Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Developing thinking skills and using multiple intelligences

A Workshop given by Mario Rinvolucri 26th March 2006

Robert L. Fielding

It was fortuitous that Hans Lal - a representative on the University’s Professional Development Committee - managed to persuade Mario to come here today to give this useful workshop on using multiple intelligences in the learning environment.

Clarity of thought and the ability to draw upon different facets of one’s intelligence is vitally important when it comes to making decisions that affect the country, and as today’s undergraduates may well become tomorrow’s professionals, leaders, and captains of industry; their ability to think critically and realize their full potential is indeed vital.

The University General Requirements Unit (UGRU) is about to embark on courses designed to develop students critical thinking ability; vital in the world we live in, as well as in studies at university. Mario’s workshop gave thirty teachers plenty to think about this evening.

Drawing upon the work of Dr. Howard Gardner, and applying it to teaching situations, Mario Rinvolucri illustrated the eight different intelligences proposed by Dr. Gardner by animated and highly instructive and enjoyable activities which ensured the success of the workshop as a learning experience for the participants.

The eight different intelligences proposed by Dr. Gardner are:
Ø Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
Ø Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
Ø Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
Ø Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
Ø Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
Ø Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
Ø Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
Ø Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Each of the varied activities forced participants to ‘go into parts of the mind normally used to process things in other ways’.

Group members readily identified with certain points in the talk, recounting similar experiences that accorded with points made by the speaker.

In effect, Mario’s main point throughout the workshop was that there are other ways of teaching Mathematics, for example, than merely using numerical symbols to the exclusion of other items that draw upon students’ different intelligences, and this was held to be true for all forms of instruction and tuition.

The point was also made that in conventional schooling, people who learn in ways other than linguistically and logically are not always catered for in recognized teaching methodologies and testing tools.

To illustrate points made, Mario demonstrated teaching techniques that utilize ability from the other six intelligences. Forms of irregular verbs, for example, were taught using body movements instead of words on the board, and it became clear that otherwise drab lessons on uninteresting subjects can be livened up to make them more memorable and, more importantly, to teach in ways that accord with the varying abilities of learners.

Finally, and urging teachers not to use symbols and learning devices and mnemonics, for example, that are culturally unacceptable or which fly in the face of conventional logic, Mario rounded off an enjoyable and informative evening with exercises designed to allow students to find out something about their own, preferred way of learning.

Everyone almost certainly came away knowing something more about themselves and how they best learn, and how to use this to teach in ways that exploit the multiple intelligences that may or may not be dormant in all of us, I know I did.

Robert L. Fielding

Sunday, March 26, 2006






Click on the link below for details

Friday, March 24, 2006

Entering the world of work #1.

TRAIN FOR THE FUTURE – NOT THE PAST (NB. This has been published)
Robert Leslie Fielding

The speed of change in the economy is too fast for some organizations, and too fast for most of our educational programs.

‘The new economy: strong growth in the service sector, increased levels of productivity growth and globalized markets, means that the nature of work is different from the past. The diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICT) has changed the ways firms do business and create value, it has increased the flexibility of capital goods, making capital investment more productive and encouraging firms to substitute capital for labor. This trend contributes to the globalization of markets and has changed the nature of work and has implications for workers’ education and training.’
(Go to for more)

Who will benefit from changes in education and training?

Education and training helps improve employee job performance and the quality of goods and services firms offer. Individuals who take advantage of training get higher wages and increase their chances of promotion. It makes sense to upgrade your skills and change.

If companies don’t get the workers they require, they will:

· Go somewhere else to get them
If companies go abroad for workers, or relocate entirely, those jobs will be lost to the economy forever
· Do without them
So, some companies will do without the right kind of worker with the right kind of skills, some will go out of business because they do not have workers with those skills.
· Have to train people themselves
Training their own workforce is a possibility, but could be too expensive for some.
· Get other organizations to train people for them
Getting other organizations to train people for them could be another option for firms, but this can also prove too costly for many firms.

Training needs to take into account that the workplace and what goes on in it has changed.

“In industries where a large proportion of the production process has been computerized, workers need a broader underpinning knowledge to effectively manage the production process, and the capacity to solve problems of a diverse nature.”

Change is the only thing that you can depend upon.
Work changes, and then everything else has to.

“Basic clerical skills and basic computer skills appear to be a minimum requirement for most jobs.”
“Workers need the capacity to learn about new products and processes as they are introduced.”
Communication skills are increasingly valued in all occupations due to the increased complexity of interactions between workers and suppliers, colleagues and clients.”

Research organization in the UK have already identified skills needed for most jobs.

· Teamwork
Working in teams builds loyalty, strengthens commitment and one’s sense of responsibility.
· Problem solving
Problems come from many different sources and so solutions come from accessing different disciplines, ways of thinking about the problem, and changes in attitudes to problem solving.
· Communication
This is the big one; if you can’t communicate, you can’t operate, be effective, adapt to new situations, or pass on your knowledge or air your views.
· Management
This doesn’t just mean what CEOs do. Everyone has to manage; manage time, finances, resources, and interpersonal relationships.

Research has found out what small businesses want:-

· Entrepreneurial attitudes
This is a major change in thinking. Traditionally, people leaving school or university expect companies to employ them in ways that the company determines. This is still true, but employees now have to think as if it was their own business, take risks and create wealth.
· Capacity to identify and exploit employment and wealth possibilities
Again, instead of looking at the business world as a given, workers are expected to think laterally, creatively and in ways that often overturn norms and values.
· An ongoing capacity for learning
The idea that you stop learning when you leave school, graduate, or get promotion is long gone. Everyone in an organization is faced with continual change and has to adapt or become redundant.
Large businesses want:-

· Skills in oral and written communication
Communication channels include email, fax, telephone, video-interviewing, oral presentations supported by PowerPoint, for example, face to face dialogue, and written report.
· Skills in interpersonal relations
Informal/formal communications require different skills; cooperation and congeniality, firmness and warmth are the new watchwords.
· Numeracy
Every business has the need for skills in math, accounting and all forms of numerical data.
· Economic literacy
Being aware of economic best practices, the financial constraints associated with capital ventures is paramount in the ‘new economy’.
· Understanding of cultural values
The world is a village, cross cultural exchanges are much more common and tact and understanding are top priorities for companies operating in global markets.
· Worldliness
Being ‘street-wise’ has found respectability in trade and industry. A knowledge of how the world turns is vital.
· The ability to apply knowledge
Merely knowing is not enough: Being able to adapt and apply knowledge to changing and changed circumstances is at a premium.
· Ability to recognize, accept and constantly seek opportunities for change in the context of world best practices
Opportunities don’t necessarily merely present themselves, they have to be looked for, and they have to be recognized. Recognition of opportunities is as vital as searching for them.

To face changes in the workplace, you need to be pro-active, you need to initiate change right now. Ask yourself three questions:
· Where am I now?
Deciding where you are now requires honesty and courage. Realising that you are not anywhere near your personal frontiers can be a shock. Be prepared to be shocked. If you are prepared, it won’t come as too much of a shock, but you may need something to jolt you out of your complacency.
· Where do I want to be?
Again, honesty, self-awareness versus romantic notions and idealistic ambitions. Those last two are not completely useless. Dreams can and do lead to fulfillment in life.
· How do I get there?
Take advice from those who are there to assist you, from those who have done it, and from those who have your very best interests at heart. Listen, listen, listen.

You need a roadmap.
· Organize your time effectively
Time is always at a premium, you just don’t realize it all the time. Keep notes, keep diaries, use anything that works for you but manage your time more effectively than you are doing. Be brutal with your time, but leave yourself some quality time for those personal things that matter, friendship and family, they will sustain you when you most need it.
· Identify steps needed to reach your goal
Be informed - Be careful cutting corners – Be constantly aware of consequences.
· Prepare ‘just in case’ plans
Have other plans just in case things don’t work out – Keep to your main plan, but recognize failure too. The tragedy of failing is failing to know you’ve failed or are about to fail.
· Monitor and evaluate your progress
Watching your progress carefully will help you avoid failing to recognize that you are not succeeding along the lines you planned.

The most important thing is:

In 1997, the Dearing Enquiry recommended students to received structured opportunities to become:
· More aware of themselves
Know your strengths and your weaknesses – Listen to others, and listen to your own instincts; they are often the most reliable facets in knowing yourself.
· More aware of how to learn
Self-reflection in all things, particularly in learning – Knowing what doesn’t work for you is equally as important as knowing what does.
· More aware of how to improve personal performance
Set yourself standards – Be proud of your attainments and your successes – They are worth as much as gold in the world you want to be a part of.
· Better able to cope with the transition to their chosen careers
All change, even change for the better, even voluntary change is stressful and can sometimes threaten your sense of worth, of who you are and of what you want to become.

About the author: Robert L Fielding spent 15 years of his life as a skilled machine tool operator in the engineering industry in Manchester, England. For the past fifteen years, he has been a Lecturer, living and working in six countries in and around the Middle East. He now lives in the UAE, where he teaches at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain.

Environmental #1.

Save Our Species (NB. This has been published)

You’ve heard all the arguments a million times – the list of endangered species is getting longer, and we’re on that list – animals have rights too, you know, and they’re not ours to destroy. And all that is true.

But as we face the Aids pandemic, as bird flu threatens millions, as cancer in all its forms resists a cure, we have one more good reason to stave off extinction for those who share our planet – the cures and remedies for all our ills are probably out there waiting to be discovered – and they are probably in the most unlikely of places too.

Take the case of the saliva from the Gila monster, a lizard from the American Southwest – a new drug, marketed under the name ‘Byetta’ has been made from the lizard’s saliva, and is now being used to combat that omnipresent chronic ailment – diabetes.

It seems that the Gila lizard can survive on very little food – it is able to digest what it eats phenomenally slowly, and now the drug made from the creature’s saliva gland extracts has proved not only to control blood sugar for longer periods, but also to decrease appetite, which leads to weight loss.

Type 2 diabetes, sometimes known as ‘middle age onset’ diabetes (I suffer from it myself) can also be brought on by obesity at any age, and can and does afflict children who are overweight.

In America alone, 18 million people now have the ailment, with over 200 million worldwide. In the Middle East it is rampant, afflicting children as well as older people.

I am not sure of the fate of this monster, but my point is that prior to finding out about the life enhancing qualities of its saliva, nobody much cared whether it lived or died. Lizards are not particularly attractive – and they’re not particularly photogenic, which counts a lot these days. Everyone wants to save the Giant Panda – “those things are so cuddly, aren’t they?” but who cares about lizards and snakes, spiders and scorpions – what we used to call –‘creepy-crawlies’ – the world would be better off without them – right?

Wrong! Every creature has the right to be here – just like us – and there are other good reasons for believing so besides the ethical ones.

Robert L. Fielding

FILLER What is ~? #2.

What is organic?
(NB.For details of availability of this article,
please contact Robert L Fielding)
‘Organic’ is used a lot these days – we see the words ‘organic food’, ‘organic farming methods’ all the time, but what does ‘organic’ mean?

The word means ‘living’ – applied to foodstuffs - it means ‘grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides’ – with nothing added and nothing taken away – without being modified genetically or otherwise – organic food is wholesome, healthy food.

‘Organic’ stands for:-

Ø In harmony with nature
Ø Bio-diversity
Ø GM-free
Ø Trusting our food
Ø Optimum health
Ø Value for money
Ø Authentic taste
Ø Protecting future generations
Ø Supporting small farms

Robert L. Fielding

What does it for you? #1.

What drives you? (NB.For details of availability of this article,
please contact Robert L Fielding)


Robert Leslie Fielding

Are you driven by needs beyond your control – are you motivated by the need to create, or are you on automatic pilot, moved only by your basic needs?

Finding out answers to those questions could improve your life.

Believing that man is basically trustworthy, self-protecting and self-governing, and tends towards growth and love, the psychologist Maslow, put forward his hierarchy of needs to indicate what motivates and drives people.

He moved away from the pessimism of Freud and the behaviourism of Skinner to show that things like war, murder and deceit tend to occur when human needs are thwarted.

He divided people’s needs into physiological needs – our basic needs for food, air and water, safety needs – these are connected to establishing stability and consistency in our lives, and include such things as security and safety, love needs – belonging to others (family, group, community, nation, religious groups) we need to feel loved and accepted by others, esteem needs – the self-esteem that comes mastery or competence of tasks, and the recognition and attention that comes from others.

His final division is self-actualization – the desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming. It is this fulfilling this drive that makes the difference between an ordinary life and one that takes the road less traveled.

With Mums and Dads this can take the form of wishing the best for the children and in doing the best for them so that they achieve their true potential. It used to be said that success was improving on what your parents achieved.

For younger people though, improving on what Dad used to do might not cut it – individuals have a need to be just that, to strike out in some direction that takes them to their own ambitions.

In these terms, successful parents are those who give their children roots and wings – roots in the home and in the benefits and advantages that being properly brought up can give, and wings to fly, to find new space, room to move and be yourself, to do the things you truly want to do, not because your parents want it for you, though that is nice if it coincides with your own ambitions, but because they are of your own making and choosing.

But there can be conflicts here – between what is accepted by your peers and what are truly your own needs. Too many young people seem to put the need for esteem before the need for self-actualization.

For Maslow, the need for esteem comes before self-actualization – and here I think he is wrong. Your own ambitions and achievements, if they are truly your own, should ensure the admiration of those around you. If they do not, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not worth admiring, but rather that they interfere with others’ sense of self-esteem and worth. “To thine own self be true!” was good advice to Laertes in ‘Hamlet’, and it’s good advice to you too.

In modern parlance, “Give it your best shot.” Achieve what you are really capable of achieving and your life will not have been wasted.
Robert L. Fielding

FILLER How to ~? #1.

Coping with disaster

Every day we read about disasters happening all over the world – a train crash in India, an earthquake in Japan, a hurricane in South Korea – and lives lost, loved ones left to grieve – how do people cope?

Please God, it will never happen to you. What to do if the unthinkable happens. What should you do if your building catches fire? Be prepared – minimize the damage – you are going to have to cope. Here’s what to do:-

· Before a crisis
Ø Plan ahead
Catastrophes can’t be predicted accurately, but if you live in a region in which hurricanes regularly occur, you should be ready for the big one blowing in. If you work at a school, develop plans to evacuate buildings or clear play areas swiftly and safely. Disasters surprise, but they should not confound. Be ready.

Ø Build networks and relationships
Establish links with emergency services BEFORE, not during, there won’t be time to look numbers up in phone books – systems will be down – know how to reach someone quickly.

Ø Clarify roles
Everybody should have a job to do if something hits – people running around like headless chickens doesn’t help anybody – victims need help urgently – know who has to do what, and have back up plans if that person is out.

Ø Prepare and meet
Establish an organized team to focus on what will need to be done in the event of the unthinkable happening. But don’t be morbid. If you have taken steps, you’ll be OK.
· During the crisis
Ø Assess the situation - keep calm
Keeping calm during terrible times is probably the hardest thing to do, but if you can manage it, you WILL save lives, and you WILL be in a position to assess what’s going on. Role play exercises can help find out who can cope and who can’t in a crisis.

Ø Deploy staff to cover critical areas
If everybody knows their responsibilities and carries them out, all areas and situations should be covered. Someone should be responsible for seeing everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. Again role playing helps to clarify roles. Chaos adds to the danger.

Ø Ensure information is available
Information is vital during a crisis and yet it is often the first thing to break down. Ensure people know where to go to get what, and where to go for the different kinds of help needed – for medical help, as well as for information about people’s whereabouts.

Ø Educate staff about post traumatic stress disorder
If you are aware of it, you cam deal with it more effectively - recognizing it in others enables sufferers to receive treatment.

Ø Manage the media
Morale must be boosted during times of tragedy – messages should be constructive – tragic circumstances are not the time for recriminations. People cope more easily and more quickly if they cooperate.

Ø Communicate needs to relevant bodies
The plight of victims should be communicated swiftly and unambiguously to official bodies responsible for care giving and provision of emergency supplies.

· After the crisis
Ø Support long term healing
Continuous healing programs that acknowledge real and pressing needs and that take people’s feelings and opinions into account are vitally important in the months and even years after the initial disaster. Talk – Listen – Support
Ø Let others help you – help is a two-way thing – helping helps both parties.
Ø Take good care of all your needs – physical and emotional – eat well, get enough sleep, talk about your feelings, listen to others talk about theirs – realize you are not alone in what you are going through.
Ø Be patient – other people have problems too.
Ø Look after the children – let them know they are not responsible for anything
Ø Get some perspective – don’t expect too much too quickly.
Ø Support networks are vital – talk to neighbours and friends, and family.
Ø By action as well as by word – show you care – you can make a difference.

Ø Support memorials and donations
Memorials give people closure while still acknowledging the problem, they also reassure loved ones that others care. Donations are practical and necessary.

Ø Manage benchmark dates carefully
Don’t forget important anniversaries – forgetting sometimes seems like not caring.

Ø Handle physical reminders carefully
Remember that victims and their families are often sensitive a long time after the event – tread carefully – don’t ever hurt – nothing ever justifies it.

Robert L. Fielding

FILLER: What is ~? #1.


Marked more as a ‘difference’ than a ‘disability’, ADD affects children, giving them a reduced ability to do the following:-
Ø Maintain attention (poor concentration)
Ø Control doing or saying something without thinking first
Ø Regulate the amount of physical activity appropriate to the situation (hyperactivity)
Ø Be motivated to listen to people in authority

It can change the way children behave, think and feel. It is more common in boys, but girls can suffer from it too.

Here are some of the things to look out for in your infant son or daughter:-
Ø Extreme restlessness
Ø Constant thirst
Ø Difficulty in feeding
Ø Frequent tantrums and head banging
And in older children:-
Ø Poor concentration and brief attention span
Ø Increased activity
Ø Acts impulsively
Ø Fearless and takes risks
Ø Poor coordination
Ø Weak short term memory
Ø Inflexible personality
Ø Lacks self-esteem
Ø Sleep and appetite problems

Now it might seem to you that every child goes through all of these regularly – ADD can begin at 2 or over, and can be a lifelong condition (it is thought).

A class of 30 might have one child with the condition, and a child with the deficit can be disruptive in the classroom.

If your child is NOT diagnosed accurately and early, you will probably experience a lot of frustration at the child’s behaviour – this will probably turn to anger, and the child may develop feelings of poor self-esteem which could affect the child throughout his life.

Information from school could help you get professional evaluation of your child by an expert in children’s developmental and behavioural issues.

This should lead to assisting the child in the understanding of his weaknesses, and his strengths, and your understanding as a parent. This will lead to problem solving activities that can show you and your child the way to go – giving him a feeling of self-control, which in turn will lead to him getting his self-esteem back.

Don’t ignore symptoms displayed by your child – if you think s/he might be suffering, get professional help – don’t feel embarrassment or shame – this deficit affects millions of children.
Robert L. Fielding

How things start out #1.

Wondering and discovering: Applying knowledge to practical problems
(NB.For details of availability of this article,
please contact Robert L Fielding –


Robert L. Fielding

Walking the hills around my home in the north of England as a boy of fourteen, I found myself wondering about my height above sea level compared with the height of the hills in front of me. I wanted to know how high I had to climb before reaching the top of the next hill.

I had a map, and I had found the hill in front of me on it. What I didn't always know was my exact position on the map, and so I didn't know how high I had to climb to reach the summit.

I walked up to the top anyway, but I always wondered how I could determine my height relative to my destination.

The hills around my home had strange and wonderful names. I can still remember them. Alphin, dark and massive, looking across Chew Valley at Alderman frowning back, two giant sworn enemies, and more gentle Noon Sun basking in the afternoon sunshine.

Further into the moor, names like Black Hill, Laddow Rocks, and Kinder Scout conjured up images in my young head. I still love those names.

Although their names intrigued me, it was their heights relative to me, or to each other that really fascinated me. Standing on Laddow Rocks, Black Hill several miles away looked much higher. Bleaklow Hill in the distance looked lower, and yet I knew from the map that it was quite a bit higher.

The television aerial on Holme Moss dominated that part of the skyline, and Crowdon Great Brook fell away from my feet.

On some days, the wind buffeted us about, and we had to find shelter among the rocks to eat our lunch in comfort.

Paper was easily blown away, and we knew not to leave litter anywhere. I wanted to make a gadget that would help me determine the height of each hill, but I knew it would have to be made of something more substantial than paper to withstand the blustery Pennine weather.

So, I set about making a sort of template from the only kind of material I had: cardboard. In the days before plastic bags, in the days before supermarkets, Clifford at the Co-op put the things my mother bought into cardboard boxes.
"Do you want a ride on the bacon-slicer before you go, lad?' he would say cheerfully.
I had to carry the groceries home. By the time we reached our front door, my arms were dropping off, as we used to say.

Mum emptied the box, putting the things she had bought into their proper places. Meat and dairy products went into a kind of meat safe that was always a bit cooler than the rest of the kitchen. Tinned stuff, of which there was very little, went into the pantry with the rest. Last of all, came the potatoes. These weren't new ones. New potatoes came from my father's allotment at the back of the house. These were old potatoes, and they were dusty and brown. It was my job to take out the spuds and put them where they wouldn't get damp. My father had made some shelves with spaces between them so that the air could circulate and keep them dry.

When I had carefully placed each potato so that it wasn't touching another potato, I turned the box upside down to empty the dust and the dirt.

Sometimes, the boxes would be so dirty that they were only good for making compost to grow more potatoes, but sometimes they were practically spotless on the outside, and I used one such side to make my template. I had to make sure it was absolutely clean, otherwise I couldn't bring it back into the house. This particular day I had a nice flat piece that was clean and it wasn't creased either. It was perfect. I cut it from the rest of the box with a sharp knife my mother used to cut up vegetables. The knife was dry and it was clean. I made the cut and then used my mother's best scissors to clean up the edges.

I had a square of good, clean, stiff cardboard to work on. The next thing I had to do was to work out what I wanted to draw on it. I knew from my arithmetic teacher that a circle could be divided into 360 degrees, so a semi circle had to have 180 degrees. The semi circle I wanted to draw had to be no bigger than my pair of compasses could stretch to. They would open to about a five inch maximum. They were quite big.

I drew myself a semi circle with a base line ten inches long. Now I had to divide it up into degrees. I had to decide how many degrees between each division. I decided upon ten degrees.

This was my way of finding out how to calculate the height of the next hill. I knew a little about trigonometry, and although I didn't like it very much whenever I had to do it at school, I knew enough to be able to use what I knew to construct this template.

I divided the semi circle up into 10 degree sectors, and then used the other side of the cardboard to construct a table of numbers: distances in miles, height in feet, one for every angle on my template.

It was a bit difficult and took up all my time that evening, and the next.
I remember bedtime coming up quickly on those evenings.

I did finish it though, and showed it to my Mum and Dad. They both smiled at it as I showed them how it worked. I explained about sines, cosines and tangents. How you could find the unknown length of the side of a right angled triangle if you had either the lengths of the two other sides or one length and one angle. At least that's how I remember it.

I remember that I wrote the values down from my little red book of mathematical tables, which included trig ratios and values. At least that is what I can recall now.

After the longest week, I took my gadget, as my Dad called it, up onto the moor. I remember that it was a bit misty as it could often be that high up, about 1,700 feet above sea level, and facing the prevailing weather from the Atlantic Ocean via the Irish Sea. Anyway, visibility wasn't perfect, but the cloud cover was patchy, and every now and then a corner of clear blue sky would appear, a bright patch from the quilted autumn sky.

The brief window was enough to try the thing out. I took it out of my rucksack, and my friend, John held it steady for me as I lined it up with Pule Hill about four miles away. I got John to stand back a little to tell me if I was holding the thing level or not. I adjusted it and then took a reading. In fact, it was really quite difficult to do that, to take a reading in the wind, wondering whether the thing was really level or not. I took the reading and then we sat down in the heather and entered the numbers we had in our little notebooks. We had both made charts, with ruled lines to make it easier to enter the numbers.

We worked out that Pule Hill was either higher than Mount Everest, I think, or something ridiculous like that. We were both a bit disappointed, but laughed at our results too. There were problems with the device. We knew that. We had known that before we set out, but like the lads we were, we tried to ignore them, and convinced ourselves that they wouldn't make any difference.

Back home, I did try to think how it could be improved. I thought it might need my Dad's old spirit level sellotaping to the bottom, but I didn't dare take his tools up onto the hills. We could have done something with a pop-bottle half full of water, John said, but we both knew that it would make the thing too cumbersome and clumsy, so we didn't try it. It was a good idea but it had its faults. However, the principles behind it were sound, we both agreed.

I still have that bit of cardboard somewhere at my parents' house, and I take it out and look at it sometimes. Looking at the markings on the front, the tables and numbers on the back, and reading my junior version of my handwriting, much clearer than today's scribble, I remember that tall gangly lad I must have been. I remembered my freckle faced pal John, now a surveyor for an oil company somewhere, and I am grateful for those days, for that bit of cardboard, for the hills, the heather and the wind and rain, and most of all for the making of who I am now, up there with the wind in my face, and an idea in my head.

Robert L. Fielding

My own views #1.

Writing as therapy

Sure writing is therapeutic - haven't I always told you that. Well it is. I think writing on the computer or word processor is also therapeutic, plus it doesn't make your hands ache like using a pen does. Maybe it's that way with me because I'm getting a bit older - who knows?

I have recently been thinking about what happened to me when I started work as an apprentice at Glover Bros in Mossley. Engineering excites me - it did then and it still does - just seeing those machines making other parts for other machines makes me recall the good times I had in that industry.

However, those good times came later. I had bad times at Glovers. The only half decent times I had through the week were my lunch-breaks when I would go on my motorbike to meet Pete up at Heyhead or somewhere between where he worked in Carrbrook and where I worked in Mossley, on Egmont Street - a part of that town I still dislike.

Anyway, as soon as I began working in Glover Engineering, my life became miserable. I had to go to the shops for the men three times a day and they made my life difficult, I can tell you. Some - probably most - of the men were OK, I suppose, just kidded me a bit, but some were nasty and tried their hardest to get me upset. Coming from a village. I wasn't used to having to deal with townies and I found them very different to the men I knew nearer to home.

I remember Keith Shaw, who is probably dead now, being one of the nastiest men I have ever met. There was nothing in him you could find to like. He was relentless in his nastiness and since then I have come to realize that it was he who had the problem rather than me. I was the butt of his ill-humour but I wasn't the source of it. That was somewhere else - probably in his home life or his health or in his past life as a child. He may have had a hard time when he was a kid and so if that was the case I can forgive him. See, that is what I mean when I say that writing is therapeutic - I have never found it in my heart to forgive Keith Shaw until now, and thinking that his nastiness was the product of something nasty in his life has meant I can let go at last. I can stop hating him and that has freed me. Hate really is a wasting disease, isn't it? From now on, I am not going to indulge in it and I don't think you should either, even though you may have excellent reasons for hating, let them go - write it out of you - do it now.
Robert L. Fielding
(NB.For details of availability of this article, please contact Robert L Fielding –

Prose Poem #1.

Lit (NB. This has been published)


Robert L Fielding

A book of verse, once opened, leads me through a life that is half over. Innocent and hearty, I read Lewis Carroll, wondering if I would ever see the Jabberwock with eyes aflame on my way home from school on those winter evenings when ice and darkness enveloped my path up the hill to the dancing fire and the roasting smell of my mother's cooking.
Later, standing in rows, our neckties strangling us, we sang,
'Who is Sylvia, what is she?
without wondering in the slightest who Sylvia was, or what she was. We just presumed she was a girl and left it at that. Singing by rote, high and straining to reach Mrs. Smith playing the piano, her face grimacing at our reckless rendering of her favourite song.
And later, listening to 'I wandered lonely as a cloud', we started to hear the words and see the daffodils waving beneath us. All was forgotten though, when, as pupils in pride of place in Miss Schofield's English class, we had to read the words out loud to the whole class, listening and giggling till it was their turn.
With Dot Squash, and later with Fez, we trod the paths through Hardy's Wessex, waited on Egdon Heath with Eustacia Vye for her wild love, Damon Wildeve, come in secret from the tavern below.
Fez, Donald Radcliffe, Mr. Radcliffe to our parents, Sir to us who even adoring him and his booming voice, were petrified when we had somehow annoyed him, Fez made Weatherbury live, made Gabriel Oak a real person to us, and Bathsheba Everdene a real woman, vivacious with a mind of her own, headstrong, some said foolish, and passionate.
Dot Squash, Dorothy Schofield, Miss to us, apples of her scolding eye. She led us, walking alongside Tess to her doom, stopped us from berating Angel Clare for his purity and his foolish, pious pride, remonstrated with us for asking the question, "Miss, didn't Thomas Hardy ever write happy stories?" What did we know of Greek tragedy, or any other kind of tragedy, save one of our number running under the wheels of a car one afternoon after school.
Years later, still reading, though with a more alert eye, enjoying less for not being taken in as much, but still enjoying, I traversed a purple moor, stepped through heather and ling, waist deep bracken to a little house on the edge of Egdon Heath, whistling Holst's tune of the same name, I came to Clym and Eustacia's house in the woods. Admiring it through the lens of my Minolta, shutter clattering up and down gaily in the late summer sunshine, a little head poked through a bedroom window, and apologizing for intruding, was invited in to see for myself, Alderworth, the house where the newly weds dwelt before everything started going wrong, Eustacia finally and tragically realizing she had fallen in love with a man who did not exist, the native returned to his heath, but now, after his wandering days were done, content to practise the work of a furze cutter, and the beautiful but willful Eustacia, her raven haired, proud head leaning into the wind coming off the English Channel, dreaming of lands she would never see.
Working up to examinations, looking at university entrance, Shakespeare in hand, the Scottish play, which, not being in the acting profession, we can call by name, 'Macbeth'. Selling petrol at weekends to stay at 'Tech' till I passed, memorizing the 'dagger soliloquy between cars, for Mrs. Christou, who encouraged us with her enthusiasm and her joie de vivre, and her laughing face.
Mr. McCann, a Scot, who did the Guardian Cryptic Crossword everyday whilst eating his sandwiches, leading us slowly through Burns' 'Tam o' Shanter', the words, the accent, the meaning, coming in his rich, ringing tones beneath his bristling moustache.
Discovering Kipling, Wordsworth, and Robert Service in the hushed, warm stillness of the Municipal Library, the monologues of 'Nosmo King', Stanley Holloway breathed out on cold mornings cycling to work, each word visible as if I had been exhaling smoke.
The trustees from the toolroom where I worked, wondering about a turner who read poetry in his breaktimes, instead of The soaraway Sun. Struggling with Thomas Mann, wondering if I should even be trying. A different perspective has its distractions and its detractors, all around me it seemed at times till my sister, Gill, my sister, reassured me that what I wanted to do was worth doing.
And now, writing words of my own, the long journey still not half done, thank God, retracing my steps through Central Asia, recalled to life, Sultan Sancar, and the love of his life, Yasemin, mourning her father, newly buried beneath the hard ground of Mary, across the wastes of Turkoman country, to the land of Anatolia, high, stony, beautiful Anatolia, and to Nazan.

Robert L Fielding

Future imperfect #1.

The Digital Future: Something to look forward to, or something to fear?


Robert L Fielding

Advances in technology produce patterns in the communities with which they interact and into which they become assimilated. Some facet of life is replaced, enhanced, or altered forever, sometimes for the worse. Our ability to predict which of these paths the advance will take on in our lives never seems to improve. What look on the face of it like huge benefits to society often turn out to be less so, to varying degrees.
The advent of the television into our lives, for example, gave us an opportunity to disseminate information, to educate the masses, and to entertain. However, the television, it has been said, is largely responsible for the atomization of society, the breakdown of family ties and traditional forms of entertainment in the home, and worse, the spreading of ideas detrimental to the well being of society in general. None of this was foreseen when John Logie Baird's flickering images first entered our lives.
Where formal education is concerned, the digital 'future' is already upon us. The Internet, we are constantly told, promises to revolutionize education, the laptop computer will enter classrooms changing forever the dynamics of the classroom.
There is no doubt in many people's minds that these advances have indeed the potential to radically alter that way we educate our children, and ourselves.
If, however, these particular advances in technology follow the patterns outlined above, the benefits might be outnumbered by the detrimental effects on our lives as educators and as learners. If computers are going to enter the classroom, will they enhance, replace, or change forever what traditionally goes on inside them ? Or will they have an effect none of us could have predicted beforehand ?
Before such advances are transferred into our lives in the classroom, our motives for wanting such changes should first be examined. Then the things that already happen in the classroom should be considered in order to ascertain whether in fact we want to change them. Do we, for example, want to replace the interaction between teacher and student, and that between fellow students with something else ? Do we want to reduce the importance of books in teaching ? Do we want to alter the individual's private domain ? And last but certainly not least, are we able to say with any degree of certainty whether these changes can be controlled ones ?
The personnel often charged with responsibilities in the decision making process when considering whether or not to adopt such technology in classrooms are usually found to be those people least affected by the changes they so eagerly and persuasively propose.
Technological determinism is not and does not have to be the route educational establishments take, and yet it often is. Having a modern outlook, or just keeping up with new technology, are all poor reasons masquerading as good ones when it comes to the way we talk ourselves into buying new gismos and installing them in places they probably ought not to be.
Consultation, a great deal of thought and research, common sense, and honesty should be the watchwords, rather than ones like fashion and modernity. How we benefit from today's wonderful advances tomorrow will depend on whether we ask the right questions to the right people, and most importantly, whether or not we have the will to say no.
The vexed question of how new technology is going to affect us, however, is not a new one though.
To return, two questions, I have said, need to be addressed. First, why do we want to introduce technology into our classrooms, and second, do we want to change the things that already happen in the classroom ?
The answer to the first depends to a certain extent upon the answer to the second. Part of the answer must surely be though, because we want to improve the quality of learning, and this will surely have implications for the type of learning too. If the answer is anything less than this wish to improve learning, then we should expect other things to be different.
What goes on in the classroom without digital aids ? Teachers teach, and students learn, or at least that's what should happen. If this new interface replaces existing ones, can it perform the functions necessary for the conditions of learning to be improved ? Here we would need to say that technological innovations would not necessarily replace all interaction in the classroom.
Of the four language skills taught in our classrooms, it seems to me that reading and writing could well be aided by the introduction of computers. This has already happened in many institutions, including our own. What seems to be lacking in many is some sort of check on whether CAL assists learning or not, and if it does, how much and in what particular direction. Does, for example, completing cloze-tests on computer screens improve a student's ability to use those structures in his or her own written work. Merely installing what appear to be learning opportunities does not ensure that they are really of value to learning.
The provision of a spell checker on a computer does not really mean that a students ability to spell correctly improves with the use of the device. It may only mean that the learner remembers to activate it at certain intervals in his or her writing. A good thing for one person is not necessarily a good thing for all. Time is saved for those who can already spell, but time is lost for those who cannot. Technological innovations in any field do not of themselves mean improvement in our lives. Remember the TV.
Students' learning styles and teachers' styles of teaching need to be catered for by applications of new technology in education. At present, I think it is fair to say that the former is encouraged by educationalists, while the latter is sometimes actively discouraged. However, if students have different learning styles, then teachers must be both responsive and versatile. Any change in interface between learner and educator would need to be similarly so. Such versatility and responsiveness should surely be possible using new technologies in language classrooms. If this does not happen, it will not be the fault of technology but rather the lack of will to want to install such versatility. For this seems to be a feature of current thinking on the issue, that
some believe that the introduction of computers in classrooms will enable greater control over what happens in them. I equate control with power, the power to impose one's views on others. If those views do not include a wish to retain diversity amongst teachers to facilitate diversity among students, the outcome may be an unintended one. Remember the TV. words

Robert L Fielding
(NB.For details of availability of this article, please contact Robert L Fielding –

Longer article #2.

Constellations of signification: the crossword compiler’s art (This has been published)


Robert L Fielding

This appeared first in
'Mirat Al J'ama' (Mirages)
A Sultan Qaboos University Publication
Issue 50 November 2000
and then later in a modified, reviewed form, in
'UoB News and Views'
A University of Bahrain Publication
Issue No. 57 January-February 2003

The first crosswords appeared in the 19th Century, but the first appearance of a crossword in a British publication was in Pearson’s Magazine in February, 1922, and the first Times crossword appeared on February 1, 1930. Although crosswords appeared first in America, English crosswords developed their own style, and were and still usually are considerably more difficult than their American counterparts. Indeed, the type of crossword we know as ‘cryptic’ is peculiarly English, and so are many of the cultural references and encyclopedic clues in them. However, that is not to say that they cannot be completed by people from other places, and the vast majority of clues are sufficiently universal in construction to be accessible to any user of the English language from any community.

As users of words, we are used to dealing with their meanings, how they collocate with other words, their pronunciation and their spelling. However, when trying to solve cryptic crosswords in newspapers we are often called upon to look at other aspects of words: what they signify as a whole, or what each of their individual letters signifies, as well as their semantic meaning.
The confusion between semantics and semiotics, between meaning and signification, is at the heart of what the compiler does, how he confounds, puzzles, and misleads.

Edward de Bono has coined the term ‘lateral thinking’ to refer to ways of thinking that differ from more ‘normal’ ways. Categorizing items in ways that are unconventional and so leading us to think of alternative possibilities of thinking, is one such way.

For example, if we find the item ‘knife’ in the location ‘living room’ it sounds incongruous. That item is probably more often accompanied by the item ‘food’, or ‘lunch’ or a similar culinary term, and hence more often found in the location ‘dining room’. If neither of these is present, then it might be suggestive of other scenarios. Appearing in a play based on an Agatha Christie novel, for example, it might be associated with the words ‘stab wound’, ‘bloodstain’and labeled ‘murder weapon’. If it does not appear, it may be labeled ‘missing murder weapon’.

Considering the item ‘knife’, it may accompany the item ‘letter to be opened’ in the location ‘living room’, or something akin to ‘makeshift screwdriver’ in the event that the plug on the TV needs a new fuse. And it is precisely this alternative way of viewing items; words and letters that compilers of crosswords utilize to confound and puzzle us in the morning over our tea and toast. Instead of looking for meaning, which is one of the ways we view words, perhaps the main way, compilers use an array of means, more often closer to semiotics than semantics. They use the constellation of significations and associations as well as using ‘meaning’ in its traditional semantic sense, to lure us into their traps. As users of words, we habitually look for the meaning of a word, and it this that causes the delicious confusion in the mornings.

Academics traditionally look for some sort of order to the chaos that is their particular universe.
There is an order to the confusion in crossword clues that appear daily in the newspapers we read, and to substantiate my claim (something else that academics do) I have included a taxonomy of clue types with examples and explanations below. While it is hoped that would-be solvers and even would-be compilers like myself will find it useful and thought provoking, it is admitted that there is no real substitute for doing crosswords; trying to solve them, and looking at the solutions the next day in order to be able to complete one successfully some day.

Conventions, specific uses of terminology, and abbreviation are all common in any discipline. The discipline of the compiler is no exception, and accordingly a list of the more common conventions is provided to help newcomers.

Generally, anagrams are by far the most numerous type of clue to be found in most cryptic crosswords, closely followed by clues in which the whole word appears. Less frequent, but still popular are clues based upon encyclopedic knowledge, clues based around common collocations of words, and clues based upon the sound of a word or letter. Clues that use symbols other than letters, and those that cross word and syllable boundaries are much more unusual, but still worthy of comment and attention.

Conventions in crosswords

Crossword clues are liberally sprinkled with certain conventions, appearing again and again, making them noteworthy here. This list is not fully comprehensive, and you may find ones to add to it. The main thing to understand in thinking about conventionalized pieces of ‘information’ is that they must be sufficiently universal to be understood. Crossword compilers have idiosyncrasies, but they can be recognized with sufficient practice. If you can explain it in rational terms, any crossword clue or any part to a clue is valid; there are no rules except this one.

v/c/d/x as Roman numerals
weekend = K
dunderhead = D/fathead = F etc
4. Fourth of July = Y / air terminal =r
middle of week = EE/E
Ac = account or bill
R = Right/L = Left
North = N etc
E, G, B, D, F = Notes in music, thus ‘noted’
Sapper/engineer = RE (Royal Engineers)
Again = re
Navy = RN
Pound Sterling = L
Team/side = eleven
banker = river
The German = Der/Das

Items associated with the letters of the alphabet, including some common abbreviations associated with each letter.

All standard, well-known abbreviations can be and are used in crossword clues, but the associations of letters with other items are sometimes special, in the sense that they may not strike one as such immediately. Reading the solutions to crosswords does help in this respect. Here are some that readily spring to mind. Be on the lookout for others though.

1.A – article/A1 at Lloyds/A-grade/Grade -A
2. B – bee/spelling bee/B-roads/Bea for Beatrice/Grade B/Musical note
3. C – Hundred (Roman numerals)/ many/see/sea/circa=round about
4. D – old penny/exam grade/note in music/River Dee
5. E - =MC2/east/musical note/East
6. F – Fail grade/musical note
7. G – G-men( Feds)/GI/musical note/Gee!
8. H – dropped aitches/Ho for house
9. I – eye/I/ego/one/1/upright/perpendicular pronoun
10. J - 1st of July/January/jay
11. K – Kay/Quay/thousand/grand/kg
12. L – pounds Sterling/Hell/
13. M – many/abbreviation of Emma
14. N – North/No/Nil/None
15. O – zero/duck/nil/hole
16. P – Pen/originator of writing (pen)/pea
17. Q – queue
18. R – Right/Aarr!
19. S –/South/plurals/ SS for ship/steamer
20. T – tea for two/to a T/T-junction/T-shirt
21. U – U-bend/corner/up/you
22. V – shape/V/VI/IV (Roman numerals)/V-bomber/V-neck
23. W – West/with
24. X – cross/ten (Roman numerals)
25. Y – fourth of July/last of January/you/Why?/Y-fronts
26. Z – last letter/omega/A to Z/Zoo

Anagrams are ‘signposted’ in many ways, but there is a more or less definable pattern. The words, ‘agitatedly’, ‘bad’, ‘broken’, misguided’, ‘upset’, and ‘possibly’ are used in the examples here. The alert reader will notice that all these words are broadly synonymous with the word ‘chaotic’ or ‘mixed up’, signifying that an anagram is called for. In the first example, it as anagram of the word ‘strode’ that is being asked for, with the words, ‘around the head of a bank’ supplying the letter ‘B’(See Conventions above) to complete the conundrum and provide the solution ‘DEBTORS’.

If we were to read the sentence from the traditional point of view of semantics, using the system we know as grammar, we would be able to paraphrase the clue as something like the following:- ‘The people who had borrowed money from the bank surrounded the manager in a worried fashion.’
Appearing as it does in a cryptic crossword however, it means nothing of the sort. The remaining examples are similarly constructed, with some minor differences. See what you make of them.
Borrowers strode agitatedly around the head of a bank 7 DEBTORS
When an East ender gets a bad cigar it’s not funny 6 TRAGIC
Something sticking a broken stapler 7 PLASTER
Gangs of assorted mates 5 TEAMS
It definitely shows one’s a poor misguided fathead 5 PROOF
If upset by the dog having no tail, it’s still a pet’s name 4 FIDO
Possibly useless harangues at the airport. 6 HANGAR

b) The word appears in the clue in full

This type of clue is probably the easiest to solve, but they do sometimes confound us.
Take the clue: ‘Capital city in Czechoslovakia.’ A colleague of mine gladly and quickly supplied his answer, PRAGUE, and was astonished when I told him the answer was ‘OSLO’.
The words in the clue that include the solution are usually phrased in such a way as to mislead, but the semantic clue is invariably given to assist in the solution, though as already stated, it may be ‘hidden’.
No love from a stranger 5 ANGER
In the dictionary, a word meaning ‘ruling’ 5 EDICT
For me also loveless, they can be sustaining. 5 MEALS
Repair a bad situation in the Aleutians HEAL

c) Collocations

Were it not for the fact that much of what we say and write is idiomatic in the sense that it is heavily collocational, the job of crossword compilers would be far more difficult. All the clues point to well known collocates. With the clue for the word ‘duty’, the compiler could have used the other word that collocates with it; ‘free’, for example. Hence, the clue might have read, ‘Drinks are free of it outside the country.’ To take a dim view of something is quite a common utterance, though these things do go out of fashion.

Piping? 3 HOT
One is obliged to do it or pay it 4 DUTY
Sort of view one may take of a power cut 3 DIM
Actor’s assistant, possibly Welsh 7 DRESSER

d) Encyclopedic knowledge

With General Knowledge crosswords, the trouble is that you either know the answer or you don’t. If you don’t, knowing where to find the answer is the next best thing. So it is with clues calling on one’s encyclopedic knowledge, and for that reason they are not as rewarding. You either know the answer or you do not, whereas all the other types of clues invite you to think laterally. Here are a few examples to illustrate my point. If you have never heard of Charles Dickens’nom de plume, then there isn’t much to be done except hope the other lines fill in the squares for you.
Spider on the snooker table 4 REST
Writer of Dickensian sketches 3 BOZ (‘Sketches by Boz’ is a series of short stories by Charles
Moorish battle location 7 MARSTON (Marson Moor is the site of a very famous battle in English
South African boys 5 NATAL (Nat and Al are both boys’ names. NATAL is a province in South

e) Collocations from encyclopedic knowledge

Again, if you do not know the name of the song known colloquially as Danny Boy, or The Londonderry Air then there isn’t much you can do about it. However, even if you do, you might not understand the conundrum, which is why the compiler phrased it in the way s/he did.
That boy with an air 5 DANNY (‘Danny Boy’ is in first line of the song ‘The Londonderry Air’)
Are they all named Atkins? 7 TOMMIES (Tommy Atkins-name of British soldier)
It’s deep in old Ethiopia ABYSS (Abyssinia is the former name of what is now Ethiopia)

f) Plays on letters

With these types of clues we are back in the realm of thinking about words and letters in a different way. The clue that reads, ‘White, like a layer of eggs’, the pun works several ways. The semantic clue is ‘white’, and the words ‘like’ provide ‘AS’, the words ‘a layer of eggs’ providing the remaining part ‘Hen’ giving the completed word ‘ASHEN’. Thinking of a hen as a layer of eggs, which is precisely correct, but not usually stated that way, provides us with the difficulty. Splitting the word ‘ashen’ into two parts also adds to the confusion.
In all the examples, the semantic portion of the clue is ‘hidden’ in a sentence or phrase written in such a way as to deceive. Having the solution does help though.
Speak rhetorically of the love for speed 5 ORATE
American soldiers method of operating a device 5 GISMO
White, like a layer of eggs 5 ASHEN
Trouble the medical officer just in case 6 MOLEST

g) Conundrums based upon encyclopedic knowledge

Mendelssohn’s cat 5 FELIX (The composer Mendelssohn’s first name was Felix, which is also the
name of a cat in a well known cartoon.)
Simple saint 5 SIMON (‘Simple Simon’ is the subject of a well known children’s nursery rhyme. Simon
was one of the apostles.)
When to make a start as PM 2,4 AT NOON (PM is the abbreviation for Prime Minister, and, in
lower case, post meridian.)
Game in which men get pushed around 5 CHESS (The pieces in a chess set are known as ‘men’.)
Conqueror written of as “Just” WILLIAM (William was the name of the incorrigible schoolboy in
Richmal Compton’s novel ‘Just William’.)

h) Clues based on sounds
When high suspicion is voiced, avoid being discovered 4,3 FIND OUT (Fine doubt=high
She sounds Indian. 3 SUE (Sioux Indians)

i) Clues that cross word and syllable boundaries

Get away from the house adjoining the mine 3,2 HOP IT (Ho = house/pit = mine)

j) Clues that use symbols other than letters

Of these beasts, the wild one is about to get a cross 4 OXEN
Does it mean nothing chaps 4 OMEN
See a bar as smart C-LEVER

k) Combinations of types of clue

I leave the air terminal with a Russian 4 IGOR (air terminal =r)
Fear of an ancient deity, I see PAN-IC

l) Clues that use coincidence

A films star’s gratitude 6 T-HANKS (Tom Hanks)

m) Clues that use the different meanings of a word.

Concealing a bad defeat HIDING

n) Clues that use conventions

Sorceress accompanied round about WITcH

The compiler’s ‘constellation of associations’ for the word ‘damage’

The common enough word ‘damage’ provides the compiler with a mine of possible clues and their sources. Here are just some of them. Being aware of the possibilities open to the compiler helps the would be solver, but there is no real substitute for attempts, and looking up the solution the day after. In that way, it is possible to ‘get used to’ the way the compiler works, though well constructed crosswords are seldom simple, and that is their chief appeal, perhaps, that and the fact that cryptic crosswords, if completed, yield insights into certain facets and aspects of letters, words, and their meaning and associations. Above all, I feel that solving cryptic crosswords of the kind dealt with above is a valuable means of staying sharp, and seeing language for what it is, a system of manipulations of symbols that accords with certain of our cerebral networks, and a means of enlarging and increasing them.
Any possible association, abbreviation, or meaning can be used to make the clues more difficult to solve.
Word damage (6 letters)
Parts of speech Noun (countable) Verb (transitive/regular/infinitive)
Colloquial use What’s the damage? = How much does it cost?
Collocation No damage/brain damage/extensive damage/fire damage
Collateral damage
Associations D = Grade/Capital of Denmark/4th letter of the alphabet/Delta/
Shape of letter
Dam---Reservoir bank/mother/sounds like the curse word
Am—morning/ante meridian/part of the verb ‘to be’ reversed Master
Age—Length of time/long time/adjective meaning to grow old
Conventions: d = capital of Denmark
d = head of Dudley
D =Name = Dee (Simon Dee/ Dee as first name)
D = dunderhead
D = first of day
D = last of the dead
D = third consonant in the alphabet
D = sound of prefix in ‘detoxification’/ ‘devalue’ etc
D = last letter in regular past tense verbs
D = Exam grade (ie. Just passed/lowest pass grade)
D = Musical note (Doe, a deer, a female deer)
Synonyms of harm, injury, destruction, hurt, abuse, vandalism, ruin, havoc,
of ‘damage’: accident, loss, suffering
Synonyms of two words make up one word in the solution.Possible clues Era of the mother
based upon Mother’s years
associations: How old the reservoir is
NB. Clues are invariably written as propositions/sentences
in order to ‘disguise’ the clues’ real significance .to would be solvers of the puzzle.
Reservoir’s time
Length of time reservoir has been there
Anagrams: Made with the leader of Guernsey
Madge mixed up with Ann initially
Dunderhead with time in the morning
Dingus Magee first, initially
Clues that include anagram:
Hurt Madge and Ann initially. Dam(A)ge
Possibly meade in the capital of Germany, it’s destruction. Dama(G)e
Dunderhead with time in the morning to hurt D(am)age
Dingus Magea initially broken up to injure D(amage)
Sounds: Curse +Less quiet page (Page-p / Note convention of p for quiet/ pianissimo)
Dam(n) + page-p = age
Clues based on sound: Soundly curse less quiet page means destruction
Sound blasted era
Phrases such as ‘we hear’ convey that the sound of a word or part of a word is being offered as the clue or part of the clue.
Distortions-------------------dam + age— d + am + age

NB. If you are not aware that a particular word even exists, the constellation of associations and meanings surrounding the word will be unknown to you are unlikely to get the solution. The real beauty of this type of puzzle is that it is possible to work out what the word you need is by using the ‘logic’ I have outlined above. In this sense, crossword clues are not merely time fillers, but do exercise the mind in ways that are sufficiently unusual for them to be novel and appealing.

More often than not, compilers of cryptic crosswords use words that are in current use, it depends, possibly, on what sort of a fix they get themselves into doing the compiling. Crossword compilers are human too, you know.

Robert L Fielding

Mixed genres #1.

The art of weaving carpets was born out of necessity; the need to keep out the extreme cold of the steppes of Asia.
The migrating yoruks, the nomadic people of Central Asia, learned to use goat hair to make their tents and their yurts.
Since goat hair is much longer and stiffer than sheep’s wool, and perhaps more plentiful, it was used in a technique known as flatweave, and made the tents waterproof and windproof. However, the yoruks needed also to protect themselves from the damp rising from the ground, and applied the same techniques to making floor coverings, which they called ‘kilims’.
At this time of pagan belief, as designs came to be used on kilims, stylized depictions of worshipped gods came to be woven into the floor coverings. It would also have been only natural for the women weaving their rugs to portray objects, creatures, symbols from their lives of hardship on their way to more prosperous lands.
The yoruks also used kilims as blankets against the cold. It is easy to imagine fathers and mothers telling their sleepy children stories and pointing to the designs on their coverings before sleep made little eyes heavy. Pelts were used, adding pile to the basic flatweave to give some comfort and much needed warmth to blankets, floor-coverings, and to coverings on cradles, their corners tied to the tent poles overhead so that mothers could rock them back and forth to lull their babies to sleep.
Later on, the same materials and techniques were used to make the saddle-bags for the horses and camels that must have played a vital part in the transporting of homes across vast barren stretches of land.
On the move, all these materials could be folded and thrown on a horse’s back quickly and easily, making nomadic life more bearable for the womenfolk.
Knotted carpets were made, and the oldest surviving pile carpet was discovered in the grave of a Scythian prince in the Pyrak valley in the Altai Mountains of Siberia and what is now Mongolia. This carpet is at present displayed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. This carpet was woven with the Turkish double knot and contains no less than 347,000 knots per square metre (255 per square inch) and has been carbon-dated to have come from the 5th Century BC. The Pazyryk or Altai carpet has a sophisticated design and weave displaying a long history and tradition of carpet weaving. Robert L Fielding


The pattern of life and I do not just mean the life of my wife, my children,
our family, but I mean the life of our people, this pattern is something bigger
than all of us. It is decreed by the will of Allah who is looking over us, and
so it is right that everything we do reflects his will, in the patterns of our

Birth and death, the joining together of two people, the bringing into this
world of new believers, woven into this pattern of our lives.
Everything around us, above our heads, and below our feet, running through our
veins, coursing in our bodies, is the blood of our fathers, and their fathers,
our ancestry within this same pattern, and this goes on and on.

In our houses, on our floors, where our children play their games in the cold
nights of Anadolu, there are carpets covered with patterns, and these patterns
represent the patterns of our lives, our hopes, our wishes for the future, for
our children, and for their children, and also for this earth which nourishes us
and keeps us, by the will of Allah.

This rug is called by us, naklemi hali, and the symbols that represent the
reality of our spirit on this earth, are harmonious, they express the wish for
happiness, for fertility, and for protection. That is all. What is there that is
worth more than these few words, and what lies behind them? Here, in Anadolu,
where the ground is hard, and the soil rough and stony, the weather above us
cruel and harsh for us that live in this part of our earth, we measure our
happiness, not as some do, by the wealth of possessions, but by the fulfillment
of life, living under a sky, upon a stony land, watching the patterns of life
unfolding daily. A person dies, a baby comes to one of us, this is life,
together in something that is bigger than riches, bigger than personal ambition,
bigger than fine clothes, costly jewellery, but not bigger than a child playing
on a rug, warm, well fed, watching for its mother's smile, a pat on the head
from its father.

On this rug you will find the edges are filled with running water, dragons,
scorpions, and stars. Running water stands for fertility, and purification. It
is good for water to symbolize these things, for that is what water does for our
bodies. It purifies and cleanses, and being pure and clean, we are fertile. Our
womenfolk are fecund, and we, the men of our village are virile and strong. pure
in our love for the one woman in our life, and the children that she bears us.

Dragons and scorpions protect us, for even under the sky, willed by Allah, we
need protection from those who would do us harm. The wild beasts of the
mountains would tear us limb from limb, but being creatures of Allah's creation,
they are free from blame, shameless, and at least they do not defile our names,
that is left to our kind.

The wolves in their lairs, know that we are sad crawlers on the hills, and we
must sometimes go that way to feed our beasts, so that they in their turn can
feed us.

The stars look down, and they are looking even when we cannot see them in our
daylight. They are still watching us, so we find our happiness under the stars,
even under those we cannot see, and so they represent our happiness.

Our children play under the stars, and they play on our rugs, with stars all
around the edges, and with the will of Allah, they will be happy, as we, their
mothers and their fathers are happy.

*Ramazan Turkoglu is a nom de plume of Robert L Fielding


This appeared in
'UoB News and Views'
A University of Bahrain Publication
Issue No. 58 - March-April 2003.

I was prompted to write this brief exploration into what is involved in writing, which I have entitled, 'Discovering Writing', chiefly by my own love of writing. I have been a writer since I was old enough to scratch a pencil across a piece of paper.
From those early years, perhaps my 3rd or 4th, to this my 51st, I have written things down. I have filled diaries. I particularly remember the diary I had prior to going up to university in 1984.
Much, much earlier, I had written poems about the hills around my home in Saddleworth, and the birds that flew up in front of me whilst walking about in my beautiful corner of England.
I wrote a collection of notes for birdwatchers when I was about eleven years old, and this is probably still gathering dust at my parents' house.
Whether I have been writing letters to friends and relatives, short stories, poems, newspaper articles or academic ones, I have always found writing a very enjoyable activity. I have found out what I wanted to say through writing, and I have discovered a side of myself I didn't know existed. That, for me is the benefit of writing, finding something out about yourself that you never knew. If you can do that, as well as entertain your readers, you will never look back. You will be glad you started to write.

You can write.
Writing is the skill most of us learn after acquiring speech, and after speaking, it is our main means of communicating with each other. It is one of our basics, arguably the most important after reading and speaking, yet how many of us write. We write letters to our friends and relatives, notes to the milkman, and that's about it.
Yet writing for our own pleasure or for someone else's is a great way of finding out about ourselves; perhaps the best way. And since the invention of printing, reading the writings of others has been one of our most important recreations.
We read what others have written, but it doesn't always have to be that way round. We can write, you can write, and others can read what you have written, and as well as you finding out about yourself, other people can find out something about you, as well as finding out something about the world and everything in it. Perhaps you have felt a need to put something down on paper. Just the act of writing a letter to a friend to say what you have been doing will make you think, make you remember something you did, and make you relive it and enjoy it once more. For unlike speaking to someone, which is also therapeutic, writing is permanent; you can reread it, go over it in your mind and rewrite it. And in the writing of it you can discover new meaning, new significance in what you have done. That is how writing teaches us something about ourselves.

Writing about something we know about but haven't actually done, or about somebody we know about but haven't actually met, this kind of writing, to be read by ourselves or sometimes by others, is called creative writing. You create a person, an event, an idea or whatever, and what you have created remains yours. Someone said that our mistakes are the only things that we can truly call our own, but I reckon we can also claim our thoughts put down in print as our very own.

Sure, you might say that there is nothing new, that someone has written it all before, but is that really true? Shakespeare wrote tragedies, comedies and historical dramas, Agatha Christie wrote whodunnits, Charles Dickens wrote about the times he lived in, but that still doesn't mean everything's been covered; your thoughts are still unique, as unique as you are.
The things inside our heads, our thoughts and our feelings, are what can make us vulnerable, and if sharing our innermost thoughts can be threatening, how much more intimidating is it to have those thoughts on paper, for all to see and confront us with. Creating in writing is a bold step, but once taken can be the way to increase personal confidence. It is this making a commitment to your views that brings about confidence; the confidence to say what you believe. But take heart, it's not vital that anybody else reads your first efforts. The act of writing is the thing, it's a beginning, a start to finding out something you didn't know about yourself. Sharing that new knowledge with a partner, friend or confidant is a step in the direction of greater psychological health, for you and your partner, for your relationship, and for your life.

Like you, every writer has felt a need to write; physical, or mental, or both. Dickens had to write to prevent himself and his family going the way of his father; into prison for debt, and because he felt compelled to comment on and criticize the world he had been born into. Hemingway was driven by his sense of adventure, expressing the things he experienced in perhaps the only way he could, and in the way only he could.

Jane Ellice Hopkins said, 'Gift, like genius, means an infinite capacity for taking pains.' Dickens, Hemingway and Shakespeare had this infinite capacity, but maybe they weren't aware they had it until they started writing. Another better known aphorism is that there's a book in everyone. Those who have already started to write have realised the truth of this, and have started to discover their infinite capacity for taking pains.

The exercise I recommend you try at this stage is to identify some of your needs to write, which will not always be your openly stated reasons for wanting to write. Above all, be honest with yourself.

But can you read? Learning from what you read.

To write you need to read, but having read, the thing is not to copy but to develop your own style of writing, or I should say, styles, for different genres require different styles.
Within the genre of the short story, for example, it is obvious that a tale about the gold rush in the Yukon will be written in a different style to a story about a suburban dilemma in England.
I prefer to use the term 'voice' when talking about any particular style. As you write words down, you will hear them in your head, and if they sound right, and are consistent your, audience will attune to them whilst reading. In the same way, whilst reading a short story, you will get used to the writer's 'voice' in the words s/he has written. The more you read, the more 'voices' you will hear, and your repertoire of 'voices' will increase.
I have no intention of telling readers which books to read. We all have our favourite authors and our favourite subjects; some prefer detective novels, some sci fi, and some horror stories. The point in reading to improve your writing is not to necessarily move away from your favourites, but to notice things whilst reading them.
There are several things you will already have noticed in your reading, and some others you may not have. The structure of the novel or short story is one thing to notice, although the structures of short stories vary enormously from those of novels, and for a very good reason; the novelist has much more space and time to develop characters, for instance, or to describe scenes.
The question, 'Who is telling the story?' is an important one. In the marvelous novel by Charles Frazier, 'Cold Mountain', the story is narrated by two characters, Inman, and his former love, Ada, and the story switches from one to the other until they meet at Cold Mountain, after the journey Inman takes to get back to her. This is not an uncommon way of telling a story; Dickens uses a similar technique in 'Bleak House'. But there are others, plenty of others, and the distance from the action can also vary with whoever is relating it. The all-knowing author is one, and maybe characterised by such writers as Jane Austen, or Sir Walter Scott. But more usually, in modern novels, the writer gives clues to the reader, rather than stating in overt terms what the reader's conclusions must be. In 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', Tom Wolfe never really offers an opinion on the central character, Sherman McCoy, but rather, through the things he says and does, gives the reader pretty clear indications that the man is heading for a fall, despite his own feeling of invincibilty, and the title helps too. However, plot is something I wish to deal with later in this series, so let's leave it there, for the time being.
The point about who does what in anything you happen to be reading is that you notice it, notice and remember. For then you will have choice, and that is what ultimately gives a writer freedom; the freedom to tell the tale in the way s/he wants to create an impression on the reader. The impression the reader gets from reading is her/his own business, there are as many interpretations of any particular piece of fiction as there are readers of it. I would say that the best a writer can hope to do is to keep the reader interested, keep her/him turning the pages.
Besides the structure of the novel; the plot and the identity of the narrator, the next thing to notice, and probably the more difficult, is the language the writer uses. At sentence level, for example, it is easy to notice that Hemingway uses much shorter sentences that Jane Austen, but within sentences, the words writers use will be different too, as will the structuring of each sentence, and this will, of course, vary from sentence to sentence. There is a great deal of difference between: 'the cat sat on the mat', and 'the mat was sat on by the cat' using a very simple example. But might not the writer have written, 'the cat matted down', or 'the cat flopped matward'? The main difference as far as grammar is concerned is that the first two sentences are conventional, whereas the second two are not; the former uses what appears to be a new word, 'matted', and the latter a portmanteau word of my own coining. Either way, the same thing happened; the cat sat on the mat. What I'm getting at is that all four sentences have a different feel about them, a different 'voice'. Noticing the linguistic tricks writers use is one of the steps to becoming a better writer, and a more alert reader. The different ways writers use words cannot be just put into the simplistic pigeon-holes; formal and informal. Better is, how salient is the action being described, or how incidental? In the examples above, the first two sentences seem to give the cat's sitting itself on the mat some kind of prominence, whereas the second two treat the cat's action as something incidental to what is really going on, making it sound trivial.
Which one the writer chooses may depend on this salience rather than on any aspect of grammar, but more of grammar later.
A nice exercise after reading this might be to pick up any four novels at hand, and open them at any page to read and notice any differences in 'voice' you can identify, and then, having noticed that there are some, to examine what it is that makes them different. To read through the words to get at the action is one thing, to stop at them to see how your attention is being manipulated is quite another.

There's a book in everybody, is there one in you?

Whether this question can be answered positively in your case, doesn't really depend on a reply like, 'It depends if you've got what it takes.'
In one sense, everybody's got what it takes, the discovery of what 'it' is, is a journey you must take before you can find out. That journey might be arduous, but it will be enjoyable, it will be tiring, but it will also be rewarding, so take it. If you don't, you'll never know, will you?
You could do a lot worse than by starting with a short story, not because this is any easier than writing a novel, but because it is a shorter process; two thousand words takes less time than two hundred pages. You need to be determined, not discouraged, and although it is certainly true that the two require different skills, some learnt in the writing of shorter pieces can be transferred in the writing of longer ones.
Some schools tell their would be authors to start with what they know, and this is good advice. The pitfalls in this approach are that you might know your subject so well that you unconsciously assume the same of your reader. I once wrote what I thought was a hysterical monologue about the place I was brought up, only to find out when reading it aloud to my friends, that the references were incomprehensible, and thus removing the comedy for them.
Mentioning enough, but not too much versus not mentioning nearly enough always sees the first the victor over the second, a poor third being mentioning too much. It's the same way when you tell a joke; overdoing it kills the humour, underdoing it cuts out the humour altogether.
Trying out your efforts on a disinterested party will have the effect of bringing you up short if you are guilty of either.
So, you have an idea for a story. You could do a lot worse than starting by trying to imagine who you are writing for.
And by this, I do not mean, just Fred and Lilly next door, but rather, adults or children, or adolescents, and then sharpen your focus; Fred and Lilly wanting something light to read whilst waiting for their flight to be announced on an airport monitor screen, Fred still wanting light reading while dinner is cooking, or heavier stuff to be read when there's more time, say at weekend.
If you are intent on teaching your reader something, forget writing and become a teacher. Like the readers' impressions, any lessons to be found in your writing is up to them.
Generations of avid readers of Tolkien's 'The Lord of The Rings' have doubtlessly read all sorts of things into that marvelous book, but Tolkien himself once said that he 'cordially disliked allegory'.
If a person reading your work finds allegorical meaning on every page, that's up to her/him, but trying to put it there could be perceived as an imposition on a reader, and readers so imposed on usually stop reading.
Don't try to do too much. A small incident you remember may be enough. The very fact that you have remembered it at all may mean that it has enough in common with the human condition to render it interesting to those who are only being told about it.
Make a start, but don't start too early; what you had for breakfast that morning may only have significance if you happen to vomit before lunchtime. Remember the evils of mentioning too much. And remember your limitations; 2000 words come up very quickly, even quicker than your fried breakfast, if that's what you are writing about. Initially in writing, you are the only judge; writing is a lonely pastime. Once you've put it down on paper however, it becomes everybody's property, to disembowel, poke fun at, or just throw away unread. I said that writing for others can be intimidating, and I meant it.
The exercise today then could go something like this; rummage in your memory for an incident, which you think would stand being read about. Don't start writing straight away, dwell on it, turn it over in your mind, talk to anyone else who can recall it with you; you might have forgotten an important part. Sleep on it, then try it out. Once you have written even part of it, reread it to see if it's going where you want it to go, and if you're feeling brave, let somebody else read it. But it is maybe better left till it's complete, paper's cheap enough. -4-
Getting started.
So you've already started to write about the incident you remembered, and now you've dried up, you've run out of things to say, and the blank page in front of you is a constant reminder to you that you haven't got what it takes. Wrong. The best writers in the world, past and present, have all gone through what you're going through right now. Just how you cope with it is up to you. My reply to the question, How do you cope with a writer's block? I keep writing through it, which sounds facetious, but that's one way. And when you've found your touch again, throw away the rubbish you wrote getting through your block and start up again. Writers' rubbish bins are full of false starts, the better the writer, the fuller the bin. Above all, do not despair. The loneliness of writing means you can't turn to anybody for help. You're on your own. And coming through it on your own will boost your self-confidence, and remove your doubts. We're not talking open heart surgery here, if you mess it up, start again. Enough encouragement.
I believe there's such a thing as the story leading the writer on, which is an approach I sometimes try when I get stuck.
Consider the opening sentences:- The man entered the building.
Now if we substitute words, and add words, we get the beginning of a scenario. Here goes:-
1. The man entered the room. (add your own adverb)
2. The woman entered the room.(change 'room')
3. The child entered the room nervously. (continue with 'because'
4. The Minister entered the conference hall confidently.(continue with; but soon....)
If you added the word 'happily' to the first sentence, you have already committed yourself to something that has already happened, or is about to happen, and so it is with any adverb you choose. Similarly, if you chose to replace 'room' with 'doctor's surgery' in the second, then you have placed yourself in a certain array of scenarios, it's up to you.
A word of advice though, don't reveal everything too early unless you feel the need to; you have to have somewhere to go with your story.
Now you can play with these sentences forever or until you hit on something that stirs something in you. This might seem like child's play, but it serves to illustrate what I'm talking about; getting your head in gear and your pen in your hand.
Of course, you may be one of those fortunate people for whom words trip gaily from your pen. A word of warning here too; dashing down anything and everything that comes to mind may well work for you, but then again, you may find in the rereading that you have wandered off course. It's so easy to do, and no less enjoyable for that either.
Re-reading and re-writing is your safety net; you can do what you please, with the proviso that what you do gets you some way towards where you want to go.
The words you write constrain you, but they also give you direction. I spoke earlier about the story leading you on, and that is how it happens.
The alternative to this, and one that the novelist must use, is the planning of a story. You leading it, rather than the other way round.
An exercise this week might go along the lines of trying both approaches; firstly using sentences similar to the ones above for the story that leads, and for the planned approach, to jot down ideas, do some thinking, then some writing. This will leave you having written two stories, not a bad start.

You too can be a Master of The Universe!
Writing is an art, or at least it can be, and in art anything is possible. Anything can be used in any way, as long as it intensifies the image it seeks to create, so it is with writing.
Becoming a writer means seeing significance in what most people regard as insignificant. Noticing things in your everyday world as well as noticing things in your reading, and so you should start to be more aware and jot things you notice down on paper for later use perhaps
Significance can be used to intensify meaning or lessen it, but like all good things should only be used sparingly, and with thought. An overuse probably has the opposite effect to the one intended by the writer; overuse numbs, anaesthetizes, and deadens the reader's senses.
However, finding significance, and using it well can replace half a page of description, and so is invaluable to the short story writer, limited by space.
Have you ever seen one of those balancing toys; a trapeze artist on a unicycle, who can balance on a washing line because his outstretched arms hold poles with weights on the end, lowering his centre of gravity to a point just below the line on which he cleverly balances.
I saw one every day for three weeks recently while on holiday, in my father in law's garden, and I thought it as having some significance.
This week's exercise is to choose a variety of referents for this cleverly designed toy. Think about it; in choosing an object, which would be the most appropriate, think of a situation, or a person in a situation, and apply it to that.
Here is my application;
'John, feeling that his life had come to a standstill, contemplated the little man balancing on the line in front of him. The toy was incapable of movement; up or down, right or left, forwards or backwards.
"That's me," he said to himself, and shrugged his shoulders involuntarily.' The toy has one fairly clear characteristic with which 'John' can identify with, and perhaps more importantly, which the reader can recognize. And he remarks upon it, which is a quick, easy way of telling the reader.
But that is by no means the only way the toy could be used, nor is it the best way; that depends on your person, the situation, predicament, or whatever, but most of all it depends on your imagination, your ability to focus the reader's mind to your way of thinking about a problem.
Anything can be used in this way, and it doesn't have to be an object either, an action would do too.
So, two exercises this week; the second being to choose an object or an action, or anything, and use it to signify something, some emotion, somebody, whatever. My limitations are yours; three sentences, in which to mention the object, the person, and a hint of the situation.

Your resources; the world and everything in it.
There's a world out there, you know, and there's one inside your head too. Strange as it may seem, there's probably a bigger, more wonderful world in your imagination than exists spinning through space.
And in your writing you can choose either; the world out there, or the one in your head. Writers choose both, one or the other, but more likely a mixture of both. Tom Clancy, the writer of thrillers, uses his painstaking research to flesh out the world of his imagination. James Joyce used his vast knowledge of language, literature, and myth to fill a dream in Finnegans Wake.
I wrote earlier about writing about what you know, writing for the world of your experience. That needs a minimum of research, but something merely related is not telling a story, it's writing a diary. To make it into a story requires something else, that something else is your imagination. The event you focus on occurred in real time; A preceded B, or did it? Maybe somebody did something, or said something, but that doing or saying was preceded by thought, or was it? And what is time anyway, if not elastic. You can go to and fro through it as you wish, taking the reader with you using little signposts to tell her/him where you are. Your imagination can ask the question: What if? Plant that question in the reader's mind and you open up a vast cluster of possibilities. More importantly, you get the reader to ask the same question, to think, to apply those thoughts to his/her own life, and that makes for good reading.
The realm of pure imagination in fiction is the world of sci-fi, but yesterday's sci-fi can become today's reality: the novels of HG Wells and Jules Verne. Perhaps a better denomination would be 'i-fi'; 'idea-fiction, which could then include the works of Tolkien, Mervyn Peake and many, many more.
All genres of fiction impose their difficulties; the world of human drama involves the problem of what I would call 'believability'; calling on your understanding of human nature must accord with your reader's.
We are all bound by earthly laws, and although our thoughts can develop along lines that are illogical, the reader needs a system of consistent signs to help fathom the logic, or the apparent lack of it.
With sci-fi, the writer can impose logic, overturn gravity, people a planet with strange beings, travel faster than the speed of light, but is still compelled to bring the reader along into this 'new world', thus allowing attempts at forecasting, understanding the future by referring to what has gone before.
Writing 'i-fi' means no less dedication, probably more. To understand the strange, convoluted world of 'Gormenghast' in Mervyn Peake's trilogy, is to more fully enjoy it. And it is to get inside Peake's world, his imagination, and go with him through it. It is to lose oneself in a world created only by words. If you can do that in your writing, you're on your way to becoming a great writer.
A lot to take in this week, so a variety of exercises. One; take your remembered event and put a time scale on it. Decide what comes first, the thought or the deed. If what happened caused an effect, is there something in the outcome that could have been foretold before it?
Two; create a small world of your own. You don't have to go too far. Imagine your cat can tell you about his day, describe the things in your lawn at people level, or any minute world, which is not ordinarily open to us humans.
Whichever one you undertake, the main thing to do is to think. Think and imagine, the forerunners to good writing.

Language; words, grammar, and convention.
The artist; the poet, the painter, the sculptor, and the writer of fiction, can all seek recourse to 'poetic licence'. The poet uses assonance, the painter and the sculptor, proportion, and the writer; the writer has all sorts of devices s/he can use.
Linguists have recently realised that grammatical structure and what they call lexis; words, are much more closely related than was formerly thought. Grammar and lexis, plus punctuation; language, is the medium the writer works in.
Within structure, the writer is 'free' within broad and clearly defined boundaries; s/he must be grammatically correct, which sounds rather stifling and somewhat old-fashioned. It is within the realm of lexis that writers find real freedom, coining their own words, which includes all the parts of speech, with the possible exception of articles and prepositions.
Hamlet says, "it out-herods Herod", Dylan Thomas regularly uses words in his own unique way; 'jellyfishing', 'Bible black and starless', and 'viper through her', and many more in his panoply of language, 'Under Milkwood'.
Notice the parts of speech replaced here; Hamlet uses the name of Herod, the tyrannical king of Judaea, as a verb with 'out'. He could have said, 'outdoing Herod'. 'Jellyfishing' is not fishing for jellies, but is a verb that Thomas used to replace something like 'flooding over', 'Bible-black' is a compound adjective to describe the darkness of the night, and 'viper', a noun, is used here as a verb to denote how a downtrodden husband imagines the poison he is about to put in his wife's tea will pass through her body.
Here is the mixing of structure and lexis the linguists talk about. But is it English? It is, creative English. The days of absolute correctness in prose are gone, if they were ever here.
The point about being creative with language is not being clever with it, but using it to heighten meaning.
Lewis Carroll showed how words that don't exist, could do, if our 'rules' of spelling were applied further. He used portmanteau words like 'slithy', and purely non-existent words like 'vorpel' and 'mimsy' to relate the tale 'Jabberwocky', making Alice puzzled but certain something horrible had happened.
The coining of entirely new words seems to belong to the world of scifi, but was their a word 'hobbit' before Tolkien wrote about one?
Joyce's Finnegans Wake reads like the clues to some fabulously esoteric crossword puzzle, and must have been a nightmare for the typesetters who produced it, but a master like James Joyce is allowed his literary convolutions. He wrote 'the Wake' to "keep professors busy for years", and to synthesise language to do the things he wanted to do and say the things he wanted to say.
To be honest, coining new words, or using old ones in a new way, seems to be moving nearer to poetic language, and so care should be taken. You could get away with it in a fantasy but perhaps not in a social drama.
Using pronunciation creatively is far more constraining, but can be done. The word 'yes' could be written as, 'Yes!' or 'Yes?' This is not entirely creative, for the word is frequently used in speech in this way. It takes a little more mental gymnastics to write 'No?', but it is authentic nevertheless.
But what can easily be done in speech is more difficult when writing. Remember the little girl, who is asked by her mother to go next door to find out how old Mrs. Smith is, returning with the reply, "She said, 'Mind your own business'"? Making sense of the written version of what the girls mother actually said would be the business of the reader, unless the girls question, "My mother wants to know how old you are" were to be given as well, which defeats the joke somewhat. There is practically no way of indicating intonation other than perhaps by italics or bold type, or by the written reaction of the listener.
Exercises here could go along the lines of turning nouns into verbs or adjectives, and putting question marks behind utterances that are not normally questions to see if they make sense as such. If they don't work, you'd be stretching the reader's patience by using them.
This is all about giving you more choice, more freedom in your writing, and again, it's about making the reader do some work too.

Style: how to say what you want to say in the way you want it to sound.
Grammar, words, punctuation, sentence length, and repetition all combine to contribute to style. You might read the learned writer Geoffrey Leech on what style consists of and yet still be unable to manipulate your own, in the same way that you might read how to ride a bicycle and then fall off immediately you try to do it.
By far the best way of learning about style is to read different ones.
But that still won't enable you to develop styles of your own. You will already have one style, of course, but it might not suit the writing you want to do, and style can make the difference between being read and not.
As you read, you might notice that there is a relationship between style and what is being written about. I think style acts upon the reader in a disguised form, or let's say that the reader is unconscious of a style until it's perceived as the wrong one for the subject. This might sound to you like being confronted with five closed identical doors and being asked to open only the right one, but there's more to it than that. I have already hinted that attentive readers make better writers, and it's true.
Let's look at the styles in the made up extracts below:-
1. 'Cyd oozed out of the limo, delicious syrup from an upturned jar.
"Hi, honey," she purred, "wanna dance?"'
2. 'Margaret, the secretary, got out of the taxi carefully.
"Would you mind holding these for me, please?" she said.'
3. 'The car screeched to a halt, and the kid shot out like a cat from a backfire. "You want sump'n'?" he menaced.'
Three people getting out of cars and asking questions.
My questions are:
a) Tell me something about Cyd, Margaret and the kid.
b) How do you know the answers to (a)?
c) What helped you; words, grammar or what?
Very simple, but if you have answers to a, b, and c, then style, and the words I used gave them to you. Now you try it with a situation. Feeling what the characters are like will help. Be careful with cliches, there's one in (3) above.
Now for places:-
1. 'The cave he now crept into was totally black. A movement of air across his face told him he was in an enormous gallery. His breathing, irregular from exertion, cascaded round the walls and rushed back at him like a series of throaty explosions.'
2. 'After the cool of the morning, the library felt stiflingly warm, and the fusty smell of unturned pages made John's breathing short and soft.'
3. 'The steam, clamming up nostrils, damping a clean shirt down till it felt soiled, made getting undressed easier.
"Is it always this way?" Replies came in puffs of cloud, lighter than steam, from mouths that couldn't be seen. "Hotter".'
And actions:-
1. 'The deadening inertia bent his legs, his back strained, but slowly the lid came off. The wheels moved, imperceptible to the eye. Tom felt the car inch forward, two feet and the engine roared through the tailpipe, a puff of blue smoke made him cough.'
2. Walking at Jack's pace instead of his own meant that he couldn't get up his own rhythm. The pavement blurred out under his feet, the cracks that would have sounded out a tune in his ears evaporated in this hurrying to get home.'
3. 'The pages flicked past his eye, p-p-p-p- sounding dry and uncreased,
proud p-p polyanthus p-p phonetic. What was the word? 'Parlance: way of speaking as regards choice of words'. That was what he wanted.'
Exercises? You bet. With 'places' find some adjectives I could have used, and with actions, have a go at describing the same ones in a different way. Maybe you could do that with all of them?

The plot thickens.

The essence of good drama is conflict: 'The King is dead', is a report, 'The King was shot dead', is the beginning, or end of a drama.
'The King was shot dead, and the Queen pined away with grief' is a plot, according to the author E M Forster.
But who shot the King? Somebody with the means and the motive, if not a madman with a gun. Either way, as your story about the assassination of the King unfolds, someone mentioned earlier must have done it. If it happens to be someone who comes in at the last page to do it, then what you have is an imperfect plot, and unsatisfied readers. Take heart though, good writers can do it; Dickens' 'Bleak House' is just such a story with a perhaps less than perfect plot. Hortense, the maid, it turns out, is the person who killed Mr. Tulkinghorn, the lawyer, rather than those who had better reasons.
Suspense, so we are told by Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, occurs when the audience know something the characters in the film do not.
Giving readers information that you withhold from your characters places you in the position of all knowing author, that is unless you make another character let the cat out of the bag for you.
Dragging your readers along through the darkened room without telling anybody that a masked man with a gun is about to pounce on your hero, is another way, but why not use suspense and leave the hero to his own thoughts, to work it out for himself. In that way the reader can join in the working it out, leaving her/his opinions confirmed, or moved in another direction.
The first person narrative style of telling a story can still contain elements of conflict. Place doubts in that person's mind and there's your conflict. She doesn't know what she's going to do next, and neither does the reader.
Your event from your own experience, mentioned ages ago, should have an amount of conflict in it, and by conflict, I do not necessarily mean that blood has to be spilt. A mother expecting her son home by ten and then having to wait till 2am has conflict. A resolution, even better, an unexpected resolution, is what you need for the event to be worth relating in the first place. The main trick with plots, after devising one that is, is to remember it and keep on course. You don't want to back yourself into a corner you can't reasonably get out of just because you forgot what was happening.
In longer work, you'll need sub-plots too; stories within your main story, but this isn't absolutely necessary in a short story; there just isn't time.
Even sub-plots need working to a conclusion though, and one that contributes to the main one too. But all that is for the novelist.
One of the main problems writers of short stories have is that they often give themselves too much to do in the space available. A baffling array of plots and sub-plots will be too much for you to handle, and far too much for your readers. A sensitive treatment of one, fairly minor conflict, with a satisfying outcome, is much better than a super complicated one that is haphazardly resolved, involving weird and wonderful inventions to accomplish it. An intricate plot in a short story may leave the reader with the feeling that it has been heavily contrived, and thus unrealistic. Be fanciful, but not in ways that are overtly so.
I wasn't going to supply an exercise this time, but then I thought...
Think your way through a conflict. Think about each element; a promise broken, or about to be, help not returned, a reaction that wasn't quite the one that was desired or expected, something you have lived, something you maybe haven't.
Jot it or them, down, play with it, think about it, decide who tells it, or if two sides of the same coin will do it better, and remember human nature, whatever you perceive that to be.

"Dialogue, you say!"

No kitchen sink drama involves everything that is ever said in the kitchen, or anywhere else for that matter. Dramatists don't report conversations, they invent them. They select out what doesn't contribute to the unfolding drama. Were this not so, kitchen sink dramas would go on all night.
Conversational analysis, the transcribing and dissecting of each and every word, every pause, false start and noise made by two or more interlocutors, is incomprehensible to all those except the analyst. Even the persons whose speech has been recorded and transcribed wouldn't recognize the transcription as their own, at first glance. And transcribing conversation is the most time-consuming, tedious activity I can think of. So forget that amount of 'realism', it isn't worth it, and would drive an audience to distraction, not to mention the actors toiling with such a script at rehearsal. The same goes for a story.
For drama, on the stage, or in the pages of a book, is not reality, it is art posing as reality, and that is quite a different thing altogether.
I would say that brevity, clarity of meaning, and precision are what makes good dialogue. But a moment to reflect on what people actually say will help. People don't talk in sentences. That's the first thing. They interrupt, talk at each other while the other person is talking, do not talk when they are bidden. To be masterful at writing dialogue is to be masterful at handling silence, and that goes for actors too. The playwright, Harold Pinter is a master at giving silence meaning.
Brevity, saying enough, and no more is a good watchword, both in writing dialogue and narrative. A character that goes on and on will only be tolerated if that is the personality you give him and make others react to it, otherwise he'll just sound tedious. Jane Austen often gives Mrs Bennet in 'Pride and Prejudice' lots of words, but little to say, and that is how we come to know what she is like. Hemingway's characters are often taciturn, but what they do eventually say has meaning. Clarity of meaning; using words that have salience to the reader, which means being as brief as it takes, is another important characteristic of good dialogue. There might be misunderstanding between your characters; there should be none between them and the reader.
Lastly, precision; by which I mean writing dialogue that has the right amount of meaning. Don't forget that people use many different ways to convey the same meaning. We often say something other than what is expected, as a way of avoiding the subject, often called changing the subject. Done sensitively, it can still have meaning.
All the feelings known to man can be insinuated through words: blind terror, unhappiness, hate, love, sarcasm, comedy, all can be written into dialogue. Every type of response can too; truthful ones, deceitful ones, open- hearted ones, love, hate, any kind you care to name.
So, exercises for this section will be to listen more acutely, even if that means eavesdropping. Listen to the way people refuse, and acquiesce, to the way they give permission, and refuse it, and to the way they change the subject as a way of denying a proposition.
Write a short dialogue that contains an element of conflict, and don't use the words, 's/he said', after every line of utterances. Try to give your characters something to do while they are speaking; people rarely sit still while they are talking unless they happen to be on a train or as bus, and even then they might read a newspaper or unwrap sandwiches. Doing this will make your dialogue less intense, and more realistic too.
Reading dialogue in novels and short stories will give you clues to how it's done, remembering perhaps, that a character from Dickens will not use words in the way they are used today.

Writing is useful: the function of literature

In Britain, as recently as the first half of this century, whole areas of our biggest cities were covered in slum dwellings. Fortunately, most of them have been cleared away, but in Victorian times, arguably the most prosperous period Britain has ever known, large numbers of people lived in conditions that would not have been out of place in some of the poorest countries on Earth. This anomaly, of a fabulously prosperous country in which many of its population lived in conditions of abject poverty, was seen by some as the failure of the system of government, of mercantilism, and of laissez faire politics in general. Out of such a society grew the British Labour party, which pledged itself to implement social reform, which it did on a grand scale; and the birth of the National Health Service, the 'envy of the world' grew out of such social mayhem.
As well as opinions voiced by philanthropic industrialists, some courageous and determined politicians, and the will of the people at elections, a vociferous opinion has always emanated from the field of the arts and literature. Many famous writers have voiced their discontent publicly at meetings and in their writing. Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Robert Tressell, D H Lawrence, H G Wells and George Bernard Shaw were just such writers. Although they lived at different times, came from very different backgrounds, and wrote in widely varying styles and genres, they nevertheless all shared a discontent with the status quo and the apparent inability of those charged with such things to change for the better the lives of those responsible for the country's wealth.
Dickens' 'Hard Times' showed the failings of a society organised along utilitarian and industrial lines, and its almost willful neglect and inability to feed, clothe and house its people properly, despite the vast wealth made by its entrepreneurial classes.
Orwell depicted the squalor of many people's lives in England in his 'The Road to Wigan Pier', while H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw wrote pamphlets and treatises on social, economical and political injustice in what was supposed to be the home of democracy; Britain.
Writers such as D H Lawrence were as much concerned with the spiritual wellbeing of industrial society as they were with the physical living conditions prevalent in industrial areas, while Robert Tressell's 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' did as much to raise awareness of society's ills as it did to encourage the birth of socialism. Many still regard that 'novel' as the major text extolling the virtues of socialism, and that despite it being ostensibly a work of fiction.
The point I want to make is that the literary figures of the day, arguably amongst the more sensitive portion of the nation's population, saw social injustice as a stain on that nation's accomplishments. They saw it as a devaluing of all that was great or good about Britain.
Works of creative fiction can touch people in ways that other forms of mass communication cannot. The messages they attempt to convey are more believable simply because they possess the quality of altruism and grace.
Perhaps more importantly, literature is able to undermine the intellectual base of dominant ideologies, by illustration and example, and thus remove the moral base upon which such ideologies are founded. Examples abound in popular literature; surely there has never been a finer denunciation of the maxim: The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, than Dickens' portrayal of Jo the crossing sweeper in 'Bleak House' nor a clearer condemnation of the love of money for its own sake than is shown by the fate of George Eliot's Silas Marner.
All such works are usually referred to as 'the classics', which is to say that the truths they extoll have stood the test of time. They are no less valid in the new millenium than they were when they were written, and while there is still injustice, social or otherwise, literature is able to confront it, and bring to our notice the fact that nothing is new in the world. Injustice has a history, as do kings and queens.
If a nation is to improve the life chances of its population, then those who are able to visualize alternatives are invaluable. The raising to public awareness of values that are essential to the healthy growth of a nation is vital if conditions are to improve, and one of the main functions of literature is the raising of that awareness in the public consciousness; the messages that literature in general is still capable of conveying.

The things to have round you.

The things I have round me when I'm writing? Well, I have a cup of tea, that's essential, and some music, that's essential too, but it may not be for you. I should say that the most important thing to have is space, your own space where you can be quiet, where you can talk to yourself, and where you feel comfortable. Things to have near you; some kind of machine that retains what you've written; a word processor, or a computer. I clung to an old typewriter for years until I discovered the convenience of the micro-chip, but a pen and some paper will suffice if times are hard.
I can put my right hand on a dictionary, a good one, an encyclopedia, my left on a book of quotations, a thesaurus and the Writer and Artists' Yearbook, and that's it. I use a pocket dictionary for spelling and quick checks, and a larger one for more detailed definitions. My encyclopedia gives me detail that can't be found in a dictionary. You could use the Internet, but that might mean leaving your text, and a one volume encyclopedia is quicker anyway; surfing the Net might be enjoyable, but it stops you writing.
My word processor has its own thesaurus, but is nothing like as comprehensive.
A book of quotations comes in handy sometimes; I've used it two or three times writing this.
The Writer and Artists' Yearbook is really only of any use when the thing's finished, more of that later.
Everything else I need is between my ears, or in a novel in my bookcase.
When I'm not writing, when I'm out and about, I should carry a notebook and pencil, but I don't. I've tried it but it was empty after the first week, and by the second I'd forgotten where I'd put it. I don't work that way, but you might, so try it.
One technique I have when going somewhere different, somewhere interesting, is to try to notice two or three things about the place in some detail, and if you happen to notice I'm not in the conversation at one point, that's probably what I'll be doing.
To write with any serious intent is to live and breathe writing. It becomes an obsession. I once asked a prolific author friend of mine how he kept at it. His reply was that writing had got to be a habit he couldn't give up; he had to write. That is how I feel about my writing, and that is how you'll feel if you give it a chance.
Don't go anywhere or do anything without remembering what you are; a writer. Being more aware of your surroundings, your actions, what you say, and what others do and say, is the way to a fuller, more enjoyable life.
It might sound a funny thing to say, but remember to keep yourself fit as well. Sitting at a desk writing isn't the best way of taking exercise, and you'll feel a lot less tired, and a lot more alert if you take exercise regularly.
Forget the image of a room full of cigarette smoke, a whisky bottle half empty, and a writer hard at it creating a masterpiece. That's pure fiction. Surround yourself with everything you need to suit you, get a good night's sleep every night, be joyful, and your writing will be the better for it, suffering for your art went out with Vincent van Gogh.
No exercises. Just get yourself organised, and kitted out with what you need to write. Don't forget paper.

Getting it into print.

Well, that's the easy part done; you've written your story, and now you want to see it on a bookshelf.
Where you want to see it published will depend on whether you've targeted it's destination thoroughly. If you've been writing the kind of story that normally appears in a woman's magazine, you should familiarize yourself with the content, type and length of stories that regularly appear in it. Check also with an up to date copy of The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, which will tell you if the magazine you had in mind accepts unsolicited material; some do, some don't.
If you've written a collection of stories and want it to be published, your best bet is to get in touch with an agent, again you'll find details in TW&AY, which also gives good advice on: submitting material, writing for newspapers, writing magazine articles, as well as invaluable stuff on self-publishing, vanity publishing, marketing plays, writing for broadcasting, and copyright laws, as well as a lot of other vital information, plus names and addresses of editors, publishers, literary agents and broadcasting companies. At about $12 a copy, it's great value.
It seems these days that publishers and their agencies are more interested in making money than art. Maybe it's always been that way, I'm not sure. But if a publisher or an agent can be convinced that there's a follow up, or better still, several follow ups to the book you've just written, you might have a better chance of getting it published, provided that is, that it's good enough to warrant reading in the first place.
For unusual one off stuff, it might be worth your while going to a literary magazine rather than to a publisher of books.
'Stand Magazine' takes short stories, poetry, translations and literary criticism, as well as taking entries for its biennial short story and poetry competitions.
'Staple' takes the same kind of material, but doesn't offer competitions.
'Raconteur Magazine Short Story Competition' at 44, Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8LR, and the excellent 'Writing Magazine', 'Writers's News', 'Writers' Monthly', and 'Writers' Forum' offer advice to new writers, plus details of short story and poetry competitions. You'll find all the details in The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.
Just the act of entering writing competitions, let alone winning them, provides great incentive; at least somebody is going to read your story.
Not hearing whether you've won or been short-listed probably means you haven't. You shouldn't be disheartened. Hemingway, it was said, could paper the walls of his room with rejection slips at one time. Don't give up, you need determination, and a belief in yourself and your writing. You need self-confidence, and you'll get it writing. Good luck!

Robert L Fielding