Book up a table, ye Mighty, and despair]

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'MY NAME is Ozymandias, King of Kings,' said the big man, 'and I booked a table for eight people at 9 o'clock.'

'Let me see, Sir,' said the matre d', scanning the list of the evening's reservations. 'Ozy . . . Ozy . . . How exactly do you spell that?'

'O-z-y-m-a-n-d-i-a-s,' said the man. 'One 'z' and one 's'.'

'Oh, right,' said the matre d'. 'Here we are. Eight people, 9 o'clock. Ozymandias, King of Kings, right?'

'Right,' said the man, patiently.

'I'm afraid the table isn't quite ready at the moment, Sir. Would you like to go to the bar and have a drink there while you wait, or . . .'

He was interrupted by a loud voice from behind Ozymandias.

'I booked a table for 9 o'clock. Is it ready yet?'

The matre d' bent over his book again. 'What name would that be, Sir?'

'King Solomon.'

'In all his glory, Sir?'

'The very same.'

A reader writes: What on earth is all this malarky? Will someone tell me what is going on here, for heaven's sake?

Miles Kington writes: Have patience, and all will be explained.

At the sound of Solomon's voice, King Ozymandias turned and opened his arms. 'Sol, you old rogue]'

'Ozzy]' cried the newcomer. 'By all that's wonderful] But what are you doing in this hell-hole?'

'Same as you,' said the all- kingly. 'Trying to get a table.'

'I'm sorry, Sir,' said the matre d', 'but there seems to be no reservation in your name.'

'What]' cried Solomon. 'No table? My good fellow - do you know exactly who I . . .'

'No problem,' said Ozymandias. 'I booked a table for eight people and there are only two of us. I always overbook to get a bit of peace and quiet. Join me and my wife, Sol, old chap.'

'Delighted,' said King Solomon. 'I don't know if you have met my companion? This is Sheba. She's here on a visit . . .'

Within a quarter of an hour the royal party was sat down at a table, and the meal would have proceeded peacefully to its end, had the matre d' not come across and said quietly to Ozymandias, King of Kings: 'Excuse me, Sir, but do you know a certain Og, King of Bashan?'

A reader writes: All right, I've had enough] My patience is out] I tried waiting to see if any sense would come of this farrago of kings and matre d's, but I can see no light at the end of the clearing. What's it all about?

Miles Kington writes: Just give me another couple of minutes, and all will be clear, I swear.

Disgruntled reader: OK, but that's your lot. After that I'm turning to the sports pages.

'Yes,' said Ozymandias. 'I know Og of old. Why do you ask?'

'Because he has turned up at the restaurant without a booking, and I cannot find him a table. However, he happened to notice you sitting here with seats to spare, and said that you might not mind him sitting with you.'

'Og?' said Solomon. 'That crashing bore? I wouldn't sit with him if he was the last person left on earth. If he comes and sits here, I am leaving.'

'I have heard he is worth meeting once,' said the Queen of Sheba, tactfully. 'I wouldn't mind just sharing a course with him . . .'

'If he comes over here, I go out with Sol,' said Ozymandias.

Infuriated reader writes: OK, time's up] What is this all about?

Miles Kington writes: This is part

of the test piece from this year's Final Exam Paper at the Matre d'Hotel College in Sunningdale. This is the piece that would-be matre d's all

have to answer questions on, saying what they would do in the same

circumstances.

Reader (slightly mollified): Is that a fact? Hmm. How interesting. I had no idea. By the way, shouldn't the plural of matre d' be matres d'?

Kington: Excellent] That's one of this year's questions.

Reader: I'm with you now. All right, let's have some more of Ozymandias and his friends, now I get the idea.

Kington: I'm sorry. We have no more space. It's all because of you interrupting the whole time. Otherwise we could have finished the story. You'll just have to turn to the sports pages.

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