Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Lesson Learned

Not all that is gold, glitters, you know. Look at me. I’m a handsome Prince in disguise: I’m a rich man in a poor man’s garb; I’m Einstein in a lunatic asylum.
One day, I thought I’d go and take a look at my father’s company’s Head Office in Hounslow, Hertfordshire. I was wearing my usual stuff – jeans and a Tee-shirt – trainers and a baseball hat – like I said, not the kind of clothing you normally associate with the wealthy.
I was just getting into the lift – that one for the CEO and his minions – that one with gold buttons – that one that is the only one to go to the 43rd floor – my dad’s Penthouse flat/office.
I knew he’d be up there, doing all that vital stuff he has to do to keep his firm up there with the best – practicing his putting stroke into an upturned empty coffee cup lying facing him in the opposite corner of the room.
“How was your day, dear?” my Mum would ask him as he stepped through the front door.
“Been hard at it all day, love”, was his usual reply. I knew better.
The lift door opened, and there in front of me was a man in what we used to call a pin stripe suit.
“Hey,” I said, “I didn’t think anybody still wore those things!”
The man straightened with annoyance. The hair on the back of his neck stuck out like a porcupine’s bottom. This man was angry, I could tell.
“And just where do you think you are going?” he asked shirtily.
“Oh, just up to see the old man,” I replied.
He stiffened again.
“I don’t think so, young man,” and he barred my way and pressed one of the gold plated buttons – number 43.
I took another lift.
“I can walk the last one, I said to myself. I went to the next lift and pressed the UP button – the door opened, and a man in blue denim overalls greeted me.
“Going up, Sir?” he asked.
“Sure am,” I said cheerily”, and up went the lift.
“Which floor, sir?” I pointed to 42.
“I can walk the last one,” I said.
“Bbbut, sssir, you can’t go to the 43rd!”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because the boss will be busy. He’s always busy in the afternoons.”
“I know,” I said, “that won’t be a problem.”
“But you need to make an appointment, everybody does.. except ….”
“Except his CEO, right?”
“Exactly so, sir” the man said. “He doesn’t like surprises.”
“He’s going to get one today, isn’t he?” I laughed.
“Sir, sir, let me come up with you so that I can knock on his door.”
“OK, sure, “I said, “come with me.”
On the long trip up to the 42nd floor, I got to know Mr. Bloggs, the cleaner. I got to know that he was a very honest man, that he loved working for my Dad, and that he would do anything for him.
As the lift stopped and we trudged up the stairs to the penthouse suite, the man in the pin striped suite appeared above us.
“And just where do you think you two are going?” he shouted stiffly.
Before I could say anything, Bloggs was whispering to me.
“This is Mr. Smith, the managing director, nobody likes him.”
I whispered back, “I’m not surprised.”
Suddenly, Smith was pushing the little cleaner backwards. He spun past me and banged his head on the corner of the wall. Insensible, he fell down the stairs and lay dead still in a heap.
“Why did you do that?” I shouted up at Smith.
“He had it coming,” Smith hotly replied.
Suddenly, the landing light went on above us. My father appeared, red in the face and looking slightly frightened.
“Robert, what are you doing here?” he asked me.
“Coming to see you, Dad,” I said.
“DAD??” said Smith shakily.
“Yep, that’s right, Dad.”
That was all last year. The brass plate on the CEO’s door now reads
Joe Bloggs
Smith cleans the stairs and landings.
Robert L. Fielding

Friday, March 19, 2010

Watching TV for too long

Socratic Dialogue 2: Watching television for too long

Aisha and Maryam discuss another topic today: whether students should spend less time watching TV.

Aisha: Some people think that watching TV for long periods of time isn’t beneficial.
Maryam: What are their reasons – why do they think that?
A: Primarily because it is a waste of one’s time.
M: A waste of whose time in particular?
A: Students – some people think that students often watch TV for far too much time, and could be doing other things, things that are more useful.
M: What sort of things?
A: Well, studying, of course – reading, to begin with. Students need to read.
M: Couldn’t they get information from watching TV?
A: I hardly think so. Television programmes do not usually cover the subjects that students need to find out about.
M: The History Channel shows good programs on world events of the past. What about that?
A: That is true, it does, but how many students sit down to watch the History channel?
M: Not many, most probably. But what about News broadcasts? Surely students watch those, don ‘t they?
A: I am sure that some do, yes, but most of the time students watch soaps – serials, and these have little or no real educational value.
M: What other objections do people have to students watching too much TV?
A: That while watching TV, students go without getting enough physical exercise, and that watching TV adversely affects students’ eyesight.
M: Both are probably true. Do they have any other objections?
A: Yes, their main objection, I think, is that young, impressionable people will change their attitudes and their behavior because they sit too long in front of a television set.
M: I have to say that I agree, though in a way they probably haven’t thought of.
A: Which way? What do you mean?
M: I mean that if anyone sits watching TV for too long, they become isolated from their friends and their families. Watching TV is essentially a solitary experience, even though there may be other people watching with them. People usually do not converse while watching TV programmes. Most people don’t like the interruptions caused by someone talking.
A: So you think we become more insular to each other, do you?
M: Yes, I do, and I think that is the worst effect watching TV has on society in general.
Robert L. Fielding

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Who needs it?
Robert L. Fielding
I don’t need most things. I just need food and water, and something to read – a newspaper in the morning, a book in the evening. And I need something to keep me abreast of the times in which I live – not just a newspaper, but something that will let me keep up with everything – my culture. I need a television – I like watching films, documentaries, cartoons, the weather forecast – my needs are simple.
But however simple my needs may be, and I think you’ll agree, they are simple, relatively simple, I am having difficulty meeting them – having them met, if you prefer.
Last week, I misplaced my wallet. I didn’t drop it or leave it somewhere; I put it down in the house and the dog ate it – that kind of ‘misplaced’.
Since then, I have had trouble – big trouble; I can no longer prove who I am. The people where I work can’t or won’t help me, and even if they did – even if they came with me to the bank and vouched for me, who believes anyone anymore?
That stuff in your wallet – it’s you – it’s who you are! Your bank cards, your Driving Licence, your Library card, all that – and the numbers too – they tell people who you are.
It’s like I’m suddenly the invisible man, too. I lost all those cards with my mug shot on them. Now, I can’t even prove who I am when I show up in person – it’s like nobody knows me, or wants to know me – that’s nearer to the truth, or maybe I’m just paranoid.
Everything I was, everything I undoubtedly am, all of my past, and the here and now, and my future – all that has been wiped, as these nerds say. It’s gone, finished, and now I’m wandering around cold and hungry.
I’m alone in a crowd, hungry at a feast, bone dry thirsty by a well full of crystal clear water. I’m nobody anymore.
I spoke to the only pal I’ve got left, a man by the name of Luke. Luke’s a philosopher – teaches Ethics at that university over there. Guess what he asked me the other day: “How can I prove who I am?” I nearly hit him.
“That’s just it,” I told him, “I can’t!”
“Do you think?” he asked me. What a curious question.
“Sure I think,” I replied.
“Then you are,” he laughed, and walked off to one of his classrooms.
That gave me an idea. I thought, “If I think, I am!” From that day on, I’ve been successful. I have my life back. I grew in confidence day by day until I didn’t need those cards. I am a person, and I can prove it. Here is something I have just written. Let me read it to you.
‘Life is all there is, your heart beating against your shirt.
Life is all there is, thoughts tripping out of your head.
Be what you think you are, be what you are.
Don’t wait for anyone to tell you who you are.
You tell them who you are, and that’s who you are!”
That was two years ago. But today, I’m a man with a need to be recognized. I bought all that philosophical stuff – ‘I’m pink, therefore I’m spam!’
But I’ve got needs, physical and mental – emotional and real – rational and irrational. And all I have that shows the world who I am is this card I found in an old pair of trousers hanging in my closet. I exist, but only in cyberspace, and that has its good possibilities and its bad sides.

Robert L. Fielding
Language lecturer - Writer

I mean, if you take a look at my homepage, there’s a shot of me from way back when. I was a kid of 24. What am I talking about? I wasn’t a kid, but a fully grown man. It’s just that now I look at that photo of me walking the hills and valleys of my country, it seems like I didn’t really know anything about life – not real life – not living for years and years – existing, but not really living. Living without being; oh, I was real alright – still am, only now, as I told you, I’ve got this identity thing – I don’t think it’s a crisis – maybe it is. You tell me.

So I got to thinking, if I don’t exist, if I only exist in flesh and blood, and in cyberspace – out there, maybe, just maybe, I can go back to being who I really want to be – a 24 year old hill walker. Let’s pretend I’m this 24 year old – let’s pretend I’m fit – that I can walk 10 hours one day and do it all over again, day after day.
I look at the card I showed you. I’m a writer now. I was a writer back then. I just never thought to tell anybody about it.

So I got a nom de plume and wrote and wrote and wrote. Fame is the spur. That’s true, but it isn’t my spur. I prefer anonymity – this from a guy who was just talking about losing his identity. But losing your identity and gaining anonymity are worlds apart, let me tell you.
You’ll have seen my recent titles, won’t you?
‘Re-inventing yourself: it’s never too late!’
‘Getting your life back on track!’
Don’t look for me by name though. Remember, I don’t exist, least not in the ways you mean!
Robert L. Fielding

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Socratic Dialogue - Tourism in UAE

Socratic Dialogues
Robert L. Fielding
Socratic dialogues that include questioning and answering techniques can be used to find reasons for opinion. Level 2 Writing students recently completed their Writing Project 1 (Defending an opinion), and used three topics.

Here, one of these (It is good that tourists come to the UAE.) will be used to illustrate a Socratic dialogue. This dialogue is between two students: Aisha and Maryam.

Aisha: I think it is good that tourists come to the United Arab Emirates.
Maryam: Good for whom; the country or the tourists?
A: I would say it is good for both.
M: Why do you say that? How does the country benefit?
A: Tourists spend a lot of money here – they stay in hotels, they eat in restaurants, and they buy souvenirs to take back to their families and their friends. The local economy must benefit by an influx of foreign currency.
M: That seems true. What about the tourists themselves, how do they benefit from their visits here?
A: I should say that they enjoy their time here. We have a lot of things to attract them: nice, clean, safe beaches, interesting sites that show our history, and our modern side – all the new buildings and structures in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
M: You mean places like Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, and Atlantis Hotel and Jumeirah Palm in Dubai?
A: Yes, I do. Places such as these are big attractions for tourists. They show how our country has rapidly developed, and how it is continuing to develop as a business hub in the region.
M: But are tourists really concerned with business? They are here on holiday, surely – here to relax and enjoy the sunshine.
A: Yes, they are, that is true, but when they return home, to work for companies, or their own companies.
M: I see, so you think that they see business opportunities while they are here?
A: I am sure some do – not all the time, and not every tourist, but some will think about what they have seen here, and some will even make connections while they are here on holiday. That is how tourism benefits the UAE and those who visit these shores.
Robert L. Fielding