There is no point in Microsoft contacting me for free publicity Money for old MPs ... the Prince's new socks ... Microsoft

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HELLO. This is your Captain speaking. And I'm a bit worried about all these Tory MPs who will not be standing at the next election. Forty- one and still counting. What on earth are they all going to do? Don't worry about them, I hear you sneer, there will be more than enough non- executive directorships to go round. But not so: I have been talking to a top headhunter all about it and he told me: "Don't you believe it, squire! Who wants a Tory backbencher who's passed his or her sell-by date as a non-executive director? They would have 20 years ago, but not now. Now they're looking for people who understand business and can make a positive contribution." Hmmm. I've done a bit of looking around, and although prospects are not bright - a lot of them are the wrong side of 60, you know - I do think it's important to be positive. B&Q, the well-known do-it-yourself retailers, employs a lot of older people. I don't know about you, but I think I might very well be persuaded to buy grouting from Sir Cranley Onslow or an angle grinder from Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman. Sir Tim Sainsbury, I feel, is going to be all right; and Sir Jerry Wiggin surely has a lucrative second career ahead of him as an impressionist. I mean, if he could convince people he was Sebastian Coe, Tommy Cooper should be easy-peasy. Kenneth Baker was a concern, even though, I note, he was once an artillery instructor to the Libyan Army. More promising are his directorships in the cable industry. I had a cable salesman round last week and it struck me that Ken would be at least as convincing. Anybody else: just get in touch with the Captain; confidentiality guaranteed.

n CAPTAIN Moonlight's Social Register: a unique service that warns you which events you should avoid. And first up, be very careful if you are anywhere near Cardiff today, for, I have to tell you, The Power House there will be hosting the "Paranormal Conference of the Century", featuring experts in alien abductions, crop circles and, yes, David Icke. Michael Rolls, who believes vested interests have suppressed the truth about life after death, will also be there, and so will the great Reg Presley, formerly of The Troggs, who will be talking about "our changing world, crop circles, and what's been happening in Wiltshire". And, unless you sport a beard, gum boots, a thick polo-neck jumper and sing with a hand cupped over your ear, I should not go anywhere near Hull next week, where, yes, they are hosting an International Sea Shanty festival, featuring Cztery Refy from Poland, Inge Wijk from Sweden and an all-women's group, Xiada, from Holland, who "sing and play hurdy gurdies". Yo, ho, blow the man down, as they say. Good luck!

LISTEN, you're doing frightfully well with my interesting postcard competition. I've got so many now I could start up a shop, which, funnily enough, is exactly the suspicion of Mrs Wright of Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, an antiquarian bookseller who sent me an arresting chap in a Parisian museum nevertheless. I shall have to work out a method of displaying more before the summer fades. This week the bubbly goes to Mr Hynes of Dartmouth Park, north London, who sent in the one to the left. Mr Hynes tells me he bought it in Tunis in 1986 and has treasured its inscrutability ever since. There's another bottle to anyone who can explain what it all means.

n THAT Lord Wakeham: hell of a guy. OK, some people get a bit sniffy about the number of boards he's on, but what on earth do they think is the point of serving in the Cabinet? No, if you ask me, there is no one in this country, man or woman, better qualified to head the Press Complaints Commission. And I'm not just saying that, no. And, as a responsible journalist, I take his warning about intruding upon the privacy of Prince William very much to heart. That's why today I want to talk about Prince Harry. And those socks. White ones, worn on VJ Day. Worrying. But not that surprising. There's his mum, for one thing; and those Hawaiian-style shirts his grandad is very keen on. But, before he treads further along the path that leads to leisure wear, little umbrellas in the drinks, lots of gold and aftershaves with names like Thrust and Respect, I would urge him to consider this list of fellow whiteys: Jimmy Tarbuck, Rod Stewart, Ian Paisley, Michael Jackson, John Cleese, most Endsleigh League footballers, David Mellor, and Nicholas Soames, although I believe his are worn in an ironic sort of way. Next!

AND WHILE we're on Eton, I thought some of you out there in Slough might like to know that the new kennels being built for the beagles of the Eton Hunt do not, repeat not, form any part of the imaginative deal that sees the college receiving pounds 4.6m of lottery money to build a new sports centre which outside oiks may attend after school hours if they watch their manners and take off their caps. Beagling's out, then. Sorry? No, sir, Eton beagles do not smoke.

n NOW THE Captain is a forbearing man, and, yes, I know it's August, but I have to say that all this slobbering over animals is finally beginning to get to me. I have just been watching a piece on GMTV (my private life's my own, thank you) about Lucy, the dog that killed Fluffy the cat in Bexleyheath, the one arrested for murder and then reprieved after a police spaniel called Charlie killed a raven called Charlie at the Tower of London and the police suddenly decided that both had only been doing what comes naturally. Lawks. Anyway, GMTV did a long, live reconstruction of the route taken by Lucy to kill Fluffy, panning over the garden fence to the murder spot. Do me a favour. The only consolation was that there is another, younger Fluffy now being eyed by Lucy. And did you see that there are now Lobster Liberationists in New York who go into restaurants, negotiate freedom for live lobsters and then return them to the sea in Maine? Carlalane! No wonder Oscar The Hypno-Dog, the black labrador who can put humans into a trance, made a bid for freedom from the Edinburgh Festival. He was found in a trance by the side of the road, even though, as far as can be established, he had not been watching GMTV.

BIT OF a fuss, you might have noticed, about the Times being bought up by Microsoft for a day and distributed free of charge. And the Captain can see why: in a society such as this, where, increasingly, everything seems to have its price, it is vitally important that our press refuses absolutely to lay its finger alongside its nose and nod knowingly in the direction of narrow, sectional interests. But the Captain, at least, is not to be bought. Not so long ago, dogged readers will remember, I announced that this column was up for sponsorship - name of product up there on my hat - and received not one offer. Conclusive proof, I think you'll agree. But the battle for my integrity continues. Why, only the other week, following my significant piece about Cotswold lawnmower thefts and how they'd likely be after wash leathers next, I was sent a chamois through the post; I have, of course, given it away. But blow me, then somebody else sent me a case of 24 lavatory rolls to publicise a new home-delivery service. In vain: not one, I assure you, has made contact with any part of this officer. And then there was a message on my answerphone offering me the chance to see David Copperfield, the American magician. No, no, away temptation! But why not try Peter Preston? The editor-in-chief of the Guardian and Observer is a very keen magician, as I showed you last week. Here, have a look at it again. That's a guillotine, by the way. Bye!

Putting a brave face on it: Johnny "Bins" Ball, founder and president of the Doors Fairlylimp computer empire, pictured with ace salesmen Jerry "The Lip" Oakup and Tony "The Patter" Littlefawn, at the launch of the revolutionary new software package, Fairlylimp '94, last week. No one was commenting on rival launches, or the mix-up which saw the company buy the entire print run of the Rockall Advertiser without realising it was a freesheet. No, of course it's not, it's Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair sharing a joke. Sorry, John, that was rude. Actually, Paddy is laughing because John has just told Tony about Norman Lamont joining Labour. But John hasn't told him about Jeffrey Archer yet. And Tony is grinning because he has just found out that the Rev Chris Brain fought Billericay Central for the Tories under an assumed name last election.

Photograph: PA

The Captain's catch-up Service

And you think you've had an odd week ... Police rushed to the home of Toni Hoare in Bournemouth after a passer-by heard her singing the Beatles' "Help" in the shower and thought she was being attacked ... Didier Moriat, of Dreux, was picking his nose while his car waited at traffic lights. Suddenly, a car hit him from behind, forcing his fingers up his nose. M Moriat fainted at the sight of his own blood and was rushed to hospital ... Sybil Serth, 31, a New York shoplifter, was arrested at a supermarket checkout when the cold from the frozen chicken under her hat made her pass out ... Donald Fredaunton, of Portland, Oregon, keeps his dead wife Alice in a coffin in the garage mummified in cat litter ... Much excitement all over Italy, where this week, a nude photograph of Richard Gere will appear in a magazine. Well, almost nude: anxious Italians will have to scratch off the covering over his more intimate parts ... Sister Maria Rosaria, a Capuchin nun in Brindisi, found a thief robbing the collection box in her church and half-strangled him with a broom handle before breaking his arm. "He made me very angry," said Sister Maria afterwards.