Category Archives: Leaving Cert Paper 1

Paper 1 advice and examplars.

Feature Article example

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent Written Word Supplement on Monday 26th January 2015.


Meditating on Mindfulness

Hocus Pocus or Miracle Cure?

Susan Mullane

Close your eyes. Breathe in. Feel the oxygen flood your core, flow into your limbs and cleanse your mind. Focus your mind, slowly, on your feet… calves… thighs… abdomen… hands… arms… chest… shoulders… neck… head… face. Listen to the sounds in the room. Allow your thoughts to wander and as they appear, let them flow away. Focus on the now. You are, I am, we are. Body. Breadth. Sensation.

For some, buying into the promise of mindfulness seems like a Volkswagen camper van too far. It’s all a bit touchy-feely, hippy-dippy, thanks but no thanks, I’d rather have tea and a scone to relax. For others, it is the infiltration of mindfulness into the popular consciousness that they find unforgivable. If it had remained a minority pursuit, imported after one too many trips to Buddhist temples in Nepal, at least it would have retained some essence of its roots. But, critics argue, divorcing mindfulness from the quest for a moral life makes it an exercise in accepting the status quo, something that plays into the hands of the very forces, mostly corporate, who have popularised it for their own machiavellian purposes. Reducing stress via ten minutes of mindfulness a day boosts your employees productivity and that’s a hell of a lot cheaper than hiring extra staff! McMindfulness indeed!

But if mindfulness has made self-help gurus rich, as they pump out books promoting their expensive residential courses, does that in and of itself negate the benefits of a craze that has penetrated so deeply into our communities, reaching into schools, prisons and nursing homes? For me, the logic here is absurd. Just because something is popular, does not make it worthless. Just because it’s been adapted from its original form does not make it toxic. It may have made men rich, but perhaps that’s because it works.

I spoke to Karen Miles, a staunch advocate of mindfulness and founder of popular website “I’ve seen it transform my own life” she enthuses “and that’s why I set up the website. I wanted others to experience the same joy, but I realised that first they’d have to believe it’s worth bothering with”. Trawling her site, facebook page and twitter account,  the proliferation of testimonials could well make a believer out of this agnostic. Rather than grandiose claims, simple messages dominate. “I am so glad I did this. It was hard to keep it going by myself at first, but now I practice mindfulness everyday and I find I get a lot less stressed about the small stuff” says Annette, 35 in Louth. “Feeling calm. Have been following the tips on your site for four months and I don’t know myself. Thanks Karen” comments Jennifer on the facebook page. “@seanlala Thanks @meinmind Your site helped me to get through the stress of my exams” tweets Sean, 17. There’s plenty more in this vein, expressing simple gratitude for a coping mechanism that seems to genuinely reduce stress and anxiety in those who need it most.

Nor is mindfulness a new concept, despite what the cynics would have us believe. The earliest reference to myndfulness dates back to 1530 as a translation of the French word pensée. Indeed, Pascal’s book of the same name contains ideas which echo the core message of simply being that still resonates so powerfully with people today. “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” he maintains. Perhaps the enduring appeal of every approach that embraces the now, from yoga to pilates; and from meditation to massage, is that it allows us to forget our anxieties, our worries, our fears and to enter into that state of flow which allows us to unconsciously feel at one with the universe.

If all of that feels a little saccharine, perhaps now is an opportune moment to turn to science for some truth. Does it work? Or are we just wasting our time, handing over our hard earned cash to men in expensive suits who simply re-package the wisdom of the ancients for our modern secular age?

Whatever the original source, research by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded in 2014 that mindfulness does indeed have an effect. Following a mindfulness programme reduces many of the most toxic elements of stress, including anxiety and depression. Of course there’s a warning about the limitations of its effect. There’s no evidence that it alters your eating habits, helps you lose weight or sleep better, they add. It’s not better than exercise or behavioural therapies. To which I reply, who cares? Singing daily doesn’t make me better at playing the piano but that does not negate the joy of singing in my life. If I can find something that I can work into my daily practice and build into my life, that makes me less anxious, less stressed and less likely to become depressed, then hallelujah, bring it on.

If you can afford behavioural therapies, by all means do that too. Eating healthily and getting exercise remain the cornerstones of a healthy life, but this isn’t an either or scenario. ‘Everything that helps, helps‘ my mother used to say and she was a woman full of wisdom. In my teens, as I was prowling the house one day, stressed about my impending mock exams, she suddenly went to the press, hauled out a stack of plates from the very back and said ‘would you ever go and smash those. It might calm you down’. She also handed me a plastic bag and a dustpan and brush so I could tidy up after myself. I will never forget the liberating joy of willful destruction I experienced that day. I was aware of my body, aware of my surroundings, caught up in the present moment and relieved entirely of my despair. It didn’t last forever, but I got a few days grace from the experience, the memory of which carried me through many future moments with a smile.

Remember, also, that a societal focus on positive mental health is a wonderful development for a country whose wellbeing has been severely challenged by years of austerity, high unemployment and emigration. Embracing mindfulness is not a pretence that all is fine; rather it reflects an awareness that when all is not fine we need to build our resilience; to learn strategies that help us to cope. As we emerge into better, more hopeful times, retaining our hard earned wisdom to stay connected to that which matters should stand us in good stead in the future, provided me remember to focus on the now.

And how does it work?

Close your eyes. Breathe in. Feel the oxygen flood your core, flow into your limbs and cleanse your mind. Focus your mind, slowly, on your feet… calves… thighs… abdomen… hands… arms… chest… shoulders… neck… head… face. Listen to the sounds in the room. Allow your thoughts to wander and as they appear, let them flow away. Focus on the now. You are, I am, we are. Body. Breadth. Sensation.

Writing a feature article: here is the process I went through to create this piece.


  1. Choose a topic
  2. Brainstorm ideas
  3. Decide a basic paragraph plan & sequence for your ideas.


Writing –  a step by step guide


BYLINE (journalist’s name)

INTRODUCE AN IDEA = try to grab the readers’ attention from the get go.

PARAGRAPH 2 =  outline the ‘things people say’ about this topic

PARAGRAPH 3 = make your own stance clear

PARAGRAPH 4 = testimonials from people you’ve interviewed

PARAGRAPH 5 = look at the history of this topic or issue

PARAGRAPH 6 = ask some pointed questions

PARAGRAPH 6 = establish what our current understanding is

PARAGRAPH 7 = personal anecdote(s)

PARAGRAPH 8 = Irish context and potential impact on our society going forward

CONCLUSION = come full circle by returning to the original idea from the start of the article
REMEMBER: an article will likely include facts & statistics, rhetorical questions, contrast, anecdotes, quotes from interviewees etc…

Writing from the tree of life…

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent Written Word Supplement on Monday 26th January 2015.

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Many genres share the same roots and often, distinguishing between them can be difficult. I had this experience last year reading a piece my sister-in-law Aisling Keogh had written. After it was published a lot of people, including yours truly, asked her if it was autobiographical? Her response was just to laugh! Sure enough, on closer inspection, I registered that the main character was actually a guy, but the way she captured his voice, using first person narration, was so utterly believable, that we all struggled to accept him as an entirely fictional character.

However, even though her confessional narrator made her piece feel somewhat like a personal essay, her story also had vivid description, an evocative setting, characters who changed and developed and a plot which unfolded over a limited timeframe, so this was truly the ‘slice of life’ short stories are made of, rather than the vast limitless canvas novelists create. It was a reminder for me, trapped as I sometimes become in an exam mindset, that although genres follow certain ‘rules’, what unites them is often as powerful as what sets them apart.

With this in mind, the infographic above might help you to consider the commonalities and distinctions between the different genres of personal essay, descriptive essay and short story.

What are the main differences between a personal essay and a short story?

  1. A personal essay is always written by and about you – a teenager who lives in Ireland, goes to school and hates having to do the Leaving Cert. A short story can have anyone as the narrator – a rally driver, a model, an inanimate object, a frog.

  2. A personal essay can roam across your entire lifetime, including thoughts, opinions, hobbies, anecdotes, quotes and ideas. A short story on the other hand has a specific setting, a limited number of characters and usually happens over a very short space of time.

  3. A personal essay reflects on life, the universe and everything. A short story has a tight plot, character development and generally ends with a twist.

Tips for descriptive writing


Take this sentence: “He walked past the window

Now imagine I substitute a different verb. “Walked” doesn’t tell me a lot about HOW he walked, it just offers me a bland fact: he was walking. I can’t picture HOW he walked. But if I change the verb, look at how the picture in your head changes:

He crawled past the window He staggered past the window

He danced past the window He stumbled past the window He tip-toed past the window

TIP 2. USE ADJECTIVES. The reader needs details so that they can picture the number/quantity, size, shape, weight, colour, brightness, texture, condition, sound, smell, taste, speed, temperature, age, distance, time, origin, location, emotion towards or opinion of the thing being described.

Take this sentence: “The car raced through the town

I’ve got a good verb – “raced” but otherwise I know very little about either of the things being described – the car or the town. If I add a few adjectives, suddenly these nouns come to life!

The battered blue Mini raced through the sleepy seaside town”

WARNING: Too many adjectives can make your writing worse, particularly when you select over-used adjectives such as big/small, happy/sad, good/bad, fast/slow. Writing which draws attention to itself, or rather which draws loads of attention to itself by being overly flowery, is known as purple prose. This is an insult, not a compliment!

  • Here is an example of just enough adjectives to keep the flow of the writing:

I could see a blue light flashing in the distance. My head was throbbing and when I lifted my swollen hand to my temple, sticky crimson blood smeared my fingertips. A low moan of pain was just barely audible amid the screaming sirens and the screeching whirr of the chainsaw that was going to cut me out of the train wreckage. It was only later I realised that I was the one moaning. Everyone else was dead”

  • Now here’s an example of purple prose – add in 11 more adjectives (the ones I’ve underlined) and suddenly it goes from descriptive & well-paced to incredibly dragged out and intensely irritating!

I could see a vivid blue light flashing in the far-off distance. My heavy headachy head was throbbing and when I lifted my swollen sore hand to my aching temple, sticky, crimson blood smeared my shaking fingertips. A low moan of intense pain was just barely audible amid the screaming sirens and the screeching whirr of the vicious chainsaw that was going to soon cut me out of the twisted train wreckage. It was only later I realised that I was the one moaning. Everyone else was dead”

Finally, some writers prefer a very minimalist style to keep a fast pace in their writing – something like this:

I could see a blue light flashing. My head was throbbing. I lifted my swollen hand to my temple and blood smeared my fingertips. A moan of pain was just barely audible amid the sirens and the whirr of the chainsaw that was cutting me out of the train wreckage. It was only later I realised I was the one moaning. Everyone else was dead”



3 S’s – sight, sound, smell & 2 T’s – taste & touch.

Blind people experience the world as a rich tapestry of sounds, smells, textures and tastes. Just because they are blind does not mean their life is any less intense but they have tuned in to a way of seeing the world that does not need eyes.

This is what you need to do as a writer. If you are describing a place, imagine that you walked into that space blindfolded. Would you still know where you were? How? Close your eyes and imagine the sounds and smells, the taste of the air, the fabrics and the feel of the furniture that would indicate to you where you were even if you could not see…

Here’s an example of descriptive writing which relies on sound, smell, texture & taste.

The clink of instruments falling into metal trays and the cloying smell of drills and disinfectant filled me with despair. I was back here again, in the place from all of my nightmares, but this time was real. Now I shimmied onto the cold blue leather and the whirr as the motorised chair came to life added to my rising panic. As it stretched out beneath me, I opened my jaws until they ached with the effort; tasted the powder of the tight white gloved hand as it pulled at the corner of my mouth; squeezed my eyes shut and dug my fingernails into the soft palm of my trembling hand to distract myself from the pain. Here it comes, here it comes, the prick and the sting and the cold cold kiss of the needle, then the flooding numbness, and the feeling of temporary relief, all too soon destroyed by the searing screech of the drill as it spins hideously closer. Save me, I want to scream, but I’m already almost choking on my own spit, pooling at the back of my mouth. I wiggle my eyebrows at the nurse and she obligingly slips in the suction tube to stop me from drowning. Why is it, I ask myself, as I stare at the ceiling, weary and numb and exhausted, that a visit to the dentist always feels like a brush with death?”



Instead of saying “I walked into the dentist’s office and sat on the chair” you describe the event so that the reader feels drawn into the experience (see description above).

If you are writing a descriptive essay, then a series of seemingly unrelated word pictures (like this one) with an overarching theme (The beauty & ugliness of the world”) would work fine.

However, if this is part of a longer story, it needs to go somewhere. It needs to have a point. Perhaps it turns into an unexpected love story where the next thing the narrator notices is how lovely the dentist’s eyes are, and how gentle his hands are, and how kind his laughter. Perhaps this is a character study and the narrator is attempting to explain how she became addicted to prescription painkillers; maybe it all began with this visit to the dentist? In storytelling, it doesn’t matter where it’s going but each event that’s included is usually leading somewhere, capturing some truth, revealing something previously hidden. Unless of course it’s a Waiting for Godot-esque meditation on the fact that we spend our lives waiting for something to happen, but often very little does…in which case, carry on. Nothing to see here!

Less common Question Bs

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My News‘ may well be one of your earliest memories from primary school. Written in that special copy with a blank top third of the page so you could draw a picture, it began ‘Today is Tuesday‘, followed by a bit about the weather and perhaps some gossip about whose tooth fell out, or whose knee got cut when they tripped in the yard. Letters too formed an integral part of early childhood, in the yearly ritual of writing a letter to Santa.

This may explain why students tend to opt for Question B’s that feel comfortingly familiar – a letter, a news report or feature article, a radio talk or a series of diary entries. When less common formats appear, such as an a proposal, a script, or an interview, students tend to steer clear out of anxiety, even if the topic interests them. It’s a shame really, because they’re every bit as accessible.


  • Usually written in a question & answer format.

  • The questions you ask will depend on the person youre interviewing and on where the interview will be published (e.g. an interview for a kids magazine vs playboy magazine!)

  • Try to discover something new or interesting about the interviewee. Push them a little to reveal more about themselves so the reader gets new insights into their life and personality.

Interviewers generally think about 3 broad categories when coming up with questions to ask…


  • their childhood and how they became the person they are today.
  • past successes and failures in their career.
  • past scandals in their personal life.
  • other jobs they’ve done (or previous tours/tournaments/shows/books).


  • what are they working on currently.
  • what they like/dislike about their current job.
  • how their career impacts on their personal life.
  • recent successes and failures.
  • recent scandals and how they coped with the fall-out.


  • what is their next project.
  • will they ever change career/focus or do this until they die?
  • do they have any fears for the future? things they’re looking forward to?

The tone tends to be very informal, you write as you would speak – this is, after all, a conversation that then gets written down.

Keep the questions short and the answers fairly long. Pre-prepared questions will only get you so far – a good interviewer creates new questions on the spot which respond to what the interviewee has just said and which dig a bit deeper to get more info.

Writer’s often introduce the interview with a paragraph describing where they met, what the interviewee was wearing, the interviewee’s general mood, friendliness and demeanour and a comment on how long the writer had to wait, how long the interview lasted, who else was there, if the interviewee’s phone rang during the interview – and if they answered it!


While there are no hard and fast rules for this format, a proposal falls more or less into the category of the language of information. You should get to the point, avoid any waffle or repetition, pay close attention to structure (make sure it’s well laid out and organized) and use clear, concise language to get your message across.

Remember however, that if this proposal is going to be selected from lots of other proposals you’ll need to argue your case, persuading your audience that you are the best possible candidate and/or your idea is the best possible idea for whatever it is that you are proposing to achieve. Make it clear who will do what? when? and why?

Step 1: Introduce your idea. Begin with a brief sentence outlining what it is you propose to do / create and mentioning who your product / service or idea is aimed at.

Step 2: Flesh out the details. The body of the proposal will offer specific details on the project, outlining exactly what you propose to do/create, step by step.

Step 3: Include rationale. (1. selling points, 2. research, 3. expectations 4. expertise). This is where you explain why you believe this approach will be effective (in achieving whatever it is the people paying for this project want to achieve). Focus on the unique selling points of your idea. Have you tested this idea on a sample group? Discuss the specific needs of your target audience and how your project will meet their needs and expectations. You may wish to briefly outline why you are the perfect person to lead this project (relevant experience, qualifications, personality).

Step 4: Timeframe and financial plan. Specify how long this project will take from start to finish. Include an estimated cost and mention that a detailed set of accounts for projected costs (and potential profits if applicable) is included in the appendix.

Script / Dialogue

Writing believable but engaging dialogue is harder than you might think. Sometimes you write something you think works, but when you read it out loud your reaction is ‘what was I thinking? No-body talks like that in the real world‘. The best way to test your dialogue for authenticity is to hear it spoken aloud. If it sounds fake, cross it out and try again.

The layout is slightly different depending on whether you’re writing for stage or screen. However, it’s doubtful you’d lose marks for such pedantic details in an exam. The quality of your dialogue would be the primary concern of whoever was marking your script.

If you’re writing a scene for a stage play, the name of the character goes on the left, followed by a colon, then their dialogue. Never write under the character’s name – this makes it easier for the actors to follow whose line is next when they’re rehearsing the play. Stage directions describing the characters clothing, hairstyles, the setting, props, furniture, telling the actors what actions and body language to use, where to move etc…are written in italics. If you’re writing in an exam so you can’t use italics, keep to the left edge and leave a line between the stage directions and the dialogue.

So it looks like this:

Stage is divided in two. Stage left is a teenage girl’s bedroom. Stage right is a 1980’s kitchen. A table with an ashtray full of cigarette butts sits in the centre. Four chairs surround it.

Stage left, Marian is dancing to loud pop music. The door opens but she doesn’t notice.

Sean: Hey! HEY LOSER (shouting).

Marian: Sean get OUT! Jesus (muttering) can I not get five minutes to myself?

Marian goes to dresser, ties up loose hair, switches off iPod dock.

Sean: (quietly) Mam needs you downstairs.

Marian: (apologetic) Oh. OK. Is she ok? Did she take her tablets?

Sean: She’s fine M. Don’t panic. She just needs you to help with dinner. I tried but she didn’t trust

me not to chop a finger off and stick it in with the carrots!


If you’re writing a film script, the character name is centered, and the dialogue goes underneath it. You let us know the location, setting (interior or exterior) and time of day. If you’re cutting between scenes, CUT TO: goes on the right hand side of the page. If you’re watching one scene, but listening to voice over from characters who are elsewhere, indicate that with V.O. in brackets beside the characters name.

So it looks a little something like this:

Int. Bedroom – Day.

Marian is dancing to loud dance music. The door opens but she doesn’t notice.


Hey! HEY LOSER (shouting).


Sean get OUT! Jesus (muttering) can I not get five minutes to myself?

Marian goes to dresser, ties up loose hair, switches off iPod dock.

Sean: (quietly)

Mam needs you downstairs.


Int. Kitchen – Day.

Mother stands at kitchen window, knife in one hand, carrot in the other, staring vacantly. Her eye twitches but otherwise she is completely still.

(V. O.) Marian: (apologetic)

Oh. OK. Is she ok? Did she take her tablets?

(V.O.) Sean:

She’s fine M. Don’t panic. She just needs you to help with dinner.

I tried but she didn’t trust me not to chop a finger off and stick it in with the carrots!

Categorising Formats

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent Written Word Supplement on Monday 26th January 2015


In our daily lives we’re exposed to an almost endless array of text formats. Some slot neatly into a category: they give us information or provide us with a description. Others cross boundaries, combining logical argument, emotional persuasion and vivid imagery to make their point and cast their spell on us.

One way to force your brain to really think about what type of language use is dominant in any given format is to label it in your brain, or better still, fill them into the grid we’ve provided!

So here’s your challenge: I’ve given you a list of language types below.

Your job is to decide which category they mostly belong to. Of course there’ll be some overlap but don’t stress about that.

Instead ask yourself which type of language dominates?

If the answer is…

mostly facts = information

mostly logical opinions = argument

mostly emotive manipulation = persuasion

mostly vivid imagery = description

There’ll also be some listed below that you’d need more information about before you could intelligently decide where to put them. For example, a cookery blog would fall mostly into the language of information; a company blog would be persuasive (buy our stuff!); a political blog would be argumentative and a personal diary-style blog would be descriptive.

You may also feel that some belong in two (or more) categories as they would combine elements of more than one type of language use. My advice is leave the ones you’re not sure about til the end – maybe just mark them with an asterisk so your remember to come back to them. And if a format belongs in more than one category, that’s ok too.

Right, in no particular order, as they say on the X-factor, here are the formats.

Diary entry

Election leaflet


Letter of Application


Competition entry / Nomination

Travel Guide

Book / CD / DVD blurb

Personal Ad (e.g. on a dating website)

Letter to the Editor


Campaign speech / Political speech




Personal essay

Instructions / How to video

Twitter bio

Newspaper article (opinion piece)


Memoir / biography / autobiography

Personal Statement (e.g. applying for UCAS)


Court case (case for the prosecution / case for the defence)

Satire / Parody

Travel Writing (travelogue)



Victim impact statement

Current Affairs programme (Primetime, Tonight w/V B)


News report



Academic essay / thesis

Script / Dialogue

Labels / Packaging


Short story

Blackmail letter

Online forum (e.g.

Leaflet (e.g. in doctor’s surgery)

Billboard / poster


Movie trailer



Speech / Talk

Sports Journalism

Press Release


Categories photoIf it helps, draw a grid like the one above and as you write each one into the grid, cross it off the list.

Visual Imagery

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent Written Word Supplement on Monday 26th January 2015

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We tend to think of writing and photography as separate domains. Writing is all about word choice and sequence and structure; it’s about rhyme and rhythm and flow. Photography, on the other hand, is about framing and colour and light; it’s about focus and shutter speed and zooming in or out.

But what they have in common transcends what sets them apart. Both writers and photographers combine the raw materials of their craft in ways which can surprise and delight.

Photos and prose have the power to:

  • evoke an atmosphere
  • capture a moment
  • re-create an event whose time has passed forever
  • draw us in emotionally to the human drama of life, be it real or imaginary
  • arouse our curiosity
  • awaken our senses
  • conjure up cultures and experiences we would otherwise never encounter.

Context will determine which of the elements listed below combine to create a new work, whether written or visual. Some elements are unique to their medium; others transcend the boundaries between the two, but the key feature which unites writer and photographer is their devotion to creating powerful and memorable imagery.

Some of the ingredients they might use include:
• colour
• light and shade
• setting
• facial expressions and body language
• angle / perspective
• framing / zoom / focus
• objects / symbolism
• senses
• rhyme / sound effects
Have a look at the extract and the accompanying image below. Ask yourself which of the elements listed above are being used by the writer and photographer and what effect, if any, they’re having on you the reader / viewer?

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I didn’t plan it. I just desperately wanted to get home and not be in that car anymore. Mum had the heat pumped to the max to keep the windscreen clear but somehow the heat was adding to the clutter in my head, like the fog had evaporated from the glass and translocated into my brain. Then we hit the tailback. Miles of orange lights winking into the distance and suddenly I couldn’t bear it anymore. The silence and the heat and the oppressive weight of the tension between us. So I got out. Slammed the door, but gently, just enough so she wouldn’t have to reach over and close it again, straining the already torn rotator cuff in her left shoulder.

And then I walked. Slowly at first, glancing in at sad faces trapped in time. Rolls of fat cascading from a stubbly chin chowing down a breakfast bap; ruby lipstick caressing the wrinkly mouth of a glamorous granny; then a crying baby and a screaming couple and suddenly I pick up speed, turning to the landscape, the barren trees and the empty fields, the turloughs and the reeds and my heart rate lifts and I think ‘she’ll never catch me’ and all I can feel is the heat as my muscles strain and stretch and sing and I pray the tailback lasts forever.
Now, imagine you’ve been asked to answer the following question:

‘Imagery, both written and visual, contributes to the tense atmosphere in this extract’.
To what extent do you agree with this statement? In your answer, refer to both the written text and to the photograph which accompanies it.

Here’s a sample answer:

I find I’m not entirely in agreement with this statement, as I find the atmosphere in the photograph quite soothing. The imagery in the written text undoubtedly contributes to the tension we experience as we read. The writer zooms in on the heat and the windscreen condensation to effectively re-create the sense of claustrophobia felt by the narrator. As she observes that “somehow the heat was adding to the clutter in my brain, like the fog had evaporated from the glass and translocated into my brain”, the emphasis on confusion, on fog and on feeling too overheated is compounded when they hit a tailback. All of this imagery powerfully evokes the narrator’s frustration and her use of auditory images later in the passage, in the ‘crying baby and screaming couple’ ramps up the tension even higher.

However, in my opinion it is exclusively in the interaction between the written and visual elements that a tense atmosphere might be ascribed to the photograph. If I had seen the photo, but had not read the passage which accompanies it, I think the dominant emotion I would feel looking at it is amusement, not tension. Taken by itself, it’s a funny photo. The photographer has cleverly emphasised the irony of being told to ‘slow down’ when you’re stuck in an endless tailback by stripping the image of colour entirely, but retaining the ‘miles of orange lights winking into the distance’ in the brake lights of the cars and in the neon sign. The orange light against the black and white background catches your eye and forces you to register the humour of the situation the drivers find themselves in. Furthermore, the bare trees on the horizon add an autumnal feel and for me, the atmosphere in the photo, if examined in isolation, is quite restful. I will admit, however, that when you read the passage and then look at the photo, you do find yourself thinking less about the season and more about the frustration the drivers of these cars must be feeling as they sit there trapped in their cars.