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The Work of the Writer Redmond O’Hanlon: English Language Task

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    Read Passage A carefully, and then answer Questions 1 and 2. Passage A In this extract Redmond O’Hanlon describes a journey into the jungle by canoe.

    James, a poet, has been eventually persuaded to accompany Redmond. Into the heart of Borneo At midday we climbed into our dugout canoe and set off up-river towards the interior. After about ten miles the fields gave way to well-established secondary forest, and then the primeval jungle began. The river seemed to close in on us: the 60-metre-high trees crowded down the slopes of the hills, almost to the water’s edge, an apparently endless chaos of different species of tree, every kind of green, even under the uniform glare of a tropical sun.

    Parasitic growths sprouted everywhere, ferns fanned out from every angle in the branches, creepers as thick as legs gripped each other and tangled down to the surface of the water, their tips twining down in the current like river-weed. The river itself began to twist and turn too, the banks behind us appearing to merge together into one vast and impenetrable thicket, shutting us in from behind. At the same time, the trees ahead stepped aside a meagre pace or two to let the river swirl down ahead.

    The outboard motor set on a wooden frame at the stern of the canoe pushed us past foaming little tributaries, islets, shingle banks strewn with huge rounded boulders, half hidden coves scooped round by whirlpools. Here the river was clear, deep green from the reflection of the trees. We really were voyaging upriver! I thought it was an optical illusion, but the canoe was actually climbing up a volume of water great enough to sustain an almost constant angle of ascent, even on the stretches of water between the jagged steps of the rapids.

    We stopped by a pile of driftwood to hide a drum of petrol to be retrieved a few days later on the return journey. A monitor lizard, reared up on its front legs, watched us for a moment with its dinosauric eyes and then scuttled away between the broken branches. A Brahminy kite, flying low enough for us to hear the rush of air through the primary feathers of its wings, circled overhead watching us, its fleckedbrown belly white in the sun. Then the bird soared away, mewing its shrill call.

    Further up, the rapids became more frequent and more turbulent and, at each one, heavy waves of water would crash over and into the boat. James, sitting opposite me on the boards in the centre of the canoe and facing upstream, was reading his way through the poems of the 18th century writer Swift, a straw boater on his bald head, his white shirt buttoned at the neck and at the wrists.

    The vein on his right temple was throbbing, a sure sign that his brain was awash with extra dissolved oxygen, and that some piece of programming, vital to the production of a future poem, was in progress. ‘James! ’ An eye opened. ‘What is it? ’ ‘Just this – if you do see a log floating upriver, let me know. ’ ‘Crocodiles? ’ ‘Well, not the one that attacks you. Not up here. But an old book I read said we might see the freshwater species. The four-and-a-half-metre one with the one-and-a-half-metre snout and all those teeth. ’ ‘Really, Redmond,’ said James, raising himself on an elbow and looking about, ‘you’re absurd!

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