Captain Moonlight: Red alert: middle-class identity crisis

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The Independent Online
AHOY! Difficult times, these, I'm sure you'll agree. An absence of the old certainties, everywhere. Even the editor of the Sun doesn't seem to know what he is doing. And now the Captain reads that the status symbols of the middle classes are changing. Chintz, Capo di Monte figurines, shagpile carpets: all out. Harrods don't even stock gold taps any more. So, with it being a bank holiday tomorrow, you'll be wanting to know what to get out and buy instead. The Captain can help. Buy the following, display them prominently and you can invite anyone into your home with complete confidence. 1) The Magellan GPS 300 satellite navigator. For pounds 129, this handy pocket-sized little jobbie will give you your precise position to around 55 yards anywhere on the Earth's surface. 2) The "Meowing Cat" giant full-colour cat wall clock. For only pounds 19.95, this meows an authentic cat call every hour on the hour. 3) Musical Bird Magnet. Display on fridge, stove or dishwasher. Just the slightest touch and the hummingbird, for example, hums "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing". pounds 3.99. 4) Musical Church. Old-fashioned wind-up musical church plays "Amazing Grace" while the cross in the church steeple revolves. Authentic-looking copper-burnished-tin finish makes a great display piece. pounds 9.99. 5) Moonlight Badge. This exclusive, silver and black enamel badge/brooch/ ear-ring/cufflink will be awarded free to anyone who writes in and Tickles The Captain. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Gracious, someone is Calling The Captain, on the telephone! And it's Ms Britt Bafter, my showbiz correspondent, taking a quick break from her wired-up, honey-trap activities to drop me yet more low-down on your favourite celebrities. "Captain! Bob Dylan! You must remember: small man, harmonica, voice of a generation. But did you know he has an extremely limp handshake? Next, Marty Wilde, who needs no introduction. Listen to what he has to say, probably exclusively: 'These days I'm a big classical music freak. I reckon that 95 per cent of the music I listen to is classical - although every now and again I'll have a burst of Abba.' Remarkable, eh, Captain? Excuse me now, though, I'm following up a very interesting lead on the late Mr Pastry." I bid Ms Bafter farewell, reflecting, not unwryly, on this brave new world of ours. Next!

CELEBRITY. I had further cause for rueful reflection on the curse-blessing of our times as I watched a photographer elbowing his way determinedly towards me through the rest of the throng at the launch of my old friend Henry Porter's diverting beach accessory, Remembrance Day, at the Traveller's Club on Tuesday evening. But, for the Captain, manners are all, and I inclined my head genially as the snapper made his inevitable request. "Excuse me," he said. "You're in the way." Still, at least he was trying to get to Bianca Jagger, which was an improvement on the last time a photographer spoke to me, when, you might remember, it was to improve access to Andrew Neil. And Bianca was on fine form, despite the hotel laundry in Skopje absolutely ruining one of her designer T-shirts. But that's war, I guess. Next!

WHAT? Ah, you've noticed my picture up there. It was taken, just for fun, during a perfectly innocent encounter in a small top room in Old Compton Street after I was invited to enter into negotiations about fronting the advertising campaign for a sophisticated new aftershave, Lunge. I publish it today to show I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and because I understand the TLS has got hold of the negs. Next!

FISH. What do you mean you can't see any fish in the Moonlight Aquarium? Listen, there are eight Pristella Tetras in there, and six Cherry Barbs. They are pioneers, these fish, preparing the way for more sensitive, exotic creatures like your Angel Fish. Your tank, you see, has to mature, has to develop the bacteria that will combat the nitrates and nitrites and the ammonia that fish excrete. They do. And they will get bigger, you'll see. You will. Eating well, munching away on these tropical fish flakes made in Yorkshire. At present, the Barbs are all called Cherie, in obvious tribute, while the Tetras are all called Priscilla, after the former Mrs Presley. Actually, while we're here, I should tell you that it's possible to get bumper stickers in the States which read, "I Brake for Elvis". On!

BBRRNNGG! The telephone, again, and, on it, Bert, my man at the BBC. "Captain! Bit of a problem for the Watchdog team. Watchdog: Value For Money, hosted by Vanessa Feltz, is about to return, but they've got to think of a new name because Vanessa clearly isn't! Watch and see what they come up with, Captain. My money's on something to do with old rope!" I thank Bert for this, but, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure what he's on about. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Praise be, this time it's a reader! And not just any reader: it's Mrs Adams, of Sporle, near King's Lynn, who claims, at 80 in August, to be my oldest reader! (Oh, and thank you, Mr Douch, of Wellingborough, for putting your last letter in an old Saga envelope. Very entertaining.) Anyway, Mrs Adams is after one of the Moonlight Badges, and has intelligence concerning the new Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, who has been on BBC Look East, the Norwich-based magazine programme, telling East Anglia that he likes to write after dropping a couple of tabs of Lemsip. Crikey, another drugs scandal! Just remember where you read it first. Also, Mrs A tells me, Look East has launched a poetry competition, on the theme of "Where I live", five prizes up for grabs, signed copies of Andrew's Selected Poems. A good idea! Let's go nationwide on this one. Send me your poems, of not more than four lines, on Where I Live, and the winners will be awarded either a copy of Andrew's poems or a Moonlight Badge (please specify). And, just for encouragement, here is the Captain's effort:

I live in Vauxhall

And that's not all

A lot of other people do


Thank you. And thank you, Mrs A: Badge!

KERRPLOP! Yes, that's the sound of a Letter To The Captain hitting the mat! It's from Mr Telfer of Brighton, who is unconvinced by the uncanny similarity I highlighted last week between Roger Moore and Jiang Zemin, the Chinese top man. Mr Telfer thinks the late Benny Hill more closely resembles Mr Zemin. And, do you know, he might be right. See what you think. Mr Telfer: Badge!

ASTONISHING! That's the epithet most often attached to my Moonlight Miscellany, a cunningly crafted confection of curiosity and contemplations. First, it's all getting a bit rum outside Downing Street. The other day Gerry Adams was shouted down by Serb protesters chanting, "Tony Blair, Tony Blair! How many have you killed today?". And the Pinochetistas will be back soon, too, lord help us. Mind you, it's getting a bit rum down at Chequers, too. Check this guest list for dinner last weekend: Bertie Ahearn, Andrew Marr and Michael Winner. I wonder what they found to talk about. Michael Winner, probably. I only hope the service was up to scratch. Next, this week's Apology Of The Week comes from the Daily Star: "The Pope. We reported on April 9 that Pope John Paul II supported Fulham. We have been asked to point out that, although the Vatican may have written to the club, the Pope is not a Fulham fan." I told you to hang on to Kevin, Mo. Next, here's the VIP guest list for the big meeting of the European People's Party in Bonn this week. And, yes, there's William Hague, at number 28 out of 33, just below the prime minister of Malta and just above the prime minister of Estonia. Well done, Willie! Next, a remarkable development in an area of long-standing Moonlight interest: two women have been spotted alighting at what is reputed to be the least-used bus stop in Britain, between Lewes and Newhaven. Shame! And finally, there has, as yet, been no reply from the Marquess of Cholmondeley. Bye!

IRREPRESSIBLE: The Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan pointing out 19,000 male choristers and six brass bands stationed on Llandaff Castle's ancient battlements ready to burst into 'We'll Keep A Welcome In The Hillside'. The Duke delighted onlookers by quipping: 'Christ! I hope they're not going to sing. Mind you, I'm not surprised they spend so much time caterwauling - have you seen the women down here? They all look like bloody Harry Secombe after a bad night.' Well, he was at Llandaff Castle. He was. MARK FRASER/PA