Captain Moonlight's Notebook

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The Independent Online
SHEEP-SHAPE: Britain's only collection of naive art, put together over 50 years by the London art dealer Andras Kalman, is up for sale . . . I think.

Last year there was quite a to-do over a suggestion that the collection - some 100 paintings, furniture and bric-a-brac - might be sold piecemeal. Mr Kalman was financially stretched at the time as a result of the collapse of the market in modern paintings, and let it be known that the works were up for sale. None of Britain's institutions was prepared to buy it or contribute towards its upkeep.

Americans were said to be waiting with suitcases of dollars to swoop on the collection. They didn't. Now, after a showing in the Crane Gallery in Knightsbridge, owned by Mr Kalman's son Andrew, the collection returns to the Museum of English Nave Art in a former schoolhouse in Bath, where, says Mr Kalman, it will stay 'a little while longer', his urgent financial pressures having eased. This diffidence seems to have put new life into an appeal spearheaded by Sir Peter Wakefield, a former ambassador to Beirut and Brussels and former director of the National Art-Collections Fund. A trust will be registered this week and negotiations with Mr Kalman will begin immediately, he said.

I-spy in Islington

RESIDENTS of a certain street in Islington, north London, are in a state of civil war following a report in my sister newspaper, the Independent, last Monday saying that the calm of their neighbourhood had been destroyed following the appointment of Stella Rimington to head MI5 in December 1991.

Captain Moonlight, it appears, has been chosen by Mrs Rimington's defenders, even her husband, to present their case. I wonder if the cloak-and- dagger name caught their eye. I'd prefer to think it was my integrity.

New readers begin here: Monday's story quoted two anonymous residents, Mr A and Mrs B, who felt that now word was out on Mrs Rimington's address, everyone in the street automatically became a target for terrorists. 'I don't want a bomb through my letter box,' said Mr A, who added that he appreciated Mrs Rimington had to live somewhere but she should not choose such a 'close-knit' area and put children's lives at risk.

Mrs B said she and her 'fellow residents' were particularly incensed that the area had been cordoned off two weeks ago for a security conference.

First to arrive on my desk was a fax from 'Another Resident'. He declared that Mr A and Mrs B did not accurately reflect the opinions of the street. 'On the contrary,' he declared, 'most of us are happy to have Mrs Rimington and her family as neighbours.'

'When the authors of these obnoxious and ridiculous remarks claim for themselves an anonymity which they wish to deny to Mrs Rimington their sense of responsibility must be questioned,' Another Resident said, insisting on anonymity. Then, out of the blue, came a clerihew from John Rimington, Stella's husband:

Busy Mrs B is all for secrecy

In everything pertaining to her own identity

For others in the street

She is not so discreet.

His loyalty cheered me enormously. The papers had said he was an estranged husband. He told me that while he did not live under the same roof as his wife, they remained close. I look forward to villanelles from Mrs B and Mr A. Other verse forms will be considered.

AS Chris Patten, the governor of Hong Kong, recuperates from the operation on his arteries last week and prepares for his next confrontation with China, he may wish to contemplate his latest nickname, Xifang Bubei.

Miss Peachblossom, my former soothsayer, has heard from her cousin in Hong Kong that there is a double meaning to this title: Mr Invincible from the West. Taken from a series of kung-fu novels, Mr Invincible from the West is a parody of Mr Invincible from the East, or Dongfang Bubei - an extremely righteous person who was corrupted by power and ambition.

One of his tricks is to turn himself into a woman. I'm not sure how Chris Patten's wife, Lavender, will take to this, but it would certainly disarm the geriatrics in Peking.

Secret of an ordinary King

SO Lord King, the greatest British businessman ever invented, has retired prematurely as chairman of British Airways, the most favourite airline the world has ever seen. A sad affair, especially in the same week as the death of his brother-in-law John Poulson, the corrupt architect, though of course the timing of Lord King's departure has nothing to do with the kerfuffle over his airline's campaign of dirty tricks against his tieless rival, Richard Branson.

Lord King is a remarkable figure, genuinely self-made and genuinely short-tempered, and in some respects terrifically modest. Other men, having scaled the social heights of the Belvoir Hunt and White's club, might boast about their hard ascent from humble beginnings. Lord King has never done so. Neither the place nor the date of his birth are recorded in Who's Who.

In fact, he was born in 1918 in Brentwood, Essex, the son of an Army sergeant, but spent most of his childhood in the village of Dunsfold, in then rural Surrey, where his dad got a job as a postman. Three years ago, when this newspaper was compiling a profile of Lord King, the journalist John Dodd went poking around Dunsfold to see if anyone remembered him. 'Let's put it this way,' said one Ernie Arnold outside the pub, 'John King has kept a secret about this village and this village has kept a secret about him.'

This sounded rather spectacular - the kind of thing that grizzled rustics say to city folk in Will Hay comedies shortly before the headless horseman appears - and Dodd's poking around consequently grew much more vigorous. But the secret on the village's part seemed to be little more than King's ordinariness. The family of six had shared a small cottage; he left school without qualifications; an early job was making clamping stays for vacuum-cleaners.

What the village seemed peeved about was Lord King's refusal to publicise it as the cradle of his ambition. In retirement, he might rectify this. An advertising campaign, perhaps, with PR men hired to spoil the picturesque reputations of rival Surrey villages.

Cricket wallies

OUT OF India over the past few weeks has come a voice which I think I recognise. It is the voice of a certain kind of Englishman. It may even be the dominant voice of England (I hope not, otherwise the game is up). It's a voice that alternately grouches and whines, and wishes it were somewhere else: Chelmsford maybe, or on the M4, or inside Ye Olde Fax and Firkin just down the B6527 from Exit 17. I realise that these could be construed as snobbish remarks, but I can't help it. There's very little that is more depressing, or more illuminating, about the state of the English psyche than the behaviour and coverage of the English cricket team now touring India.

For non-cricketing readers, the story so far is this. England are not doing well. Last week they got clobbered in the first test match, in Calcutta, and previous results on the tour have not been glorious. It would be nave to imagine that defeated cricket teams behave any more gracefully - oh, well done, sir] - than beaten football sides or darts players. That kind of thing went out with Brylcreem, if not W G Grace, and we have all got used to moans about the unfairness of umpires, the biased state of the pitch, the peculiarly anti-Anglo-Saxon prejudices of the ball. In India, however, English whingeing has reached a new height.

The Englishmen, apparently, are in a pitiable condition. No brave imperialists these. They are sick, they are home- sick, the food is unusual, because of an airline strike they must sometimes travel by train. As conveyed by English cricket correspondents, who are themselves a faint-hearted and weak- stomached bunch, the English players are buckling under the pressure of rancid dal, bad water, enervating heat, jabbering rioters, oppressive beggary. You imagine them travelling on the carriage roofs, sharing out the last of their quinine and Marmite while beating off thuggees with their bats. And what do they find when they get to Calcutta? Smog - and of a fiendishly Oriental kind which charms Indian spin-bowling as a well-played flute raises a cobra from its basket.

All nonsense, of course. North India in winter has as pleasant a climate as anywhere in the world. The Calcutta smog is indeed terrible (you can almost slice it up and fry it for your tea), but it affects both teams equally; no player on the Indian side comes from the city or from hundreds of miles around. The English team stay in remarkably grand hotels, filled with smiling girls in shiny saris and name badges (Gita, Sunita) and they are made a tremendous fuss of wherever they go. India idolises cricketers. The only physical danger they have been in is smothering by a surfeit of marigold garlands.

So why are we being treated to these heart-rending stories of Delhi-belly (a phrase that should be excised from every cricket correspondent's vocabulary)? Why was Phil Tufnell, the English bowler, reported to have said: 'I've done the elephant, I've done the poverty, I might as well go home'? Xenophobia is an obvious answer, sharpened by that splendid new English quality of dazzling ignorance. I put the question to L K Sharma, the London correspondent of the Times of India.

'It's just typical of some British reporting - news from Bongo-Bongo- Land,' said Mr Sharma wearily, confessing that cricket was for him 'an area of darkness' and of no interest. 'I did, however, see a picture of a gentleman called Mr Graham Gooch with a thermometer in his mouth in New Delhi. And I thought 'Thank God Mr Major did not get 'flu there - otherwise India would be finished.' '

But the best answer probably lies in a book by the Indian writer, Ashish Nandy. 'Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English.'

Say what you like about . . .

. . . Norman Lamont, but:

He has loyal (and flexible) friends

He didn't resign

He keeps his receipts

He didn't resign

He'll never reduce interest rates

He didn't resign

(Photograph omitted)

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