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‘Again, from the beginning,’ said Alys.

Cordelia growled. Alys merely smiled demurely.

‘All right,’ said Cordelia. ‘Salad fork. Lobster pick. Um... fish fork?’

Alys’ tutting informed her that she was incorrect.

‘Why do I need to know what they’re all called, as long as I know what direction to go in?’ said Cordelia. ‘It’s just dinner, it’s not war.’

‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ said Alys. ‘A state dinner is similar to a war in lots of ways, and just like in a war, you need to have every possible advantage. Cordelia, they will be looking for reasons to criticise you. Don’t give them any.’

Cordelia sighed. ‘I know, I know - I understand, it’s just difficult to remember all of these utensils. Some of these things look less like eating implements and more like geological survey tools or something.’

‘Oh?’ said Alys. ‘Which ones?’

Cordelia picked up the snail tongs. ‘Like this,’ she said. ‘This reminds me of a tool we used to use to collect soil samples.’

‘That’s for eating snails,’ said Alys. ‘Did you ever discover snails in your soil samples?’

‘Sure, sometimes.’

‘There you go - when you look at that, think soil samples, and then think snails in the soil samples, and then think eating snails.’

‘Yuck,’ said Cordelia. ‘I think you’re making it worse.’

Alys just picked up the next utensil. ‘Now, what does this one remind you of?’