(5) Why (l J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings; fascinate) so many readers for so long? Since the Sixties, i.e. soon after the books (2 first; publish), literary critics (3 seek) the secret of its overwhelming popularity. Most (4 now; believe) that they (5 find) it in its mixture of imagined and real languages, myths and legends. Fantasy of this kind (6 still; seem) to appeal to children and adults alike. For many years Tolkien (7 be) a little-known Oxford academic, who from the 1940s to the late 50s (8 serve) as professor of Anglo-Saxon language and literature. Yet, if he (9 still; be) alive today, he (10 find) the acclaim and popular fame more embarrassing than welcome.

If we (11 consider) his early life, his biography (12 give) us some help in understanding why as a middle-aged man he (13 write) the books the way he (14 do). Born in South Africa, he (15 grow) up quite a lonely child, and in his early years he (16 already; begin) to invent an imaginary world for himself, a world elf-like figures (17 inhabit), which (18 become) even better known following the immense success of the recent film Version.

(6) A mood of self-re-questioning (l spread) throughout British society over the last twenty years. People (2 ask) themselves what it (3 mean) to be British. The self-consciousness (4 not, arise) overnight; since the 1970s the Scots particularly (5 felt) the need to distinguish themselves from the English. In Britain's heyday, from 1860 to 1914, it (6 certainly, not, occur) to most people to question the national identity that (7 instil) in them from infancy. If, for example, in the 1880s, a Scottish merchant in Dundee who (8 make) handsome profits from Bengal jute (9 ask) whether he (10 regard) himself as Scottish rather than British, he (11 probably, reply) that he (12 not, understand) the meaning of the question. At that time the British (13 complacently, assume) for generations that everyone throughout the world (14 envy) them. In multicultural Britain the Situation (15 gradually, change) for thirty years now. People in Northern Ireland and Scotland were the first who (16 choose) to emphasize their national, rather than their British identity. Since the early 90s even the English (17 wake) up to their national identity; nowadays, at international football and rugby matches the flag of St George (18 hold) aloft especially when the English teamís opponents are the Scots.

(7) Anthony Sampson, whose "Essential Anatomy of Britain" (l first; appear) 30 years ago, (2 intend) his book to be a vigorous defence of citizens' rights; this the book in all later editions (3 remain) to this day. In the seventies he (4 not; call) it the "Anatomy of Britain", anatomy being a medical term, if he (5 not; regard) himself as a sociological doctor who (6 seek) to cure his country's ills. Unlike many of his generation, he (7 be) a convinced supporter of European Unity for many years when he (8 decide) to uncover and describe the weaknesses of Britain's institutions. If we (9 ask) Mr Sampson today whether Britain (10 become) a more democratic country, in his definition of the word "democracy", what answer (11 we; receive)? He (12 probably; approve) of what Tony Blair (13 try) to do since he (14 elect) in 1997. As Mr Sampson (15 study) British political life for thirty years now, he (16 not; expect) radical changes within the next few years. He (17 always; be) too much of a realist to cherish such illusions about as traditional a country as Britain. But the fact is that over the past thirty years the United Kingdom (18 gradually; adjust) to a future role within Europe.

(8) The University of Verona surely rues the day it (l ever, set) eyes on David Petrie. Almost since he (2 first, go) to the university as a freelance English language lecturer, Petrie (3 be) at odds with the authorities over the way they treat foreign academics. He has taken them to the highest court in Europe -and (4 soon, go back) there again - and currently has the small matter of 44 legal actions outstanding against them. The cases (5 go) on for a decade and (6 probably, continue) for many years yet.

not is Petrie's an isolated case. His Committee for the Defence of Foreign Lecturers has more than 400 members across Italy - more than a third of the foreign academics working in Italian universities. And, as Italian dons themselves (7 scarcely, recognize) yet that there may be a problem with local employment practices, they (8 be) in for a nasty surprise. Next month Petrie (9 head) for the United States, where he aims to garner support for a boycott of Italians taking up agreeable postings in the US until the dispute (10 resolve).

"One official with the Italian government (11 once, ask) me how old I (12 be)," said Petrie. -"43." - "Well," she replied, "I know my State. It's got rubber walls. You (13 be) an old man before you (14finish)this."

"I am acutely aware that this (15 become) my mission: being a lobbyist," says Petrie. "I doubt very much if I (16 see) the inside of a classroom again. But if the university (17 not, pay) me less than my Italian colleagues in the first place, 1(18 still, teach) at this university."