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Creativity: Avoiding all references to the blindingly obvious

YOU CAN do a lot worse, says Des Waller, than sit back and dangle your toes in a venetian blind as they make excellent toe separators, particularly if you suffer from toes that tend to stick together.

John and Judith Spurway apologise for the seriousness of their suggestion in stressing the usefulness of venetian blinds in displaying Christmas cards, thus saving sticky tape, staples and 'those peculiarly nasty plastic card holders you bought from some gift catalogue'.

Sticky tape also adheres to the suggestion of D and H Hutchinson, who recommend hanging a venetian blind in front of the television 'to hide it if England are losing'. On second thoughts, they believe that masking tape might be a simpler solution to the problem. That would also free the blind for their other suggestions: a hammock for Yorkshire terriers, or a white paper substitute for the Government to write its policies on: 'They're floppy and can be covered up in an instant if the wind changes.'

Paul Clark was one of several readers who pointed out that a venetian blind is exactly what our Silly Questions correspondent needed when asking why you can't switch on the dark. He also suggests that a single slat could be used in the bath as an escape device for spiders or slipway for toy boats.

Spiders in baths also occurred in J Nicholas's proposal to convert venetian blinds into mechanised arachnid bath- time elevators. The spiders, however, would need good timing to avoid a fate analogous to Stuart Cockerill's suggestion of 'lepidopteran guillotines'. He also finds venetian blinds useful to floss many teeth simultaneously.

'Venetian blinds,' says Stewart Banfield, 'paint their gondolas white as pilot boats for Signor Berlusconi.' 'Venetian blinds,' says Wing Commander T F H Hudson, 'are, of course, for going on in Venice.'

Mollie Caird suggests practice letter- boxes for trainee postmen. R G Gregory makes draughts boards out of two sets of blinds superimposed orthogonally. Geoffrey Langley says that blinds are exceptionally useful to politicians for their capacity 'to collect vast quantities of dust to blow into the eyes of the electorate'. Nicholas Gough points out that it has been empirically verified that venetian blinds collect more dust per unit of surface area than anything else known to interior decorators.

Paul and Steph implore us to 'eschew blindingly obvious references to poking and sticks' and concentrate on such uses as: a new kind of sail which, when conditions require, enables the wind to be allowed to blow through it to varying degrees; a garden trellis; to sunbathe under, allowing a continuously variable sun-protection factor; on a giant scale as terracing for football stadiums. In case of vandalistic activity, the slats may simply be closed.

Mark Walmsley also sees benefits of slat-enhanced sunbathing 'to give a banded tan effect, vertical stripes if you wish to look taller and thinner, or horizontal if a shorter, more squat appearance is required.' He also recommends the use of venetian blinds in association with a streetlamp to create those atmospheric shadows for home video noir. It can also, he claims, provide an authentic venetian blind sound effect in radio plays.

'It occurs to me,' he adds, 'that most objects discussed in Creativity could be used in this way: collected works of Jeffrey Archer hitting skip, spider climbing out of bath, and so on.' Yet the sound effect of last week's greengrocers' surplus apostrophes somehow fails to earn a mention. Such punctuation marks were, however, mentioned by R G Gregory, who uses them as cams to move the slats when turning on the dark with a venetian blind.

'I use a venetian blind,' writes B O'Riley, 'in conjunction with my Amstrad word processor to organise the correct ordering of the pages when printing multiple copies of long documents.' Sadly, her letter was a one-off single page, so she was unable to demonstrate its efficacy. She does, however, add that in the dull moments between major literary efforts, she removes the venetian blind from the printer and uses it for silent concertina practice.

Oliver Davies sees the venetian blind as a perfect semaphore- or code-generating heliograph. He believes that use can profitably be combined with the sale of advertising space as the blind turns into a hi-tech reversible hoarding. With razor blades attached to the slats, however, he recommends them to the catering trade as high-speed vegetable dicers.

John and Fiona Earle suggest venetian blinds as stencils for painting zebras. The also make excellent racetracks for beetles and other insects, and help gardeners sow seeds in straight lines. After sowing, a blind may form the basis of a waterfall for the garden pond, or a rather tacky cat-flap.

Next week, we shall report on unusual uses for scissors, in pairs or singly. In the meantime, you might like to think of uses for swivel chairs. Suggestions will be welcome at: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.