creativity headfuls of ideas on cloud nine

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Clouds, says Rosie Trevelyan, were invented by Richard Branson to bring visual relief to passengers staring out of the windows on long- haul flights. Clouds, says Len Clarke, are very useful for naughty politicians to be under. Mollie Caird says they are useful for wandering lonely as, while Nicholas James takes a more social approach, suggesting clouds should be introduced to each other more often, so that they won't have to wander lonely.

Clouds, says Michael Rubinstein, may feed the visual poetic imagination almost beyond endurance. Bringing them down to earth, however, he suggests they may be used "to wallow in a fog of pseudo-romantic euphoria". Clouds are for cuckoos to land on, says Betty Roe.

Roll up and use as earplugs for giants, suggests Jan Moor. Pull down the soft woolly ones, advises Bill Fowler, and use for packing delicate items or as ear-muffs for elephants. Or use to plug the holes in the ozone layer. "The Government," Duncan Bull says, "should confiscate every cloud and extract the silver lining. The resultant worthless clouds would be stockpiled and sold to needy water companies during droughts. (Several other readers suggested transferring silver linings from clouds to suits or duvets to increase their value or tog value.)

"If bottled," says Janet Walker, "they could be used by psychiatrists who run out of ink for Rorschach tests." Stuart Cooper gives instructions for constructing a personal shower from a cloud and a very long piece of string. Richard Branson returns in an idea from Mike Farriss, who suggests stuffing cumulus clouds into the Virgin king's balloon to keep it airborne. More ideas:

Store on car roof and drop between low sun and windscreen when necessary (Jeanette Solomons); potty-train them and sell results to Yorkshire Water, or blast into space to create White Holes, or cut up to make wigs for bald sheep (A Marshall).

Gilbert Wood advises capturing clouds from aircraft and using their contents to make tea or coffee for the passengers, thus reducing the amount of water needed on board, and thereby saving fuel. "The commercial and environmental benefits are obvious," he says.

"Why not put President Chirac into a cellar with fungus and dynamite and let him make his own mushroom cloud?" asks David Urquhart.

Nicholas E Gough sent us, in a brandy bottle, 50ml of reconstituted cloud - very useful if you are thirsty, he claims. N Edwards sugg- ests drying clouds for convenient storage. "Then, whenever there's a drought, you can just add water and make rain."

William Salaman says there are four main types of cloud: Sheadtratus, Nimbheadus, Cheadumulus and Cheadirrus, but we think his head may be in the clouds.

Prizes to Bill Fowler, A Marshall and Gilbert Wood. Next week is Christmas. We hope you have a merry one and return refreshed for our next encounter, with mad cows. Meanwhile, for when we return in the new year, we are looking for things to do with 1996. All suggestions will be very welcome at: Creativity, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

Many thanks to all who have contributed throughout 1995. And a creative new year.

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