Captain Moonlight: What ho, chums, a letter from HM!

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WHOOP, WHOOP! Yes, it's your Captain speaking, here once again with my bracing weekly prescription of fun, frolic and good cheer! Sorry? August, rain, disaster, gloom, A-level results, the Earl of Wessex making a loss for the sixth year running, Britain bottom in European quality of life survey, those wonderful Planet Hollywood burger restaurants in a spot of bother, it just gets worse and worse? Dear. Just pull yourself together. Count your blessings. Here are the Captain's More Than Nine Reasons To Smile: 1) Tony will be back soon! 2) The Prince of Wales is already back! 3) Scientists from the University of East Anglia have identified a new striped rabbit in South-east Asia. 4) Roger Moore has clinched the role as the new Charlie in the new Charlie's Angels. 5) The Edinburgh Festival is nearly over. 6) The chances of your being killed by a falling vending machine are about 4,000,000:1. 7) Chris Evans is going to be very rich after floating his company. 8) Beer is much more expensive in Norway, I can tell you. 9) Not long to go to the Millennium celebrations now. 10) Every Sunday, here, in this very spot, you have the chance to win an exclusive black and silver enamel-effect Moonlight Badge. Now read on. And don't forget, smile and the world smiles with you, but cry ... Next!

YO! You will know that the Captain is an instinctive friend of the bold, the fresh, the radical: anything, indeed, that takes the mould and gives it a damn good whacking. But, in this instance, I do have a counsel of caution for Charles Kennedy, the exciting, new, young leader of the Liberal Democrats, over his interest in the legal status of cannabis. Just look at my picture down there, Charles, and ruminate. For that lonely twig is all that is left of this newspaper's brave campaign to bring the world of the reefer, with all its compulsive cornflake eating and fascinating discussions of early Incredible String Band discography, into the mainstream of Middle England. Yes, this is all that remains of the pot-plant pot plant that our then crusading Editor, Ms Rosie Boycott, attempted to cultivate in her office. (The pot also contains the remains of the Captain's frog, Brooklyn, but that is another, if, in its way, equally sobering, story.) So, Charles: think on, as they say in Pocket Nook. Whatever happened to Boycott, by the way? Next!

BRRNNGG! Goodness me, it's the telephone, and, on it, my man at the BBC, Bert. "Captain! Chaos! It was going to be such a good week, too, what with lovely, zany Zoe Ball's dream wedding to that bald fellow, Fatboy Skimmed. But then the Sun got hold of all the EastEnders story lines (Peggy Butcher love-child, Pauline Fowler early death, Grant Mitchell acts, that sort of thing) and set up one of those readers' telephone poll thingies to see whether they should publish them. Well, you can imagine. Fierce convulsions, utmost seriousness. High-level internal inquiry, frantic hunt for the mole, usual result, zilch, and the upshot was that we all had to spend the next two days phoning the Sun, voting for them to be sent back and not published! So I missed the wedding and I've got a sore finger!" Well. Can such things be? Bert, readers, let me tell you, does not lie. Poor Beeb. Next!

LLAMAS. There has been something of a debate here recently, dogged readers will recall, about the defecatorily simultaneous habits of the woolly South American quadruped. Last week I published a purported explanation for this from Ms Langley of Twemlow which claimed they had all inherited the practice from a group that had been rigorously house trained by an eccentric landowner in eastern Chile. Concerned to maintain the high standards of the Moonlight Badge, I then asked readers to decide whether Ms Langley's contribution merited one.

Well, I regret to report that Dr Coleman of Market Deeping, who keeps a fact checker's eye on the column, says that such theories of acquired characteristics, enthusiastically promulgated, of course, by Lysenko, are now totally discredited. Against that, I have also received this, via e-mail: "Q: Does Ms Langley's llama contribution deserve a badge? A: Yes, it bloody well does. From: Ms Langley." Well. Intimidation, eh? Captain on mettle. Ms Langley: Badge!

REJOICING, but a little puzzlement, too. Many of you will remember that the Captain, as part of his public service remit, has been trying for some time now to get more detail on the constitutional role and function of the Lord Great Chamberlain, and in particular my understanding that, on the accession of the next sovereign, Lord Carrington will become Lord Great Chamberlain, and will therefore be entitled to the bed used by the monarch the night before the coronation. Neither the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Marquess of Cholmondeley, nor his Clerk having proved able to help me, I turned to HM the Queen. Who has now replied! Not actually Herself herself, sadly, but through her Chief Correspondence Officer. Who tells me that, as the office is jointly vested between the families of the Marquessate of Cholmondeley, the Earldom of Ancaster, and the Marquessate of Lincolnshire, "it seems unlikely therefore that Lord Carrington will become the next Lord Great Chamberlain". But, sadly, no discussion of the bed aspect. And the puzzling bit is that, as the Captain understands it, and I thought most people knew, Lord Carrington's family is the family that held the Marquessate of Lincolnshire until it became extinct in 1928. Rum, eh? Now I suppose I shall have to write to Lord Carrington. Oh, and Your Majesty: No Badge! Next!

BORING Postcards Competition: update. Frankly, the field's getting too crowded.This chap called Martin Parr is publishing a book of them, featuring such old favourites of the Captain as Preston Bus Station, a bend on Porlock Hill, and the new swimming baths, Crosby. I have also been sent a copy of the invaluable Picture Post Card Monthly, of Keyworth, Nottingham, which this month puts the spotlight on Slough. Did you know that one of Tring Station will set you back pounds 25? And there's a thriving club scene: "Guest speaker at North Wales in June was Ken Hassell who took (inevitably!) the Isle of Man as his chosen topic". That's what we're up against. Still, I must say that Ms Yarrow of Hartlepool's "Church Street, Hartlepool, By Night" would not be ashamed in any company. I might show it to you next week; but this week I have cleared all remaining picture space for my next, amazing, item. Next!

EXCLUSIVE. Just study this detail from the Bayeux Tapestry closely. What about the bloke on the end at the right? What's that all about, then? Mrs Dalton of Carlisle noticed him last week when he featured on the front of the Travel Section. "Would you agree," she writes, "that the mobile phone has been with us longer than we thought?" You're right, Mrs D! Remarkable. Complete rewrite of medieval history required, especially the bits to do with mobile infantrymen. But what's he saying? "The Future is Norman"? "Hello, I'm on the Tapestry"? "It's good to hawk"? Terrific. Well done, Mrs D: Badge!

AWE. That's the reaction among my peers to the acclaimed Moonlight Miscellany, a remarkably contrived collection of this, that and the other. And, first, others may have deserted the Eclipse, but the Captain is not fickle; when he covers something, it stays covered. This week's special offers: a bottle of Cripple Cock Eclipse 1999 Scrumpy ("Has night just ended - or has day just begun? 'Who cares?' crows Cripple Cock, 'I'll have another one' ") plus an Independent on Sunday pinhole camera, comprised of two sheets of our headed writing paper and one pinhole, used only once, very handy for the transit of Venus across the Sun in 2004, all free to the reader who sends in the best "My Eclipse Memory". Next, in I Almost Met this week, Mr Tomalin of Aldeburgh claims that while he was working on an American cruise liner in the Seventies, one of the passengers was Colonel Sanders, the fried chicken man, who entered the fancy dress comp as himself and came second. Hmmm. Independent confirmation required, I'm afraid, Mr T; and for your story, too, Mr Hummer of Hook Norton, involving Mrs Hummer, Lady Thatcher and the carving knife. Bye!

REASSURING: the Government's Chief Scientist, Sir Frank "Smokin' " Beagle, pictured with three of his favourite researchers before making some genetic modifications to a maize crop just outside Barnsley. No? The royal protection squad offering discreet but heightened security during a visit by the Prince of Wales to Glyndebourne? Spin doctors off to see John Prescott? All right, do your own Hague joke while I work on one about London's big ferris wheel. Actually, it's part of the Cluedo 50th anniversary celebrations. It is.