CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT / That rude man, Jonathan ... hamster hell ... lashed at sea

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The Independent Online
SO BE IT. The Captain is ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it. If you look above, you will see that I have acquired the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play. And the first object of my crusading zeal is Jonathan Aitken, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and member of the National Union of Journalists, a man who has charged his brothers and sisters with holding "grievances and grudges"; engaging in instruments of deceit; giving and selling false testimony; and practising "bent and twisted journalism".

This is unacceptable, wounding and very rude. It is also in clear contravention of NUJ Rule 19, subsection L, which states that, and I quote, "A member shall treat other journalists with consideration". The Captain, a loyal NUJ man, has therefore, in accordance with Rule 18, complained in writing to his branch secretary that the said Aitken has been guilty of conduct which is detrimental to the profession of journalism. My branch should now convene a hearing to determine whether the said Aitken, who may attend, has a case to answer. If it does so decide, it will forward my complaint to the National Executive, which is empowered, inter alia, to fine the said Aitken as much as £1,000. Yes, I know I'm sticking my head above the parapet, but someone has got to take a stand against this sort of thing.

n OH, AND by the way, look up again, just above my new warriorish persona, and you will see the Captain's own helpful contribution to Phone Day.

I HAVE received a letter from Lorraine Creed, of Silloth, Cumbria. Ms Creed is concerned about Nigel the hamster, whom I showed to you last week taking exercise in his hamster dragster, a sleek hamster-powered machine capable of speeds of up to 1mph. Ms Creed thinks the dragster undignified and an "obscene plastic toy". She thinks Nigel would be happier running free in his own environment. The Captain today prints another picture of Nigel, and throws the debate open to all. Is this, or is this not, the face of a happy hamster? And should all hamsters be forcibly repatriated to Syria, their country of origin? Do please write and tell me exactly what you think about it, marking your envelopes "hamster debate".

n AH, WHAT larks on the maiden voyage of the Oriana, launched by the Queen and presently playing host in Cabin C255 to Lindi St Clair, also evocatively known as Miss Whiplash, Britain's most famous former prostitute. "I was in a cabin up near the bridge, but I found all those officers going past very distracting," the sometime Madame Whiplash told an impressionable Captain Moonlight by landline, adding that she had taken a vow of chastity a year ago. Ms St Clair, now travelling as Carla Davis, is an inveterate cruiser. You may remember her disappearing in 1993, only to be discovered on the Canberra, another P&0 vessel, in Florida. In nostalgic vein, she recalled that 17 years ago she had watched an Australian brothel-keeper marry a deck hand on board the old Oriana. On this trip, she is hoping to entertain her fellow passengers by entering the fancy dress competition dressed in her old bondage gear, and is, meanwhile, praying for rain so that she can have an excuse to stroll on deck in her full-length black PVC mac. She also has a complaint to make about her stay at that Berkshire health farm Jonathan Aitken was involved with; but the Captain, unimpressed, and mindful of NUJ Rule 19, Subsection L, decides to ignore it.

NO MATTER how hard that Birt chap tries, there remain defiant pockets of entertaining irregularity at the BBC. The crumpled guru Peter Jay, for example, its economics editor. Peter likes a cigarette or two. Just recently, he smoked throughout the recording of a radio programme.

When it was over, he stood up, picked up his ashtray full of ash and ends, opened his briefcase, placed the whole caboodle within, and walked out.

n I THOUGHT you should know that the Prince of Wales has some new friends. They include John Gummer, and Trevor Nunn and Imogen Stubbs. Gummer, you may have come across. Nunn is the man with the goatee beard, the "emeritus director" of the Royal Shakespeare Company who bears a lot of responsibility for the success of Cats. Stubbs is his actress girlfriend. "The prince was not a particularly close friend of the couple," says his private secretary, Commander Richard Aylard. "But he knows them well now." It seems rather odd to me that Aylard should be making comments like this; or, indeed, that he should have encouraged the embarrassingly intrusive Dimbleby biography and shooting match; but then I'm only a Captain. However, I do feel it is my duty to pass on this comment on Aylard from another Wales aide: "Poor Richard. A nice chap, but he's spent most of his life in destroyers."

DO YOU know the Athenaeum Club? It's a rather grand place on Pall Mall. F E Smith, who was not a member, often used to pop in to use the splendid lavatories. One day, he was challenged by a porter, who told him it was a private club. "Good God, is it that as well?'' replied Smith. This story is sometimes located in the National Liberal Club, but I wouldn't over- concern yourselves with detail. Anyway, the Captain was in the Athenaeum the other day, and observed that Sir Robin Butler, the Cabinet Secretary, will be giving a talk on 1 May entitled "Does the Civil Service Ever Change?" I noted that ladies were not permitted at this event, although they are having a special night to hear about engineering later in the month. Will Sir Robin say "Yes" or "No"? I will tell you. But he may, of course, say "Yes and No". Or he may refuse to comment on grounds of national security. We shall see.

n THE Captain has great fellow feeling for those who turn up their collars, roll up their trouser legs and walk hunched but defiant into the wind of change and the tide of history. Charles I, Sitting Bull, the Pope, people like that. And now to their number must be added Leo McKinstry, the former Labour councillor and researcher who has taken the odd step of becoming associate editor of the Spectator, from where he condemns the bureaucratic and over politically correct culture of his former colleagues. This interesting standpoint deserves wider exposure. But McKinstry seems a little shy, refusing all requests for an interview, including one from our own estimable organ. Moreover, in the dramatic depiction of his defection, shown in last week's Tory party political broadcast, McKinstry's part was played by an actor. This, I understand, was more an example of the way his new friends do things: the first he knew about it was when it appeared on the screen.

OF A Sunday, I quite often take a turn down by the Thames. And let me tell you what I've noticed: they don't wave anymore. There was a time when, if you waved at a boat, they all waved back. Now, they don't. Whether this is temporary, owing to everybody being depressed about this feel- good thingy, or yet another example of the erosion of the old values, I must leave to Keith Waterhouse and other titans of the nostalgia game. But I would like to start a campaign to restore boat waving. We have the ideal opportunity, too: that nice David Mellor and his lovely companion, Lady Cobham, have just bought a big house with a terrace just below Tower Bridge, and I think it would be very nice if everyone could wave as they go past. You can't miss them: Lady Cobham is blonde, and David wears flared trousers. Perhaps you could go "Yoo-hoo", too. Anyway, Happy Easter.

EYES RIGHT! Patricia Routledge (first right) leads the Women's Battalion of Luvvies for Labour in their march at Wembley Stadium yesterday protesting against the resignation of Ken Follett, the millionaire thriller writer, as chief fundraiser. Kylie Minogue, Baroness Warnock, Ivana Trump, Diana Mosley, Cilla Black, Paul Daniels' wife, Lady Antonia Pinter, Linda Lusardi, The Queen Mother, Barbara Windsor and the notoriously publicity shy Elizabeth Hurley (eighth from left, face hidden, carrying other frock in bag) joined Patty in condemning what they see as blatant political manoeuvring to oust Ken from his vital role of explaining to the electorate how it is perfectly consistent for a socialist to go to lots of parties and drive a big car. And Patty has threatened to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" if Ken is not reinstated immediately. No? All right, it's a group of Russian Second World War veterans in training at Lushniki for a big victory parade. Photograph: AP

The Captain's catch-up Service

TIME once again to pull off that old super information highway and join the Captain for a gentle spin around the week's other news ... Angelo Motto, owner of the Black and White fish and chip restaurant in Gloucester, has called in an exorcist after a party of pensioners saw the ghost of a woman glide into the lavatory, never to re-emerge ... In Margate, thieves stole Margaret Park's new hallway rug by tugging it out through the catflap ... Clive and Jan Barlow, of Bookham, Surrey, arrived for a holiday in Cyprus to find that their neighbours were renting the flat next door ... A woman in Derby claimed that her television was an aquarium when asked to show her licence ... And, finally, Woodhatch, in Surrey, had its own bomb scare following the one that saw the Isle of Portland evacuated. Bomb disposal officers were called after pensioner Bill Mew told police about his mortar shell. It turned out to be two-and-a-half inches long and not live. "It's just as well," said Mr Mew. "The bomb has sat under our garden shed for more than 20 years. I think my son Jimmy found it down at The Copse when he was a young lad. It has been kicking about here ever since."