The History Maintenance Commission has released its findings into how best to respond to the possibility of King Arthur’s local hardware store being out of round tables when he enquires.

The HMC proposes that the best three holograms to select from to send back to 6th century Britain to ensure King Arthur accepts no other alternative than a round table are:

  1. Juan Fangio 1911-1995 World Champion racing driver born in Argentina.
  2. Mrs Isabella Beeton 1836-1865 authoress of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management [1861].
  3. Len Shackleton 1922-2000 controversial English footballer known as The Clown Prince of Soccer.

The science fiction author H.G.Wells came very close to making the top three. If his novel The Shape Of Things To Come had instead been called The Shape Of Tables To Come he would have been in with a much stronger shout.

What Do They Bring To The Party?

Fangio won the World Driver’s Championship five times in the 1950’s, with four different teams. It was a more physically demanding era to steer fast cars with few safety measures and little in the way of protective equipment. It can be presumed that any conversation King Arthur would engage in with Fangio around a square or rectangular table the monarch couldn’t fail to observe that his guest was cutting corners all the while in his mind, as that was what he was accustomed to do to win races. It wouldn’t fail to strike King Arthur that he would capture Fangio’s full attention with a round table. Fortunately, as Fangio and his car will be in hologram form, Arthur will fail to be struck by the racer’s Maserati 250F.

Mrs Beeton married a publisher and magazine editor in 1856 and the following year started contributing cookery recipes for one of his publications The English Women’s Domestic Magazine. These recipes became so popular with readers that she was encouraged to compile a book of recipes and tips on how to run a successful home life. The result Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management became a best seller the moment it was published in 1861. It has remained in print ever since, although the advice it dispenses on how to handle the Footman, Butler, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Valet, Coachman, Laundry-Maid, Nurse-Maid and Lady’s Maid would best be replaced for modern audiences by a manual on how best to utilise Alexa and the SatNav. Unfortunately, Mrs Beeton died just four years after the first edition of the book that made her famous aged 28. But her legacy lives on. Although, she courted controversy as other contemporary cooks claimed that she had stolen their recipes. One case involving the recipe for a strawberry and lime blancmange was settled out of court in 1863, this was because the temperature was too warm inside the court.

It can be discerned from writings about King Arthur that Guinevere wasn’t one for bothering him with the minutiae of the day to day management of Camelot. There’s not one mention of the recycling of horse dung for instance despite the many knights visiting or living there due to their association with her husband. One naturally assumes Guinevere discreetly invited gardeners to dispense with the waste product and this possibly explains why Camelot was a consistent winner of the Britain in Bloom contest throughout the 550s AD. Similarly, there exists no record of Arthur returning home with Excalibur having ended the lives of 700 plus Saxons in mortal one on one combat only to be berated by Guinevere for treading mud into the carpet or for getting his clothing covered in blood with its propensity to be difficult to shift in the wash. This is where the History Maintenance Commission feels a hologram of Mrs Beeton temporarily installed in Camelot will prove its worth. It will force Arthur to confront the fact that a square or rectangular table will not be right for his, and of greater importance his household’s needs. She will instil a feeling in him that only a round table will suffice.

Len Shackleton was a mercurial footballer mainly playing for Sunderland after WWII. He was a controversial inside forward who spoke his mind, in an age when his like were still downtrodden and restricted to the maximum wage of £20 a week. This rebellious streak severely limited his chances of international recognition with the authorities and he won only five England caps. The Clown Prince of Soccer, as he became known, retired from playing in 1957 and diverted his energies into sports journalism. Famously, in his autobiography, he included a chapter called ‘The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football’. This consisted of a single blank page. The HMC believes that a hologram of Shackleton would best be deployed in the event of King Arthur actually acquiring a rectangular or square table. He would then use the table as a means to display football tactics to the monarch as the shapes such as rectangles with sides prove good for replicating a football pitch. Any objections Arthur makes will act as a red rag to a bull to Shackleton who will also find the square or rectangular table reminiscent of football boardroom tables where the elite in society firmly maintained their hold over the footballers with their working class backgrounds. It is concluded that after a run in with the belligerent and witty sportsman, King Arthur will accept nothing other than a round table so as to nullify any possibility that Shackleton and his football tactic markers will ever visit him again.

It is essential when launching holograms into the past that their arrival date is accurately met as all sorts of mayhem can result in the representation of a famous historical figure being sent to the wrong time and destination. In this instance the HMC advises that any hologram be sent to Camelot during the year 501 AD, about the time King Arthur is looking to install a table for his knights to congregate around. The first few days of that year would be the most beneficial as he would no doubt be looking to acquire it during the January sales.

The worst times and destinations to send the three nominated holograms are listed below:

Fangio – The worst place and time for this hologram to land itself would be anywhere in England during 1086 when the Domesday Book was being compiled. This was effectively a record of everything owned by everyone in England and Wales commissioned by William The Conqueror. A typical entry for an elite landholder might read that he possessed 4 Oxen, 2 Shire Horses, a Good Plough and a Watermill with 8 peasants working his land. This was a palatable level of wealth for all those who read the book to stomach. Contrast this with Fangio, who would’ve listed his Maserati 250F while mentioning that he also had access to a Ferrari 166, a Mercedes and an Alfa Romeo. This would instantaneously cause massive division within the kingdom and lead to much strife and bitter resentment, particularly once his remarks added in the Comments section were taken into account in which he boasts of having kept going for 24 hours at Le Mans.

Mrs Beeton – The point and destination in time that it would be criminal for a Mrs Beeton hologram to appear is in January 878 on the Somerset Levels, when on the run from the Vikings, Alfred The Great [although at this time known as Alfred With Potential] took refuge in the home of a peasant woman who gave him the simple task of watching her cakes while they baked. Distracted by consuming thoughts of saving England from Viking rule, he neglected the task and when the woman returned home to find them burnt she roundly scolded him. Obviously, if Mrs Beeton turns up here, the cakes far from being ruined, would be supplemented by a raspberry and cream fondant culled from one of her recipes and be baked to perfection. One of the most memorable events in English history would simply not occur rendering the subject as dry as a sponge a month past its Use By date.

Len Shackleton – avoid at all costs sending his hologram to Westminster, London in 1476. For it was here that William Caxton set up the first printing press in England his first publication being Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. As Shackleton was a verbose, quick witted sportsman and an entertainer the likelihood is that Caxton would’ve taken a punt on publishing something composed by Shackleton instead ahead of any plans to print Chaucer’s magnus opus. As a consequence the English printing industry would die in the water as a result of a book full of blank pages called The Yorkist King Edward IV’s New Years Honours List Containing All The Nominees From The House of Lancaster.

Of course, there exists the distinct possibility that a mission in the future has followed our advice and one or possibly all three of the History Maintenance Commission’s suggestions have been deployed and met with success. Studying the earliest examples of literature involving King Arthur these excerpts offer a tantalising indication that Arthur has met with these famous people in their hologram form.

From Nennius The History of the Britons written in the 8th century: ‘For Arthur proceeded to Jerusalem….and he took with him the image of St.Mary.’ This could point to a meeting with Len Shackleton, Southampton Football Club play at St. Mary’s. Shackleton’s hologram would no doubt have had him attired in the red and white stripes of his beloved Sunderland FC. Southampton also traditionally play in red and white stripes. An easy mistake to make.

From Thomas Malory Le Morte D’Arthur 1485 Chapter VIII: ‘Then rode Merlin unto Arthur and the two kings, and told them how he had sped; whereof they had great marvel, that man on earth might speed so soon, and come and go.’ Is it stretching the bounds of credibility too far to suggest that Merlin modelled this contraption on the Maserati 250F that Arthur possibly seen Fangio at the wheel of?

From Thomas Malory Le Morte D’Arthur 1485 Chapter XI: ‘The King [Arthur] … let cry a great feast that it should be holden at … the city of Carlion. Unto the feast came King Lot of Lothian and Orkney, with five hundred knights with him [Then is listed a further five kings bringing a further two thousand three hundred knights with them to the feast.] One is left with the unavoidable conclusion that King Arthur only had the confidence to invite nearly three thousand knights to a feast at his joint because he had a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management in his possession.

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