Club 45-95 ... Milton keen ... how to shoot a dog

CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT
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The Independent Online
You are, the Captain says quite frequently, en route between Locarno, Stringfellows, Lyceum and Palais, as young as you feel. And, quite often, as I "get down" and "strut my stuff", I see a lot of other people around my age doing exactly the same. So it was good to see confirmation in a survey last week that one in three over-45-year-olds in Britain now go out dancing. What we oldies need, though, I would submit, are some better venues, with the music turned down just a tad and none of that lighting that shows up the fluff on your suit. With this in mind, I am launching a campaign to get more London clubs turned on. In fact, my young assistant, Norman, spent much of last week telephoning clubs and seeking to persuade them to start a weekly discotheque on Friday nights. But I fear it will be an uphill struggle. Despite my fond vision of Sirs Peregrine Worsthorne and Robin Day punching the air to "YMCA", the Garrick's response was "God forbid". The Carlton thought a disco "very unlikely"; "no, no, we have no plans to do that," said the Athenaeum. Nor had the East India. I urge you to think again, gentlemen. Boodles said it didn't have any ladies, but I don't see that as an insurmountable problem. The Travellers' official charged with dealing with the press was out to lunch when Norman called. But there is one little glimmer of hope: the RAC refused to comment, and we all know what that means. Let's frug!

One of the great rewards of attaining a certain rank in this trade of ours is that I am able to pass on advice to the eager youngsters working their way up. Today: crossing cutlery with Sir Terence Conran. Be very careful, if, having arranged to interview the pine guru, he suggests you do it over a meal. This happened to a German journalist recently. They sat down together in Le Pont de la Tour, the eaterie owned by Sir Terence where Essex meets Mayfair. Sir Terence ordered a bottle of Puligny-Montrachet, which is not cheap, and then confided that it was very nice to be taken out sometimes. Bong!

You may remember that, some time ago, I decided that my position as a leading member of London Society would be enhanced by the employment of two or three bodyguards, or more properly, as described by my friend, Mr Maxwell Clifford, aide-de-camp to the stars, "close protection agents". Sadly, as you will doubtless also remember, I found the prices being quoted in Bow and Mile End a little too choice for the captainly pocket. I do not despair, though. I have decided to become my own bodyguard. Mr Mark Yates, president of the Law Enforcement Bodyguard Association International, has written to me, offering me a Home Study Course in VIP Protection. Every month, for just pounds 33, the tricks of the trade will be revealed, in the privacy of your own home, promises Mark. Cheap at the price, I should say, if it only teaches neck retraction and how to speak out of the side of your mouth clearly and threateningly. I'm in, Mark!

Captain Moonlight's Helpful Hints For Would-Be Rakes and Roues. And this week we're really in luck, as a fascinating example of Alan Clark's technique has just come my way. On the telephone, in a business conversation with a lady whom he has not met, the old boy is wont to drop in this line apropos of absolutely nothing (except one thing): "You have a slim-sounding voice." So that's the way he does it!

MILTON Keynes. Actually, I rather like it. Order, straight lines. Very good for cars. I spent a little time there once. One chap I spoke to said he didn't like it because the trees were all the same height, but I thought that was carping, slightly. Anyway, it's in the news again for being the most expensive place to shop in Britain. This surprises me because they come in coaches from miles away just to shop in the shopping centre there. Half a million people a week. But that is not my point. My point is that MK, as we aficionados call it, is not the synonym for boredom and greyness you have been led to believe. Very few people know this, but the great central boulevard, Midsummer Boulevard, was planned so that the first rays of the summer solstice sun would shine directly down it and light up the railway station. It was, I promise you. I went there on the summer solstice and waited for the dawn along with a group of druids and a group of evangelists determined to make them see the error of their ways. It wasn't dull at all. More of Captain Moonlight's Surprising Britain next week. Meanwhile, while we are on the mystical, I thought you might also like to know that there is a hairdressers on Haverstock Hill, quite near to where the druids go in London of a solstice, called Vasso. When I telephoned to see if they had any connection with my friend Madame Vasso, of the blue pyramid, and whether business had picked up as a result, they hung up on me. But this is often the lot of the investigative journalist, I find. Next!

Bbrrnngg! The phone and, at the other end, a sizzling noise and the sound of a sous chef being slapped about a bit. It can only be my cooking correspondent, Mark Five. He claims that a new biography will reveal all about the sex life of Elizabeth David but, frankly, I find it hard to believe that Elizabeth David had a sex life when she was so busy tossing salads. He also claims that members of the Graham family (see their discreet little logo above) have long been accustomed, when fishing, to toss unconsumed bottles of the product into the Douro rather than have the bother of lugging it home again. Mark claims he watched two bottles of the Family Reserve (some way beyond the aspirations of the LBV handed out by the Captain for your thoughts and reflections) chucked over the side, and that he can find the spot again. My need to visit the Douro, with net, becomes ever more pressing.

NOW then. The Captain has heard quite a lot of bleating about this country's quarantine laws, draconian, unnecessary, dreadful thing for Governor of Hong Kong to face many months without company of two small dogs, called, for some reason, Whisky and Soda. Ridiculous. I have been a travelling man. Manama, Penang, Curacao, Cox's Bazaar, Ince. Pets have never caused me a problem. Don't get me wrong, love 'em, particularly dogs. My solution to leaving them, though, is simple. Before I weigh anchor for the last time, I shoot them. But I can be a sensitive man. I realise the quick, clean way is not for everybody. Which is why I want to draw to your attention this morning a new enterprise. I am setting up private wards in all these quarantine places. Chicken drumsticks, fitted carpets, piped music, sun loungers, weekly visit from Rolf Harris, security by Group 4. Those interested should forward their postal orders to the usual address.

Captain Moonlight's Miscellany, a thing of snippets often rewarded by a gift of port. My week has been much enlivened by the arrival of a thespian tome, written by Janet Suzman. It forms part of "The Applause Acting Series" and is entitled, modestly if a little confusingly, Acting With Shakespeare. In it, Janet tells us: "It is the vowels that act as the conduit for emotion. The more open and flexible they are, the more the consonants can be used as choppers and sling-shots to send them on their way

Every picture, they say, tells a story, don't they? Today's recalls the lost delights of Blackpool, autumn, 1996, now but a distant memory of smoke, bills and drink. And it was in the famed La Piazza that Mr Martin Rowson, caricaturist, was privileged to observe Mr Andrew Neil, the indeterminately tonsured former editor of the Sunday Times, Scourge of the Establishment and Voice of Controversy, at his supper. The event made such an impression that Mr Rowson, who has just produced his own illustrated version of Tristram Shandy, has decided to share it with you. Mr Neil's autobiography, in which he fearlessly reveals much that, inexplicably, he didn't reveal at the time, such as Rupert Murdoch's bad points, is entitled Full Disclosure. Quite.

The Captain's Catch-up Service

And a big welcome once more to my terribly useful digest of the news you might have missed last week... Chris Lee, of Halifax, was disappointed to learn, after spending 26 days up a sycamore, that the world record for sitting up a tree was, in fact, 26 years ... Eric Padley, 66, thinks he has located the Holy Grail near Barrow-in-Furness ... Duke, a 10-month- old Yorkshire terrier, was admitted to an RSPCA hospital to have his milk teeth extracted and was castrated instead ... At an EU meeting, it was revealed, a French speaker's belief that la sagesse normande was required ended up being translated, "We need Norman Wisdom" ... and, finally, John Walmsley, an Australian conservationist worried about the overwhelming number of cats down under, is proposing serving them in his restaurants. "They are a bit strong tasting but extremely good tucker," he said.

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