MY WEEK: CLEMENT FREUD 'Watching Casablanca after smoking had been excised, the audience thought Bogart was trying to set fire to Bergman when he lit her expunged cigarette'

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It is about now that MPs with small chances of being returned to the Commons start looking to see whether there might not be jobs around Westminster more secure than endorsement by the fickle electorate.

The trouble is peerages are very scarce, clerical work demands more skill than most MPs possess, working in the library requires qualifications outwith their ability, while the Serjeant-at-Arms recruits from only the Armed Forces. Ian Greer has stopped operations, the catering department is considered a step down as would be office cleaning. This last service is contracted out to someone like David Evans; like being the MP for Luton, there is no job security.

"Hope you come back, sir," say the barmen, the women who rearrange the dust in your office, the police at Members entrance and the waitress at your table in the restaurant; there is no cross-party eating at Westminster. Realistic MPs go round shaking hands with those who made life easier over the last five years; there is also much to-ing and froing at the Fees Office where they work out redundancy packages, pensions and explain that you are paid for three months after losing your seat in order "to finish off outstanding casework".

You would have to be a saint - perhaps Frank Field MP - to spend May, June and July dictating letters in respect of former constituents' requests for repairs to broken sash-cords.

"Dear racing enthusiast" is an opening line that fills me with apprehension. Last Thursday's communication for Alderley Edge in Cheshire came from a man who, after copious research, suddenly realised that he was sitting on a goldmine. "I was making huge profits from backing horses that were always on the job, running for their lives, well handicapped and starting at ridiculously long prices." So sure was he of having found the formula that would change his life, he gave up his well-paid job.

Hence the letter: If I undertake not to divulge his formula, only bet on the horses "off" course, spread bets among many bookmakers and send him pounds 995, I will learn all by registered post. You cannot help wondering why a man sitting on a goldmine goes to such lengths.

So there is an Auction Channel [see left]; it cannot be long before picture framing, ouija boarding and hedgehogs get their own channels. Still no news about my application for a non-smoking channel, though there are now computers which can erase specific items - like cigarettes - from a picture.

Watching Casablanca after smoking material had been excised was interesting, though misunderstood by the audience who thought Bogart was trying to set fire to Ingrid Bergman when he lit her expunged cigarette.

Channel 4's Countdown, the successful afternoon game show, runs its predictable course every weekday 4.30 to 5 pm: six nine-letter word games, two six-number arithmetic competitions in which some or all of the numbers must be used to make up a high number. There's also a conundrum and the day's pun by the host, who once had his finger bitten by a ferret on camera.

Day after day when it comes to numbers, contestants who can choose "high" or "low" ask for one high number and five low ones. Not on Friday. "Four high and any two others," said a pleasantly ordinary looking man. Carol Vorderman who controls the game sighed.

Out came the four high numbers - 25, 50, 75 and 100. Then a figure 3 and figure 6. The machine rolled the number to be achieved: 952.

The other contestant, and I and most mathematically literate people, got 953, one number away worth seven points: 3 plus 6 times 100; add 50; divide 75 by 25 and add the three. Pleasant ordinary looking man got 952: 100 plus 6, times 3. "Equals 318," said Vorderman.

"Multiply by 75," said the man. Vorderman started giggling: "Multiply 318 by 75 ho ho ho, you'd go into tens of thousands ho ho ho."

There was a pause, for she is among the many who do not know their 318 times table. A voice from the backroom, presumably a voice with a calculator intoned, "23,800".

"Take away fifty and divide by 25: answer 952," concluded the pleasant ordinary man.

Vorderman gasped, the audience gasped, I, drinking a cup of mint tea , gasped. To do this in 30 seconds is a rare achievement. Watch today's programme at 4.30 for, of course, pleasant ordinary man won and will therefore be back.

Driving home early on Sunday morning I switched to Radio 5, heard an interview with a citizen of North Carolina who had left his wallet in a phone box 30 years ago and got it back last week.

"Do you feel resentment against the thief who kept your money and things all those years?"

"I respect him, for he has seen the error of his ways and we are now good friends."

"How did you get to know each other?"

"We keep doing these TV shows and interviews about the wallet incident."

Steal now, pick up the TV fees later?

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