Captain Moonlight: Squirrels of Holland Park, take cover

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The Independent Online
NIL Desperandum! That is the Moonlight family motto, and, by golly, it's a sentiment we put firmly into practice most days, I can tell you. The revelation last week that a Telegraph-reading upper-middle-class family with an income of only pounds 100,000 a year will find life a bit of a struggle was not a revelation to the Moonlights, oh no. We grinned, grimly, shrugged, then put those shoulders back to the damnably stiff Wheel of Life. But we are also of an altruistic turn; so allow me, today, to pass on a few tips for shaving a bit off the old spending. Ready? Right: 1) Eating out. Much overrated. We only do it on the cook's night off. 2) Eating in. It's astonishing what you can pick off from your window in Holland Park with a Purdey. Try it. 3) Drink. In the pub, find an apt moment to mention that "the Martians have landed on the shores". Your companion, a little puzzled, will respond, "What shores?", to which you rejoin, "Don't mind if I do, a large gin, please, old boy." 4) Theatre, films, music? We do our own. My King Lear is still talked about, as is Mrs Moonlight's Carmen Miranda. 5) Fuel savings. Toys, I find, make a really cheery blaze. Very good for discipline, too. 6) Car maintenance. Forget expensive garages, do your own. We have the nanny under our Saab on one of those little trolley things most Sundays. 7) She's also terrific for garden and house maintenance (currently repointing after erecting own scaffolding). 8) Travel. I've discovered that those bus thingies can often drop you off really quite close to where you want to go. But, remember, no spitting. 9) Holidays. We just ask Judith Chalmers round. 10) Education. Had you thought of marrying Jeremy Corbyn, MP? I gather he's available.

BBRRNNGG! Goodness, it's a call in from out there! And from no less a public pulse fingerer than my food and drink editor, RAC Quart: "Captain! There I was, as is my habit of a Saturday lunchtime, in that bijou, state- of-the-art service station on the M40 going westwards, tucking into my double cheeseburger at Burger King, when, blow me, who should come and sit down at the next table and begin eagerly chomping into his but Michael Grade, former top man at Channel 4, now beleaguered top man at First Leisure, beleaguered purveyors of pleasure at a wide variety of premises, including many bowling alleys and at least one caravan park, offers please. Under pressure, future much speculated upon, but not, thank goodness, off his burgers. And Michael is not alone, Captain. No. Britons are now eating pounds 7m of fast food every day, and fast food outlets are expanding at the rate of at least one a week. Actually, Burger King was, for obvious reasons, Elvis Presley's favourite hamburger chain. The King, Captain, Burger King! Did you know, by the way, that the young Elvis was eating his weight in peanut butter as soon as he could walk? And that when he died, his record producer, Felton Jarvis, said: `It's like someone told me there aren't going to be any more cheeseburgers in the world.' Fascinating, eh, Captain? Captain? Captain!"

BBRRMM! That's right, it's time for another in my occasional series, Transport with the Captain. And this week, friends, a small mystery, all to do with Madame Speaker's Silver Roller. Yes, Betty Boothroyd, Yorkshirewoman, former Tiller Girl and current paraglider, has been spotted sweeping into the Commons in a rather splendid silver Rolls-Royce. What can it mean? Her office is coy, but the Captain suspects she is preparing to invade Yugoslavia. Next!

EARTH-SHATTERING. How else to describe my latest breakthrough? For does not this column play host to the world's first virtual internet site? It's that fishtank over there. Last week, how can you forget, it was empty. This week, it is almost full. There is the water, the pump, the bubbles, the fairy castle, the bridge, the buried treasure, and the diver, who is called Oliver, in tribute to the late "hell-raising" actor, on account of his being soaked. (I hope you recalled, by the way, following my note about the recent demises of a clutch of Dickensian-linked celebrities - Newley, Bart, Hull, Reed - that Dirk Bogarde was an excellent Sidney Carton.) Now we await the arrival of the fish, which I should be able to show you next Sunday. Sorry? Listen, Oliver acts as a filter, blowing bubbles around. And why shouldn't we have a fairy castle? Thank you.

BBRRNNGG! Crikey, it's all go here! And this time, the caller is none other than my trusty guide to the world of "showbiz", Ms Britt Bafter: "Captain, the Sony Awards! Very funny joke from Ian Payne, the sports man from Radio Five Live. He got up and said he was reminded of the first interview he did with Frank Bruno, when he asked Big Frank if he was worried about taking on Iron Mike Tyson, seeing as everyone reckoned him to be invincible, and Big Frank replied that he hoped he wasn't or he wouldn't be able to see him." Hmmm. I have to point out to Ms Bafter that 1) the Sony Awards were some weeks ago now; and 2) Big Frank is a very popular figure, and not called Big Frank for nothing. "All right, Captain, all right. What else? I can tell you, probably exclusively, that Martin Bashir plays the bass guitar." I thank Ms Bafter and replace the receiver while shaking my head at the same time: I had Bashir down as a drummer, for some reason. Next!

COCKLES. Often in need of warming, I find. That's why the Captain is introducing the Martyn Lewis Slot, in memory of the former broadcaster, whose promulgation of the benefits of good news was so often and so unfairly lampooned. And it's good to report, that, despite the travails of high office, and the war, Nick Brown, the Min of Ag, still found time last week to show his Mum round the Commons, together with her local man of the cloth. Well done, Nick!

ESOTERICA with Captain Moonlight. You will, of course, have noticed that one of the 92 hereditary members of the House of Lords given a temporary stay of execution by this frightening, radical government is the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Marquess of Cholmondeley. But did you know that since 1902, following a dispute that had been running since 1626, this high office has been shared between three families, the Ancasters, the Carringtons and the Cholmondeleys; and that the present Lord Carrington is due his turn on the accession of the next sovereign, when he will be entitled to the bed used by the monarch the night before the coronation? Of course you did. But do you also know what, exactly, the Lord Great Chamberlain is supposed to do? The Captain has a bottle of champagne for the first convincing exposition. Next!

BBRRNNGG! And it's RAC Quart, again! "Captain, more hot fast food news: Pukka Pies of Leicestershire are exporting chicken and mushroom pies to Greece! `There is nothing like the Pukka Pie in Europe,' says a spokesman. `In some countries there really isn't a word for it.' Fascinating, eh, Captain? Captain? Captain!"

HURRAH! Time for my acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a charivari of inconsequence, and more. First, the other picture. That's my mail-order bargain of the week. Yes, the Bonny Boy Drinks Dispenser - "Fill the heavy smoked glass container with your favourite drink, press the button and he'll fill your glass!" - is only pounds 7.99 from Home Free of Preston. Next, my Italian correspondent, Carry Binairey, reports a keep-off-the-grass sign in Rome bearing a grim warning beneath the old legend, SPQR: "Transgressors will be persecuted." And it's just near the Colosseum, too. Next, falling out of a plane with no parachute? Spread-eagle and bend at the waist to reduce speed. Good luck. Next, Major Ron Ferguson, who, I'm sure we all remember, lives at Dummer Down House, has been opening his heart: "Not everyone realises it, but both Sarah and I are basically shy. We're both Librans." Thanks, Ron. Next, Moonlight Calf Toning Service: Back straight, feet apart, abdominals clenched, hands on wall. Press up on balls of feet, hold for two seconds, then down. Repeat eight times. Next, you might be interested in what happened when Neil Hamilton phoned Talk Radio to talk to Mohamed Fayed, who was a guest on Scott Chisholm's show: NH: "Hello, Scott, it's Neil Hamilton here, and I'm delighted to speak to my old friend Mohamed again after all these years." Mohamed: "I am not your friend, you bastard." Right. Next, Triumph International Japan is going to sell a hi-tech bra that alerts its wearer to incoming missiles. And, finally, did you know that the Peruvian ambassador actually lives in Paddington? Bye!

FINALLY! A jubilant Mr and Mrs Tony Blair pictured yesterday unwrapping the first consignment of ground troops bound for Kosovo. No? All right, it's Mr and Mrs Tony Blair unwrapping a replacement batch of deep-cover secret agents. What? Don't be ridiculous: his backbenchers are nothing like as animated. No? The Chinese taking no chances this time? OK, OK, it's gallery workers in Sydney installing the plastic models of Korean policemen which will make a major contribution to the forthcoming exhibition by seven Korean artists entitled The Slowness of Speed. It is. DAVID GRAY/REUTERS