n BRRNNGG! The telephone rings, in that rather irritatingly insistent fashion it has. It is Sheldon, my man on the literary circuit. "Captain," he says, "Martin Amis has a pain in the bottom!" "Tell me news, Sheldon," I say, a little brusquely. "No, no, Captain, he has. He's strained his gluteus maximus." "Good grief!" I exclaim, "How?" "Playing pool," says Sheldon. I thank him for "The Information" and replace the receiver, giving silent thanks that at least someone is still living the rough, tough life a novelist should.
SPONSORSHIP News. Look up at my hat. You will see a name in lights, a ladder and one light bulb, removed. You will recall that I have been sponsored by these people for some weeks now; that, without the slightest thought for my professional reputation, garnered at great cost over many years, I have shamelessly gone out of my way to mention their product given the slightest opportunity; that, in return, I have hinted at how nice a free trip up the Douro to their estates would be, to no effect whatsoever; that I have asked for you to be given some of their best stuff, the '63, to no effect whatsoever; that, as a consequence, I threatened last Sunday to turn their lights out. Well. Last week I received a telephone call from the managing director of the import company. He asked me to lunch. In Acton. Acton! I asked about the '63. He said, a little shiftily, I thought, that it was rather rare, but he would see about it. Then, on Friday, a bottle arrived! But it was the '66, not the '63. Worth pounds 54, and we won the World Cup, but not the '63. You'll have to do rather better to make me go up that ladder again, I can tell you.
n MORE on Michael Howard - you know, the Home Secretary. After my revelation last week that, since his original name was Michael Hecht, he should really be called Michael Pike, I have received correspondence from Mr Long of Loughton, who reminds me that "Pikie" is an affectionate term for gypsy, and that there have been several families of gypsies called Pike, particularly in and around Plaistow. I append a photograph of one of them. Uncanny, isn't it? Thank you, Mr Long, you win a bottle of port, part of the Captain's rapidly diminishing stock, awarded in return for those special insights and arcane pieces of information which are the speciality of this column's discerning readership.
CRIKEY. Blimey. I knew things were bad, but not that bad. The Observer has called in a Professor of Journalism. It has, it has. Andrew Jaspan, the editor, has had lunch with Professor Trelford of Sheffield University. Yes, that's right, that is the man formerly known as Donald Trelford who used to edit the thing himself. Anyway, apparently they were both at a loss about what to do. And then Mr Jaspan went on holiday. Someone should give me a call before it's too late. Because I understand that the Guardian is coming to the view that they had better sell it. And who is this they see before them? Yes, that's right, that is a Mr Fayed of Knightsbridge, who would like nothing better than to acquire the instrument with which his old chum Tiny Rowland used to tease him. Money? Not really a problem, they say. For this is also the man who is currently expending a great deal of energy in trying to convince the people who compile the list of Britain's 500 richest people for the Sunday Times that he is the richest of them all. Which would mean that he has the odd pounds 4bn, just about enough to sustain even the Observer's losses. Next!
n ABSOLUTELY splendid, the Queen finally getting around to attending a Roman Catholic service at Westminster Cathedral last week. But I do wish she and Cardinal Hume had managed a little chat beforehand about their outfits. Both were wearing different shades of red, and they clashed horribly.
MAKE A Date With Captain Moonlight. The Captain's social service for the discerning reader. And drop everything to be hunched next to your transistor tomorrow night, Radio 3, 9.15pm. Featuring will be an interview with world-class cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. Vilmos says, in what is billed as a "frank interview": "I am in a position where I'm actually stuck in my profession, because I became a wanted cameraman in Hollywood which means most of the people who make high-budget films want to hire me and also pay me more money than I used to make. But the question is, am I happier now as an artist?" Well, Vilmos goes on to answer his own question, but I wouldn't dream of giving it away. You'll be glad to hear that there will be interviews with another four cinematographers during the week. You should also book early for the V-Tol Dance Company's In The Privacy Of My Own, at Nottingham Playhouse in January, a live dance and film experience showing three strangers reaching an emotional crossroads. I quote: "Behind an interactive film screen the company dance out the characters' alternating rage and confusion as they wrestle to find answers to their individual dilemmas."
n BUDGET LATEST: Is Kenneth Clarke the first Chancellor to knock tax off his private pleasure? Well, Gladstone, a fair toper, reduced the duty on claret to get the workers off gin, not an outstanding success. Heathcoat Amory took some tax off beer in 1959, but his interests lay in youth work. Tony Barber reduced spirits in 1973, but no one can remember what he was interested in, if anything. Clarke, by the way, was celebrating in kind in the Red Lion, the pub opposite the Treasury, until chucking-out time on Tuesday night, along with his special adviser, David Ruffley. David Ruffley? Shouldn't that be David Rutley? No, Rutley is special advisor to the Chief Secretary. And you wonder why our economic policy gets confused. Ruffley's nickname, by the way, is "Take Me".
FOOTBALL. What a lot of fuss about 22 grown men chasing around a field. What a lot of guff talked and written about "the beautiful game". Now they've got these fancy shirts on sale, produced by an outfit calling itself Philosophy Football, bearing pensees from the likes of Eric Cantona, and this, from Albert Camus, the famous goalkeeper: "All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football." What tripe. Everybody knows that the game for the thinker and the aesthete is Rugby League. And to prove it, I am planning to produce shirts with much better legends than that. "Rugby League: A Man's Game For All The Family" has long been one of the game's slogans, and would do very well. As would another of my favourites, a friendly aside from the then Bradford Northern chairman to his coach, who was under some pressure and was relieved of his duties shortly thereafter: "Keep Your Bowels Open, Barry." But perhaps you have your own contributions. And I think it only fitting that we offer the bottle of '66 for the best. Tarrah.
ALL RIGHT, all right, I could go for one of the old jokes, but why on earth would Norman Lamont, Shergar and Lord Lucan be hiding down there? No, this week I want to pay tribute to Katsumi Kasakaro. Who is Katsumi Kasakaro? Katsumi is the photographer who took this picture, and my tribute to him is a tribute to the resourcefulness of all news photographers. You may have read that 1,300 highly poisonous redback spiders have been found in Osaka. But Katsumi works in Tokyo. No redback spiders have been found in Tokyo. But does that deter or depress Katsumi? It does not. He gets a picture of a man in Tokyo looking down a hole for redback spiders. Fruitlessly. Katsumi, you earned that cheque.
Photograph: AP/KATSUMI KASAKARO
The Captain's Catch-up
YES, here it is, your chance to digest the rest of the week's news ... Drivers in Switzerland have been banned from yodelling because so many accidents are caused by people singing at the wheel ... Stuart Haigh, 23, of Liverpool, preparing to rob a building society, was arrested after police became suspicious at his wearing a woolly balaclava on one of the hottest days of the year ... A Swedish adult education teacher won damages after she was forced to resign for stripping naked in front of her class of unemployed women "to boost their self-confidence" ... Mablethorpe has erased the nipples from the mermaid symbol on its tourist brochure after tourists' complaints ... A flasher limped off in agony after dropping his tracksuit pants in front of a woman in Kew. Her dog jumped up and bit him in the privates ... Memory man Tom Morton forgot the 12,875th number as he attempted to recite 20,013 digits in Blackpool ... Bernard Mitchell was advised by his doctor that a pet would help his anxiety and stress. His first cat fell to its death from the roof of his flat, and now the Corporation of London is trying to evict him for keeping his second indoors.Reuse content