about them. This would certainly be a departure for her and them. Kitty: call me, I know a high-up at Hello!.

DO YOU ever read the Daily Mail? It's a smaller-sized newspaper with uncomplicated views which has been kind enough to look after Paul Johnson in his later years. Anyway, as the Captain unaccountably nodded over a Johnson piece on Friday, his eye drifted to the leader column, where he read this: "One of the most distasteful spectacles of the past few months has been the attempted political assassination of Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley." This struck me as odd, since the chief of those bent on homicide has been none other than the Mail's sister paper, the Evening Standard. What could it mean? Does Mr Dacre, editor of the Mail, have it in for Mr Steven, editor of the Standard? I rang Vere, my man at Associated. Nonsense, he said, noanimosity, merely the broad, statesmanlike vision of Mr Dacre contrasted with the, er, narrower views of Mr Steven. And then Vere ruminated on the number of people opposed to Mrs Bottomley's rationalisation of casualty departments who suffer from dicky tickers (which includes Mr Steven). Oooh! How unlike our own happy workplace!

n I COULDN'T quite believe it myself, but there he was on the London Underground the other day, a man in a suit, with a briefcase, chatting happily to a travelling companion, altogether unremarkable but for his hat. This was a Davey Crockett hat. A Davey Crockett hat! You must remember them - fur, strictly raccoon, with the tail hanging down the back, very popular in the 50s, when the famous Tennessee frontiersman was featured in a popular TV series. No gang of children was complete without its own Davey. But my main point in telling you this is because it allows me a very rare opportunity to pass on one of my all-time favourite jokes. Q: How many ears has Davey Crockett got? A: Three. A left ear, a right ear, and a wild frontier. Oi!

JACK STRAW. Bright, hard-working, perky soundbiter. Coming man, will be big in power. But an image problem. What do you think of when you think of Jack Straw? Exactly. But things may be changing. Recently he confessed to weeping when the last election result sank in. Now I bring news from the beer garden of the Black Lion in Plaistow, east London. Some sporting contacts of the Captain were having a kick-around and needed a goalkeeper. And, yes, Straw, Blackburn Rovers man, was there, and game. A string of thrilling saves followed. So there you have it: Jack "The Cat" Straw, sensitive socialist, safe pair of hands. And while we're on extra-parliamentary activities, I must tell you that David Mellor's new office is in Gossard House.

n BRRNNGG! It is the 'phone; and, on the other end, Norman Channels, my diplomatic correspondent. "Captain," says Norman. "Baroness Chalker. You remember, Roedean head girl and Overseas Development Minister. She is going to Indonesia shortly. Indonesia, lot of trouble with East Timor. Inconvenient accusations of genocide while we're selling them tanks and giving them aid. Well, the Baroness has told aides that she's really going to bite the bullet with the Indonesians over this one." An unfortunate choice of phrase, I say, and wonder if a dressing down from the Baroness will have any effect. Norman is polite, but not entirely optimistic.

HELLO there. Everything all right? Good, good. Not a bad day, no. Family well? Fine, fine. Sorry? Oh, yes, the picture. Interesting little snap, isn't it? I don't know about you, but I, personally, had no idea that this was what members of the Rugby Football Union committee got up to on Mondays. Just a joke, Mr Easby. The ball must be in there somewhere, though. No? Well, I thought about Nolan Committee and Tory backbencher jokes, but that would be perhaps a little obvious. Besides, the truth is interesting. This is, in fact, a Chinese theatre troupe called East Village, performing in the countryside near Peking. The piece is entitled Luoti, Luoti, which, translated, is Naked, Naked. They are attempting, the caption says, to measure how much elevation and weight they can add to the mountain's summit. You may be asking yourself where the audience is; I'm absolutely confident that your average Chinese peasant has got more bloody sense. Photograph: AP

The Captain's catch-up Service

ENTER the info superhighway with some news items that may have eluded you last week ... David Sanders sang "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer" at a VE concert and then fell 10ft into the orchestra pit at the Theatre Royal, Stoke ... Eli Broad, art collector, paid $2.48m with his American Express card for a Roy Lichtenstein and received 2.48m air miles into the bargain ... Britain's biggest chicken, Big Bertha, owned by Harold Moore of Drysbrook, Gloucestershire, died, 15oz short of the world record of 22lb 4oz ... Heinrich Gembach of Munich choked his wife to death by shoving a large piece of wheat cereal down her throat because she had given him the same breakfast for 10 years ... Evelyn Barrington, 40, of Herne Bay, a beauty consultant, is offering a free massage to anyone who returns her stolen handbag containing important exam notes. "There'll be no funny stuff," she warns ... Yiannis Karayannopoulos, of Oropedio, Greece, ambushed and shot dead a construction worker he suspected of stealing his cat. He shot the man's wife, too, when she heard the bang and rushed out. Then he went home and shot himself. The cat returned home later in the day.

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