Captain Moonlight: Roll up for golden Virginia

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VIRGINIA Bottomley Warning. It is getting very close to the time when Mrs Bottomley and many members of her talented family, the Garnetts, gather together for photographs on the beach at Seaview, Isle of Wight, for a fascinating ritual of mysterious origin. Mrs Bottomley generally licks an ice-lolly and wears a silly hat; there are games, and a tabloid reporter is thrown into the sea (last year he was from the Daily Mail). Last year, too, one of her brothers (either the important lawyer or the important Channel Tunnel man) wore a T-shirt with a slogan reading 'League Against Powerful Sisters', which was a real hoot, and Peter Bottomley, husband, was photographed photographing it all with his camcorder.

Those people who wonder why this gets into the newspapers and on to television every year don't realise it is one of the surest ways to tell that August is really here. Others include John Major looking hot and odd without a jacket somewhere Abroad; glum holidaymakers looking fed up stretched out on sofas at airports (a little early this year); calls for the dismissal of the England cricket captain (ditto); a small strike here or a small coup somewhere else which provokes questions as to who is actually running the Government while everybody is away; hunt in Tuscany for cabinet ministers concerned; articles about new cars, crop circles, ridiculous hosepipe bans and whatever happened to summer (suspended this year); articles beginning 'The silly season began in earnest yesterday.'

But back to the Bottomleys. I rang the Department of Health to find out the exact date of the Seaview session. 'Very shortly,' said a spokesperson. 'No doubt you will get a fax from Peter Bottomley.' You just can't get the staff these days, can you?

Meanwhile, Mother of All Keanu Reeves warnings: today the Captain goes worldwide. After I mentioned that Keanu would be at the Edinburgh Festival, a fax clicked in from Canada, from my Calgary correspondent, Barry. Barry tells me that Keanu will be in Winnipeg next January, playing . . . Hamlet. Steady, world. Barry, brave man, is going to watch. I will let you know. And Hugh Grant's favourite scent, I learn, is a blend of grapefruit, spices and sandalwood selling at nearly 40 quid.

(Photograph omitted)