Dimbleby's literary pastures ... M und S ... Flopsy disks

CAPTAIN MOONLIGHT
Click to follow
COME now with the Captain to a place far away from the fug and smartness of the metropolis. Come to the English countryside, of which I have heard several people speak very highly. We are near Bath, where the fields are green and a reader can breathe God's good air. Here is a farmhouse, and here are 60 acres that surround it. And who is this familiar figure, in the gumboots, showing off his new property? Why, it is Jonathan Dimbleby, the thinner one, television and radio person, organic farmer and author of a biography of the Prince of Wales said to have earned him, oh, around £1m. Jonathan and his wife, the writer Bel Mooney, have moved from their old home two miles away. You may recall Bel's heroic stand against a proposed bypass over there, a stand which brought Bel much opprobrium of the nimby kind. Sadly, all was in vain, something which both are anxious to stress has absolutely nothing to do with the move. But what is Jonathan saying? Come closer. He is explaining what he calls his new fields: "Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three...'' Sweet, really.

n MARKS & Spencer, I see, is about to open up in Germany. To help my many German readers get by at dinner parties over there, I have prepared this handy phrase: "Na ja, ein bisschen teuer sind die Lebensmittel schon, aber ehrlich gesagt, ich weiss nicht was ich ohne ihre Unterwsche tun wrde." What does it mean? Oh, yes, of course: "Well, yes, the food is a little on the pricey side, but, frankly, I'd be lost without the knickers.''

THERE'S nothing quite like a funeral for reminding you of your own mortality, is there? It's something about death, I suppose. Anyway, that big send- off for Ronnie Kray set me thinking about my own last arrangements. No point shuffling off quietly; I, too, feel a duty to my public, who will doubtless wish to mark the occasion appropriately. I must say I fancy one of those glass-sided hearses with the black horses and the plumes, so, on your behalf, I took the liberty of inquiring about the cost from Ron's undertakers, W English & Son, of Bethnal Green. It will be entirely up to you, of course, but I don't see £775 as particularly outrageous, and it's inclusive of VAT, which I didn't think they had in the East End. But what would really make me up would be one of those dead big floral tributes where they spell your name out. Ron had `RON' on one side, and `The Colonel', his nickname, on the other. I rang up Moyses Stevens, of Sloane Street, the Queen Mum's florists, and they said massed spring chrysanths would cost £50 a letter, which works out at £500 for "The Captain". As it is a pretty chi-chi outfit, though, Moyses' letters are only 12 inches high, whereas I fancy something a little bigger. Paula Pryke, which charges between £40 and £60 a letter, was prepared to take its letters up to two foot high. Just look at my impression down below. What? No, never felt better!

n THE Captain is a gentleman, but he has a higher duty: to democracy. Which is why, today, I give you another bombshell disclosure about Roseanna Cunningham, the Scots lawyer whose SNP candidature in the Perth and Kinross by-election was nearly scuppered by objections to a past love affair which affected and aggrieved the powerful Ewing clan. Ms Cunningham first withdrew but was then triumphantly reinstated for a campaign which has rolled impressively on until now. For now I can reveal that Ms Cunningham, 42, is a Trekkie. She was seen at a Star Trek convention in Glasgow, dressed in one of those funny T-shirts with the round necks and giving every sign of understanding a group of Glaswegians speaking Klingon (or it may have been Glaswegian). Will the voters of P & K wish to be represented by someone with an absorbing interest in warp factors, funny clothes and life - but not as we know it? Well, they returned Nicholas Fairbairn.

NEWS now to gladden the heart of every parent in the country with young children. Mindscape Inc, of California, and Frederick Warne, of Penguin, have announced an agreement to create a collection of children's interactive CD-ROM titles based upon Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit. Interactive Peter Rabbit! I don't know about you, but I began immediately to conjure with a host of delightful possibilities and scenarios that the loving parent could introduce: Mr McGregor catches Peter as soon as he sees him coming round the cucumber frame, raps him smartly on the head with his spade, and that's the end, time to go to sleep now; Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail go in as well, and succumb to an equally speedy despatch; Peter drowns in the watering can; Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail are hung up, dead, on a gibbet near the fence to serve as an awful warning to all other rabbits. Mrs McGregor shows, in full detail, just how she cooked Peter's father in a pie. It was with some disappointment, then, that I learnt from Frederick Warne that you will not be able to change the story, just have little games within it. A big seller has gone begging here, believe me.

n EVERYONE, of course, will have a favourite memory from the glittering party that launched Martin Amis's acclaimed new novel (take in name here) last Monday night at a working men's club in west London. The Captain's came during Salman Rushdie's dervish round the dance floor with various partners and to various "sounds", including those of the Bee Gees, an Australian band with literary associations (a member married Lulu). One of those sudden stabs in the air which are the terpsichorean hallmark of Lady Chewton, renowned literary dancer and sister-in-law of William Waldegrave, sent Salman's spectacles spinning to the floor, leaving the poor man crawling round trying to recover them without being trampled to death by the feet of London letters. What a cruel way to go that would have been, after everything! And, on the subject of Amis, dancing and the Bee Gees, I see now that an American publication called Entertainment Weekly is complaining that a profile by Amis of John Travolta in The New Yorker relied a little too heavily on a piece it ran last October. Can't people leave the poor guy alone?

FOOD, dogged readers will have noticed, is not a consuming interest of the Captain. Cold baked beans and rice pudding: these are the kinds of thing I like. I used to be very fond of Vesta risottos and paellas, too, the ones you mix with water, but I haven't had one for years, for some reason. And I do like a pie, meat and potato for choice. So I was a bit worried when I saw this report that a big bakery in the Potteries was having to close because not enough people were eating pies. Another straw in the chill wind of national decline, 800 words of Paul Johnson, doorstep milk deliveries, Woolton, Gala, Melton Mowbray, British Rail, great names all, bowing the knee to tasteless American invader, etc, blah. But hold, I have the figures, fresh from the Meat and Livestock Commission. Cold pie consumption, 1989: 35,000 tons. Cold pie consumption, 1994: 41,000 tons. Hot pie consumption, 1989: 92,000 tons. Hot pie consumption, 1994: 110,000 tons. Some good news at last, by golly!

"I had this funny feeling I might win," said Mrs Imminent Windfall, of Datchet. "There I was, walking down the High Street on the way to purchase some more choice morsels for my cat, 4236164821, when I was suddenly picked up by these giant fingers, which I recognised to be those used to publicise the National Lottery. Then a loud voice, not dissimilar to the current prime minister's, said: `It's you'. I suspected then that something was up.'' Moonlight artists have recreated the dramatic moment in the high street of the little Berkshire town. Mrs Windfall, 63, who won £19m, has announced plans to save Jonathan Aitken for the nation by paying him an annual stipend and providing him with a large supply of glue and 200 Airfix self-assembly scale models of a fully armed Iranian patrol boat. Astoundingly, though, this is actually Grandma, a circus character played by Barry Lubin, performing with a troupe of mummers in the Big Apple Circus at Boston, Massachusetts

Photograph: CHARLES KRUPA/AP

The Captain's catch-up Service

JOIN ME now for my weekly trip round this wacky old world of ours ... Semtex, the Czech explosives manufacturers, caught by a downturn in demand, are now making Semtex Lemonade ... A soccer team won 9-0 after the ashes of ex-player Walt Tyers, 85, were scattered on the pitch at Uppingham ... A mugger who attacked a woman fled in agony when she hit him in his private parts with a cabbage in Colchester ... Goat farmer Aubrey Cagney beat a friend to death with a block of cheese in a row over the nutritional value of farm produce in a pub in Melbourne. Cagney claimed that it prolonged life ... The Mayor of Cheltenham was accused of insensitivity after attending a memorial service for the Mayor of Gloucester with a Comic Relief red nose on the official Daimler ... Kitty is the most popular name for a cat in the US ... A bus driver in Balsall Heath was sacked for kerb crawling in his Number 8 bus ... and, finally, bank staff in Harwich foiled a gunman by hiding behind the counter until the baffled robber fled.

Comments