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A BOOK recently arrived in the post, entitled The Oracle of Madame Marie: Your Book of Fate. It looks tremendously exciting: you simply choose any one of 96 questions about life and love, roll a pair of dice, and then look up the answer, accordin g to the numbers on the dice, in the Oracle's Mystical Tables.

Madame Marie, who is a professional clairvoyant, says in her introduction to the book: "The powers of the Oracle are always greater by evening and night than daylight hours, and it is especially fortunate to consult on a Tuesday." Following this expert advice, I therefore waited until the first Tuesday in January - a particularly significant Tuesday, I felt - and then rolled the dice with my husband. I started with question number 65, "Shall I live long?" The answer was a bit alarming: "It is as you decree: premature death is brought on by dissipation and excess. Take heed!" I have, indeed, been eating to excess since Christmas, and on that very afternoon had consumed an enormous bread-and- butter pudding single-handed. Could large quantit ies of bread-and-butter pudding bring on premature death? Quite possibly.

My next question was: "Will my health be good?" and once again, the Oracle came up with some wise words: "Not as good as it could be if you took better care of yourself." So, no more pudding for me.

We then proceeded to question 84, "Which are my best years?" The Oracle told me that it was "without doubt, late middle-age", which sounds fine to me. But my husband was informed that it was "late youth to early middle-age", and he got into a terrible flap. …