Queen snubs used headgear ... Bingo lingo ... Mr Major's big whip

Captain Moonlight

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HERITAGE. The Past. Our Island Story. Important things. You must have been as disturbed as I to read that two royal crowns will leave Britain unless pounds 1m can be raised by the end of January. The Imperial State Crown of George I and the Coronation Crown of George IV are being sold by Asprey, who acquired them after the Royal Family somehow forgot about them last century. But finding the money to send them back to the Tower is proving a problem. The Captain, though, has an idea. Why doesn't the Queen buy them? She's got the odd pounds 400m to spare, and it was clearly one of the family who did a bit of a Fergie in the first place. And she did lash out pounds 250,000 on the Fergie bits and pieces (did you think they looked a bit Ratners, by the way?) I telephoned the Palace. Did the Queen have any plans to shell out? "No," they said. So that's that, then.

n LET'S STAY in this area for a moment, and talk about jewellers. You will have your own views. But I think we can agree that, in the general run of things, they're not without a bob or two, either. So I get this letter from Bentley & Co, of New Bond Street, telling me they have an unchallenged reputation for jewellery and that they are one of the few remaining premier London jewellers still to be privately owned. Fine. Except that they haven't put a stamp on the envelope and I have to pay 34 pence. And a very merry Christmas to you too.

SEAMLESSLY on to Christmas Corner. Now, we all have that friend or relative who is an absolute nightmare when it comes to Christmas presents. Relax, the Captain can help. There's this artist in Cornwall, Matthew Lanyon, who had a rush of patriotism earlier in the year and, fired by Canada's bold stand against the activities of the Spanish fishing fleet, designed these plates, one of which I reproduce, to commemorate the anniversary of the Spanish raid on Mousehole, Newlyn and Penzance in 1595. Which, apart from anything else, explains why you don't see any buildings built before 1595 around there. Anyway, Matthew had high hopes of selling a lot of these plates at the Newlyn Fish Festival. But he didn't sell many. Actually, he didn't sell any. Which is how I can offer oh, quite a lot of them, to anyone with pounds 15.95 to spare. You will note the significance of the price; it also represents a special Moonlight quid off. A talking point, if nothing else, I should have said.

n THERE IS still the matter of my sponsors. You will notice that the ladder is still there, and that one lightbulb is still out, a visual aid to represent my dissatisfaction with an association which started promisingly but went into permanent decline when they offered me lunch in Acton. Still, it is the season of goodwill; and the sponsorship does end on Christmas Eve. I might go up and hang up some holly next week. What? Yes, I am after a new sponsor. This row between Guinness and Murphy's over which stout Bill Clinton drank in Ireland seemed promising. Just the moment to approach the third stout company, Beamish, and suggest they needed a quick gimmick or two. Why not, for example, I said to the Beamish PR man, send Bill a drop of yours? "We have plenty of customers without having to resort to that kind of thing," he said, coolly. I decided against proceeding further.

BUT I do have that bottle of the '66 port my sponsors sent me by way of an apology for not coming up with the far superior '63. The one I proposed to award to the one of you who came up with the finest philosophical statement of the importance of rugby league in thought and culture. This was to counter all that nancy French stuff about football from Camus and Cantona which is appearing everywhere on T-shirts. Well. Attention, Watersheddings, Wilderspool, and other shrines of the game. Try harder! We're not talking Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, you know. The bottle's worth pounds 54, and, frankly, I don't think "Gerrem Onside" - thank you, all the same, Mr Miller of Wigan - quite does the trick. The intellectual honour of the north country is at stake here: get t'pensees in, quick.

n MY FRIEND Keith was moved to hear that Prince Charles had done some bingo calling during a visit to Chester Top Rank last week. So much so that he has prepared some special Charles Windsor Bingo Calls: "On One's Own...One; In Our Marriage...Three; Two Bulimics...11; I talk to all the trees...33; Annus Horribilis...94; Granny's Age...95." Thank you very much, Keith.

MEDIA MUSINGS with Captain Moonlight. This week, news from the Daily Telegraph, where Jeremy Deedes, "group editorial director", is writing to his art sales correspondent, Godfrey Barker, a man who makes Brian Sewell seem brash, about Godfrey's secretarial arrangements at home in Mayfair. Jeremy is willing to pay for this service, but Godfrey's request for a runner to bring his mail over from the Telegraph is denied: "I am not providing a butlering service," writes Jeremy. Oh dear, and, ah, yes. How well this Captain recalls, in a previous situation, taking up page proofs to the offices of Lord Hartwell, the then Telegraph proprietor. His butler would come to the door and take them off between thumb and forefinger. Happy days, happy days!

n BUT ENOUGH daydreaming: it's time for an Observer Shame Update. And Guardian high-ups were locked into a St Albans hotel last week mulling over what on earth to do with their Sunday cross, despite all manner of trouble finding disabled access for Peter Preston, amateur magician and editor-in-chief of both titles, who has a broken leg. It never rains but it pours, don't you find? Now, just have a look at that missive down there from Mr Mohamed al-Fayed's man of letters denying that his chief is anxious to appear in Britain's "Rich List". Curiously, he fails to mention that he supplied details of his chief's holdings to said rich list. Curiously, he fails to deny the rest of my report, viz that his chief is v. keen to buy the Observer. Next!

BRRNNGG! The telephone; Ms Una Tributable, my parliamentary correspondent, upon it. "Captain," she shouts. "I was at my gymnasium today, in Millbank, close to the new Labour HQ, 'the most modern media centre in Europe', working off the after effects of my triumphant appearance in the annual quiz between MPs and lobby correspondents in Annie's Bar. Passing the swimming pool, I caught sight of the new government chief whip, Alastair Goodlad. Captain, there is an awful lot of Goodlad, and it moves and shudders. Terrifying. It's my view that they should take Tory rebels down there and show them. They would never, never dare stray again." I wanted to know more about the quiz, but Ms Tributable was unable to recall who had been on the MPs' side, or, indeed, any of the questions. Personally - and, yes, call me an old cynic if you like - I am beginning to suspect that confidentiality is only one of the reasons why no one can tell you what happens in Annie's Bar.

n THE CAPTAIN Regrets: WHV "Hopper" Levett, Kent and England wicket- keeper, who has died aged 87. Allow me to quote from the great E W Swanton's appreciation: "Loquacious, cheerful and good-natured ... for Hopper the game continued in the bar after stumps were drawn. A story is told of his taking the field one morning after a particularly sociable evening. The first ball flew past his motionless form for four byes. He dived full- length to make an aerobatic catch off the next, remarking as he regained his feet: 'Not bad for the first ball of the day.' " RIP.

'ELLO, 'ELLO, 'ELLO: Police Constable Digby Driffield pictured just seconds before, heavily disguised to allay suspicion, he burst through the back window of the Pudsey allotment shed of an unsuspecting Sidney "The Garden Fence" Potter as part of last week's nationwide police dawn swoop on burglary suspects codenamed Operation Christmas Cracker. Mount Pudsey is in the background. "It went like clockwork," said PC Driffield afterwards. "I was straight through the window and feeling Potter's collar before he could even move. There was rhubarb everywhere. Never have the words, 'You're nicked, chummie', given me so much satisfaction." Police later removed a quantity of turnips, a spirit stove and a large number of back copies of Reader's Digest from the said shed. Well, no, not really; but you didn't really think you'd get away without a funny picture of Santa, did you? This one was taken in Austria for no other reason than to provide a funny picture of Santa, as far as I can tell. Next week: Santa goes Salsa!

Photograph: AFP

The Captain's catch-up Service

THERE were other stories last week, you know, apart from the big, important, serious ones ... Westminster City Council has been awarded a Golden Seat trophy for maintaining the best public lavatories in Britain ... A six foot cobra crawling across a road created a mile-long traffic jam during the rush-hour in New Delhi... Linda McCartney paid pounds 3,000 to save Henley, a 28lb turkey, from the Christmas table. "Everyone should think about doing something like this at Christmas," she said. Henley has now been put on a diet ... Henry, a buffalo, beat two racehorses over 100 metres in 10.14 seconds in Rapid City, South Dakota ... Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber wants to take up ostrich farming ... Andrew Henderson, 43, of Paisley, a wild west fan also known as Big Clint, has had his gun taken away after he shot himself practising for a quick draw contest when his revolver caught in his waistband ... Pensioners in Pontefract have been injuring themselves by falling into their new wheelie-bins. Dogged Moonlight readers will remember that I pointed out last year the popularity of the wheelie bin for disposing of murder victims. Time for a bin ban, I say!

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