CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT:Trappin', beatin', poisonin'... letters bray ... hot dinner

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The Independent Online
RATS. Did you see the survey that showed there are now more of them than there are of us? Yup: 60 million rats, a 12 per cent increase in England and Wales since the 1970s, most of them living off hamburgers thrown away in the street, apparently. Chacun a son gout, I say. Now naturally, as a journalist, I take a keen interest in rats. But, for the moment, I have to tell you, I'm more concerned about mice. Their numbers are up by the same amount, and they're rather closer to home than your rat, out there on the street with his hamburger. The Captain's consultant, Peter Bateman, past president of the British Pest Control Association, informs me that an average mouse sheds a dropping once every 13 minutes and urinates practically non-stop. How to get rid of them? Well, says Mr Bateman, there are poisons which kill them with cold or overdose them with vitamins. The more robust and sporting among you will prefer the trap. As for bait, Mr Bateman says that mice are not all that fond of cheese; it just used to be readily available in the larder. "A bit of nutty chocolate" is best. Personally, the Captain prefers the no-bait trap: while the mouse sits there wondering what on earth has happened to its cheese/bit of nutty chocolate, you approach silently from behind and hit it over the head with a blunt instrument. Quick, clean, and no messy crumbs. More helpful hints from the Captain soon.

n YOU have seen the picture below. And the question you want answering will be: is this really the end of the Captain? Sadly, no; but I have hopes. My eye was taken, you see, by the photograph and the accompanying legend in an advert for a book entitled Buttocks of Steel. Buttocks of Steel! Who could resist a title like that? It costs pounds 9.99 from Carnell, and I have a copy. It tells me that buttocks of steel are what a woman looks for in a man. It tells me that raw vegetables will revive the texture of my buttocks, that karate and crown green bowls are both very good for them, that vacuuming is better for them than dusting; but, most of all, it told me about clenching those buttock muscles: clench, relax, clench, six times, whenever, wherever you can. Captain's caution: it's very important to give both buttocks equal clenching or you might end up with a pronounced list. Okay, guys, let's clench firm and think steel!

AH, how the lottery makes dreamers of us all! What a comforting, beguiling thought it is, the acquisition of millions by no other device than the untrammelled operation of sheer luck! And that's only Winston Churchill and the directors of Camelot. So it comes as no surprise to the Captain, a man wise in the ways of human aspiration, to hear that Vivien Duffield runs a syndicate dedicated to winning the big one. Mrs Duffield, of course, is the daughter of the late Charles Clore, and is worth something like pounds 40m. This is all the more interesting when you consider that Mrs Duffield gives away large wodges of the Clore cash, and, as further proof of her charitable inclinations, is the close companion of Jocelyn Stevens. The rumour that J Paul Getty is a member of the syndicate can probably be discounted; more persistent is the claim that HRH Princess Margaret is shelling out weekly. If they win, perhaps she could buy Hello! for Fergie.

n I LIKE reading letters to newspapers. Your own, of course, are always a joy: pithy, witty, provocative, literate. Even the ones we don't print are often full of helpful advice (I hope you noticed, R B Gompsall, of Eccles, that I did go on holiday, if only for two weeks). But there are letters to other newspapers which I find entertaining for different reasons; and none more so than those to the Guardian. Most of them have to be written by more than one person, usually including Margaret Drabble, about some pressing threat to civilisation; others are short, to the point, and also indicate what life might be like soon unless the Labour Party regains its sense of humour. You will have read about the fall from a horse which has left the American actor Christopher Reeve quite possibly paralysed for life. So did V M G Brooks, of London, who wrote this to the Guardian: "No news concerning Christopher Reeve's horse, which baulked at the 3ft jump last Saturday in Virginia. Did he sustain any injuries, I wonder?" Gawd. Swiftly, I turn to the Daily Telegraph and a fascinating missive from Air Commodore Harold Shepherd, on the dangers of homosexuality in the services, with specific reference to a bachelor Group Captain and a German hotel page boy locked in a bedroom for 36 hours. Crikey.

BRRNNGGG! It is Orville, my south London correspondent, on the telephone, with news from Le Pont De La Tour, the restaurant owned by Terence Conran which thrives on a mixed diet of celebrities and people from east of Liverpool Street. One of the latter was thrown out recently for upturning his plate and complaining that Helmut Kohl was being served more quickly (on the famous VE night when Helmut arrived for his second dinner of the evening). Anyway, Orville tells me that Sir Leon and Lady Brittan were in the other night with David Mellor and his friend, Lady Cobham. Orville, earwigging outrageously, swears he heard one of the ladies confide: "Yes, we were invited to the Archer party, but I really couldn't be bothered." Well!

n NELSON Mandela. An unpredictable chap. What photo would you expect to have pride of place on the presidential desk? Accepting the Nobel Prize? With Winnie in happier days? Walking to freedom? Nope. It's one of Nelson in mid-giggle posing with Evita Bezuidenhout, the mega Boer transsexual creation of Pieter-Dirk Uys, the white South African satirist (a select group). Uys will be appearing at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, later in the month. Nelson, presumably, will keep smiling through.

IT'S a glamorous business, this column writing. I saw Simon Callow in the street the other week, and sat next to Alan Rickman at lunch. Unfortunately there was a bit of a gap between his table and mine so I couldn't hear a word he was saying, but you get my drift. There are, though, pitfalls. For one thing, if you're not jolly careful, you can easily come to believe that you are, how shall we say, important. Take my gruff old chum, Bernard Ingham, former Downing Street press secretary, who is now gruff for a living in the Daily Express. Everyone knows that there is a fair amount of briefing going on at the moment to the effect that Sir Richard Scott is one bicycle clip short of a pair where the workings of government are concerned. But Bernie doesn't believe it: "They have not rushed to brief me about their misgivings. No one has volunteered me a word of criticism, even though my reservations about Scott are well known." So that's that, then. Bye!

The Captain's catch-up Service

Here it is again, that moment in your busy lives when you find out what else has been going on this week ... Fearless TV crimebuster Roger Cook is, it was revealed, allergic to cucumbers ... Police are hunting a "little white-haired old lady" who caused chaos among rush hour motorists by driving the wrong way down the A167 in Newcastle in her motorised wheelchair ... The Guhuwati Express has never made its weekly 2,200-mile trip from Delhi to Trivandrum on time, it was reported. The average delay on the 71 hour 25 min journey is 20 hours ... Lord Erskine of Rerrick, who has died, has left his testicles to the Bank of Scotland, which declared him bankrupt, claiming that it had no balls ... Television's Mr Motivator, the fitness star, tore ligaments when he tripped over his shoelaces during a workout ... Alf Marsh, 67, is trying to trace the owner of a curly wig dropped by a crow on his garden at Crewkerne, Somerset ... The Mayor of Barnet has asked if she can use the mayoral car to pick up the family groceries ... Mr Geoff Bradley, of Temple Fortune, has written in to the Hendon Times asking if he can borrow it every other Saturday when Spurs are at home.

VENICE to see you, to see you Venice: the Princess of Wales (left) accompanied by her lady-in-waiting, Lady Tamara Uther-Daye, caught by the Moonlight cameras making their way to the Biennale exhibition, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Princess and Lady Tamara caused quite a stir by wearing matching close-fitting ivory hats in the style favoured by channel swimmers and the late Mr Pastry. Sorry? Good grief, you're right: they've shaved their heads! And a very neat job it is, I must say, rather reminiscent of the trail blazed by Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne and Gerald "Hollywood" Kaufman. Practical, all it needs is a quick buff after a heavy workout at the Harbour Club, and, most importantly in these unexpansive times, a quick going over with the Ladyshave will keep those contentious grooming costs right down. All right, all right, wishful thinking. It's actually Air Commodore Sir Hector "Only flying a desk these days" Aileron and Major General Edward "Steady Neddy" Tyteclenche, leaders of Absolutely Outraged and Completely Disgusted, the ad hoc campaign against homosexuality in the services, captured during some carefree off-duty moments in Ramsgate yesterday. Really really: it is Venice, but sadly, rather than any of the aforementioned, it is, in fact, a couple of exhibitionists making their discreet way to the Biennale. Well, you know what Venice is like; full of people desperate to get themselves photographed.

Photograph by MARTIN KEENE/PA