Captain Moonlight: This is the time of year for washing worms

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The Independent Online
HALLO there! It's Easter once again, isn't it? And, yes, I know, you will be expecting the Captain's traditional Easter service, reflecting and perhaps, too, guiding the preoccupations and concerns of the nation at this time. Here we go: 1) Changing the handles on kitchen units can make quite a difference, you know. 2) Did you know you could lay a garden path in two hours? 3) Always store your masonry bits in a box away from other tools as the carbide tips are very brittle. 4) Converting your old fitted wardrobe into an open-fronted storage unit? Don't forget to make sure your fillets are level. 5) Using a heat gun on old furniture? Make sure it has a flex length of at least 3m and a reducer nozzle. 6) Dripping overflow? It's probably caused by a worm-washer on the float valve - so fit a new one. 7) Do you have a flat roof? Is the felt cracked? Simply roller on a layer of latex rubber waterproofer compound, then sweep off any loose dirt and treat any mould with a fungicide liquid. 8) Knocking those two small rooms into one? Stubborn party wall? Don a motorcycle helmet and take a run at it. 9) Pointing? You don't want to bother with all the fuss of scaffolding. I hang from the chimney stack with the aid of four pairs of regimental braces. Elastication is provided by my old Boy Scout belt. 10) The Captain Says: don't forget, measure twice and cut once. Now get to it!

SORRY? Ah, yes, the telegraph pole. This, I will have you know, is a Moonlight Special Telegraph Issue to honour the emergence into national prominence of what may well be the oldest telegraph pole in Britain, on Culver Hill, Amberley, Gloucestershire, after a telephone engineer noticed a stamp on it reading "1886". "We have," says BT, with admirable caution, "no reason to suspect that this is not a genuine marking." Remarkable, particularly when you consider that old Alexander Graham Bell didn't invent the "dog and bone", as I believe Londoners refer to it, until 1876, although there was, of course, the eponymous telegraph service before that. Yes, I know, you are now gripped to know more about our telegraph poles. And the Captain is not the man to disappoint you. There are four million telegraph poles in Britain, and each year around 80,000 are replaced. They are made, mostly, from Scotch Pine and European Redwood. They have a flexible tip. Never drop one on its end, as the shockwaves will travel to the tip and then snap the pole. There are, within BT, those who follow the calling of District Pole Tester. There is also a telegraph pole forest near Stone, Staffs, where you may see trainee polers learning their craft and moving steadily up from very small poles to the real thing. Sorry? No, you're right, that is not the Culver Hill pole, it is a pole similar to it. But I am working on an authentic photograph, which I may display soon, next to my other long promised snap of what might be the least-used bus shelter in Britain. Next!

BBRRNNGG! Yes, by the magic of the pole, Ms Una Tributable, my redoubtable political correspondent. "Captain! Tony Blair, our Churchill! The man with the full plate and the overflowing cup! At last, some respite!" I murmur encouragingly in the hope that things will become rather clearer. "It's this new man from the BBC, Captain, Bill Bush, ace researcher and number wonker, now the PM's strategic communications director. He's reduced Tony's homework! Did you know that up till now the poor chap has been preparing for Prime Minister's Questions by mugging up the approved response to no fewer than 55 possible questions? Well, Bill has decided that Tony need do only 10 from now on. Tony's very grateful, I can tell you!" I thank Ms Tributable, replace the receiver, and then phone Ms Amanda Platell, W Hague's fetching new alicampbell. I think we can now expect some fairly wide-ranging stuff from her man. The Captain counsels: ask him about telegraph poles, Willie! Next!

SORRY! Readers, especially those lining drawers, will have noticed that, for some weeks now, I have been trying to interest you in 19 royal golden wedding videos, rescued by the Captain from the Post Office in Windsor, the one standing in the very shadow of the castle, the one which, in a brazen display of disloyal effrontery, had offered them to just anyone for 99p a shot. Astonishingly, reaction was, not to put too fine a point on it, tepid. But the Captain is an officer of mettle. When I want to spread a little happiness, a little happiness gets spread. That is why, last week, when Mr Clark, of Gretton, Northants, wrote in complaining about some error or other, I sent him one of the videos in the hope that an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh would alleviate in some way the irritation I had caused him. That is why, this week, another copy is on its way to Mr Mickleburgh, of Grimsby, who has written in to point out that Prince Harry is, in fact, third in line to the throne, and not, as I had it, fourth. Thank you so much, Mr Mickleburgh. I do hope you enjoy it. Keep those corrections coming!

RECRUITING With The Captain. This week I'm featuring the "Exciting Opportunities in Scientific and Technical Project Management" being offered by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, which is looking for project managers "seeking a career where variety of work and the delivery of innovative solutions will present a constant challenge". Captain's Handy Notes For Applicants: the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency works for the Ministry of Defence at sites that include Porton Down. The variety of work and innovative solutions on offer in the past has covered shooting pigs, compressing goats, massacring marmosets, and releasing bacteria on the Northern Line to watch it spread. Get your letters in now!

WHAT do you mean? I would have thought it was perfectly obvious, particularly as my highly skilled team of Moonlight technocrats have supplied that great big arrow. It's a photo of a bear. It was taken in Canada by Mr Ackerman of Vauxhall, and is the latest contribution to the Captain's occasional series advising on action should you encounter a wild animal. "Dear Captain," writes Mr A. "A very valuable series. Some excellent advice. Mine? If you happen upon a large bear, attempt to take a photograph of it. Before I raised my camera, the bear was very much closer than it is in the photograph. Yours ever, R Ackerman." The Captain writes: more reports, please!

KERRPLOPP! Yes, that's the sound of a letter on the Captain's mat. It's from his finishing establishment, University College, Oxford! And the Master, none other than Lord Butler of Brockwell, the Sir Robin who tried to keep order among all those odd people in that nice Mr Major's crack team of statesmen, wants to tell me about a visit to celebrate the old place's 750th anniversary by, yes, God Bless 'Er, Her Maj! It's next month, and I do hope they're making a video. Lord B hopes that it goes rather better than a visit by ER to Trinity for lunch in 1960, "during which", as he notes, "the Lord Lieutenant collapsed. This caused such distress to his wife that she too passed out. A scout tripped while collecting plates and the Chancellor, Harold Macmillan, missed his chair after proposing the Loyal Toast". Her Maj rose above it royally: "We've had a wonderful lunch," she told a Trinitarian, "bodies all over the place." What larks, eh? Save me a seat, Lord B!

STUPENDOUS news! It's time for the Moonlight Miscellany, my acclaimed collection of bits and pieces. And, first, still not feeling full of the joys of spring? The Captain can help. I've discovered a marvellous new mail-order catalogue! It's produced by some people called Bright Life, and I would like to recommend to you, in particular, a miniature drum kit alarm clock which wakes you up with a rousing drum solo, "then, to calm you, a polite voice wishes you "Good Morning", pounds 19.99. Terrific! Next, Austin Reed have sent me a tie in honour of National Tie Week. Very smart. And it will go to the first reader who sends me a picture showing that reader looking undressed without one. And, finally, a fourth tadpole has appeared in the Captain's aquarium, two weeks later than his siblings, Brooklyn, Balham and Gwyneth. He's called Branson. Happy Easter, everyone!

COX Away! Dramatic scenes on the Thames yesterday as Oxford's man with the toggles gets airborne after the unfortunate collision with John Prescott's latest photo opportunity, a 159 bus specially converted for amphibious work during the rush hour. No? All right, all right, it is in fact a new columnar feature, Spot The Missing Speed Boat. A speed boat has been removed from the picture: exercising your skill and judgement, mark with a cross where you think it was. Captain's Hint: if you rotate the picture through 90 degrees, you might get a better idea. No? All right, it's a swamp buggy, crashed in Florida. It is.

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