Homage to Cherie ... nod from Sir Robin ... power flowers

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THIS, AS you all know, is the column that likes a challenge. So when I heard that the Millennium Commission was disappointed with the lack of imagination in the projects submitted to it, my way was clear. Here follow Captain Moonlight's Five Exciting Ways To Mark The Millennium: 1) The Millennium Lottery. Forget the usual run-of-the-mill millions on offer; this lottery for once, and for once only, would offer 2,000 lucky winners an autographed copy of Adventures and Memories, the exciting recollections of Winston Churchill MP. 2) The Millennium Installation. A large tank, to be erected at the entrance of the Tate Gallery, containing 2,000 gallons of formal- dehyde and Damien Hirst, stuffed. 3) Millennium! A new musical to be commissioned from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice, directed by Michael Winner, starring Bernard Manning and Elizabeth Hurley, to run for 2,000 performances in the New Millennium Theatre, Port Stanley, a collaboration between Sir Richard Rogers, Sir Norman Foster and Sir Lawrie Barratt. 4)The Permanent Millennium Residual Board, a quasi, non-governmental organisation, offering 2,000 handsome pensions to the likes of My Lords Rothschild, Wyatt, Sainsbury, Rees-Mogg, St John of Fawsley, Gowrie, Wakeham, and Simon Jenkins, provided they sit on nothing else. 5) Millennium House, a spanking new house to be built for the Prime Minister, Cherie and family in easy reach of Islington; to be opened by President Boothroyd.

n AH, YES, the photographs. That's Carole Maggio, of Arizona, down on the left, exercising her facial muscles. Carole, wittily, calls her exercises "Facercises"; they are her alternative to face lifts; she has this book about it. Did you know the nose never stops growing? Carole does, and has a Facercise to stop that ever-lengthening tip drooping. You lie down on the floor and raise your head 35 times while pulling down your upper lip and releasing it. Your nose is OK? Well, Carole has eyebrow push-ups, face wideners ("Skip this exercise if you think that your face is too wide," advises Carole) and other facial jerks to combat eyebrow droop, chin sag and the rest. The Captain, who has the lot, is game. But please remember not to try them all at once; the effect could be drastic. And it's better than the knife. Do you remember what they used to say about the Duchess of Windsor, seen on the right? They said that when she raised her left eyebrow her right knee shot up.

AND NOW, Sir Robin Butler. Undeterrable readers will remember that the Cabinet Secretary was due to give a talk at the Athenaeum Club last Monday entitled "Does The Civil Service Ever Change?". I speculated that the answer might be "Yes", "No", "Yes and No", or "No comment on the grounds of national security", and promised to let you know which he had plumped for. Release that breath; cease tapping those fingers: here it is, obtained even though these Athenaeum talks are, as you would expect, deeply confidential. Sir Robin, it turns out, is a reader. He introduced his remarks by noting that he had been interested to see my speculation and that he was "happy to say the answer will be 'Yes' and 'No' ". Captain's Gloss: I think this means that the answer was really: "No".

n NO ONE could accuse the Captain of being resistant to new ideas. I was particularly taken with the offer made last week by the Daily Star, a lively newspaper of the smaller-sized variety. "Free For Every Reader," it announced. "Packet of Chocolate Biscuits." This strikes me as an idea with great potential. Perhaps I might go in for something similar. What would you say, for example, to a free dolly mixture? Do write in and let me know; I'm open to most suggestions.

YOU WILL, of course, be wanting to know all about the bidding for the fifth television channel; and so, naturally, as Arnold follows Watkins, you turn to me. Anticipating this, I have been in contact with my highly placed commercial television contact, Addy Brake. Some observers were surprised by the low bid made by Rupert Murdoch, some £32m less than the highest, that of the consortium led by CanWest, the Canadian cable operator headed by Izzy Asper.

What did Addy make of this? Mr Murdoch, said Addy, who is a terse man, "knows how to add up and subtract". He then added that Mr Asper was "off his ------ trolley", which I take to be a television term of art. It was Addy's view that those offering more than Mr Murdoch, which includes the Pearson group and Richard Branson, were merely would-be vanity broadcasters who had no hope on those offers "of ever making what I call a profit". And what did Addy call a profit? "The figures without brackets round them." More pearls from Addy very soon!

n A PITY Jeremy Hanley has to go just when he was getting the hang of it. Did you catch that press conference he gave the other day with Stephen Dorrell when they asked him about the mortgage insurance cock-up? Jeremy said no one could possibly expect the party chairman to know about something as complicated and technical as that; and then, without hesitation, said: "Stephen?" Poor old Dorrell was left giving one of those impersonations of a goldfish at choir practice. It reminded me of Coral Browne stepping into the breach during a play when the phone rang at the wrong moment. She swept to the phone, picked it up, then turned to the only other occupant of the stage, a scene-stealing faux-ingnue, and said: "It's for you".

SO YOU thought advertising was all about baggy suits and running concepts up flagpoles? So did I. Until I read, in a sneak preview of the Vanity Fair out this week, that Maurice Saatchi used to spend £5,000 a year sending people flowers. Every time a government minister changed jobs, he or she received a bouquet from Maurice at Saatchi & Saatchi. I imagine his bill would have been rather larger last year, what with all those comings and goings. Anyway, the next time you see Sir Colin Marshall's buttonhole, have no doubt where the bloom came from. Captain's Hint: my office decor is crushed cherry and power grey.

n THE Captain Regrets: If you will forgive me, I would like, at this time of remembrance, to break off from the relentless jollity for a moment. Stanley Rothwell, from Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire, was a civil defence rescue worker in south London during the last war. Excerpts from his diary have been published by the SE1 People's History Group under the title "Lambeth at War". One reads: "Word came over that we must go to another incident in Brixton Road, near The White Horse Inn ... There were two or three gaping bomb craters still smoking. In the gutter lay a little milk boy, he had been delivering milk on the morning round. The blast had thrown him from his tricycle ... he wore a blue-and-white striped apron ... I saw his ears turn from the colour of pink to a white alabaster colour. I turned his head, half of his face was blown away, he was dead. We put him in a shroud and laid him behind a garden wall to be collected by the death van later." Lest we forget what fools we mortals be.

The Captain's catch-up Service

NOW FOR the only weekly news digest that takes you to the outer limits of the human condition ... Honeymooners at the Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth, can spend the night in a seven-foot-long, six-foot-wide four-poster once slept in by Captain Robert Maxwell

GAME for a laugh: what do you do when your party has been humiliated at the local government elections? Well, you don't sit around moping; you get out and party, that's what you do! Just look at the star turn in last night's revue, Blue Hue!, at Tunbridge Wells Conservative Club. Do you recognise our terrible trio, dubbed, with typical Tory lightness of touch, The Three Disgraces? Well, Jeremy Hanley (left) is difficult to disguise at the best of times, what with his thespian leanings and background, but did you spot Sir Rhodes Boyson? And I'd be truly amazed if anyone can identify our third cavorter, the one kneeling and recovering from the excruciating pain that a mistimed jet can bring: step forward, gingerly, John "Travolta" Gummer! No, of course, it isn't: it's Teddy Taylor, Lord Howe and the groover from the valleys, John Redwood. All right, all right, it's a St Petersburg dance trio called 240 Tons. If you're in Grenoble next month, you might try to catch them. Photograph: AFP