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The Other News From England.

1 March 1999 - properly dated edition!

early Othernews - 1992, 93, 94.

Early Other News essays.

There were a few essays that went out with the early Other News as a freestanding item. You can read these by clicking below.

Essays.

The Soup Designer`s Handbook.

The Soup Designer`s Handbook.

London Journey - a trip from Docklands through Beckenham and back to Docklands.

Friday Woodworkers.

Episode 15.

(These articles were written in 1988, and were my first attempt at writing. Some people when shown these fell about laughing, some smiled faintly - and some yawned. I thought I was going to write a technical book, but it soon became apparent that I was much more interested in the people than the technology - and that is the main reason there are no drawings - although it might be rather good to do a couple of caricatures sometime.)

Index of Friday Woodorker articles (and a means of access).

Progress is slow but we`re still moving on.

We are still redesigning The Other News From England.

There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).

Index of earlier issues.

Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy. ALSO - Energy in Balance workshops:

at the Bonnington Centre, Vauxhall Grove, London SW8. Feb 11, 18, 25. from 7-9pm.

I think she may be being lyrical when she says "once we are balanced we will remember we can fly". The articles she has put on this site (see above) will tell you more than I can about what she does. It`s all a bit metaphysical for me.

BUT - remember "the wearing of loose trousers is recommended"!

editor@othernews.co.uk

Cartoons and graphics.

drawings click here.

sheet music click here.

NEW AREA.

So new, in fact, that there is nothing there. I want to open a section of this site to be used as a kind of green reference. Ordinary folks usually know what to do in order to be green, but there are times when (a) they don`t know the technology, or (b)they are short of ideas, or (c) they would like to see what some other people think.

So the purpose of this area will be for people to describe to others how they made their own electricity, or saved a great deal of domestic water being wasted, or captured the methane gas from their cesspit, designed their solar bicycle with regenerative braking and portable overnight windcharger, caused plants to grow in a desert, made a solar water pump, etc.

A site for forward-looking people, in fact.

It may be very difficult to edit, but I would like a few articles and tips that are concise, easily understood and ecologically useful. These will be left on the site, and gradually as the number of articles builds up hopefully somebody will construct an index. I won`t volunteer myself, as I have yet to make a subject index for the whole Other News site.

Consumers.

ABBEY NATIONAL PLC.

Last week carried an article that might be of interest to anybody thinking of taking out an Abbey National mortgage - or those who already have one.

LEXMARK 3200 PRINTER.

In an earlier issue I told you about my feelings regarding Tempo retailers and the Lexmark 3200 printer I bought from them. I have now found out another thing about it.

The Lexmark 3200 printer I got from Tempo must surely be the most uneconomical printer I could possibly have bought. The black cartridge only does about 250 pages of ordinary type - for 28! That makes each sheet cost 11.2 pence plus the cost of the paper and probably another 11.2 pence more if any colour is used! - ABOUT 23.4 PENCE A SHEET! Nearly a pound for every four sheets!

I wouldn`t recommend you to buy it - but also look at my earlier article for an idea of Tempo`s service.

Politics.

Southwark Council - continued.

LAST WEEK I wrote about Southwark Council, missing cheques, corruption, freemasons, incompetence, lack of communication............

When I write this type of article I always try to remember to send a printed copy to the main players in the scene, and this time I sent the printout to (amongst other people) Julie Belvir, the Chief Executive of Southwark, who was, after all, as far as I remember the only person whose name I had written - and that purely because she is chief executive and for no other reason.

The article was posted on the 22nd, so it probably arrived at Julie Belvir`s office on the 23rd. On the 24th., a notification came through the post telling me that a transfer had been made to my mortgage account for the amount of money I had been tryng to trace. Although the notification came on the twenty fourth, it was dated the 18th., (for a payment that should have been made on the 1st!) and it is very tempting for me to assume that it had been backdated to create the impression that it had been done without any prompting.

However, even if it had been done without any prompting, it was still 17 days late, and may never have been done without my wasting a few hours chasing it up on the phone.

Furthermore, as Southwark rarely go in for communication, I still don`t know where the original cheque went, and I still want to know where it went (that is, into who`s bank account), and what action was taken apart from alleging to make a payment to my mortgage account (for it is quite easy to send a notification without sending a cheque - I`ve seen that before).

My idea in trying to find out is to retrieve some of the thousands of pounds of rent that have apparently never arrived - and hopefully some interest too. I think it unlikely I will get any help in tracing where this last one went before it was replaced.

The other part of the idea is to discover whether I have been incompetent myself and not recorded the rents. This is always a possibility, but I am unable to discover whether this is so without Southwark first telling me where cheques that I allege have gone missing have gone to - that is, the details of the bank account they were paid into. This they do not seem at all willing to do - or maybe they are unable to do.

I am still trying to trace missing cheques.

Southwark again.

FITTING SOMEONE UP is a term normally used in cheap detective novels about bent policemen, or criminals trying to `get someone out of the way for a while` to describe a process where a case is fabricated against somebody in order to force a prosecution onto them, thereby achieving the said end (getting them out of the way, getting them fined to put pressure on them, getting them seen in a bad light, ruining their reputation, etc).

It doesn`t however seem to be confined to detective fiction, nor even just to cops and robbers, unless one thinks of the various people who operate in the council as cops and robbers also, which may be a little far-fetched, in that it is likely that only some of them are bent.

I have a story of one such fitting up, complete with it`s long history of shot and countershot from a certain Southwark resident I know rather well, and am not quite sure whether to take it seriously. However, my informant I know to be extremely honest when it comes to this sort of thing - and possibly in other things.

My informant is a landlord, so that should put your hackles up and cause you to think that he must be a lyar, but I would ask you to consider your prejudices after reading this article and see if you still think the same way.

He bought a house in Southwark with a sitting tenant, thereby getting it far cheaper than it ought to be. As it was the only thoroughly run-down house in the street, as soon as he overhauled the front the prices of all the houses in the street shot up, so that even without doing anything much he made an instant gain of something verging on 100% - and so did his neighbours. Suddenly they were the most desireable houses for miles.

The problem with doing this is that it attracts the attention of all those who are interested in a fast buck, and the council, and, of course, it attracts the attention of the tenant, who realises that had they bothered to make some effort they could have made an even greater theoretical gain themselves. What that unpleasant crew the Conservative Party used to call `the politics of envy' then begins to come into play.

The tenant, a person with a few `contacts`, may have decided that it might be a good idea to begin fitting up the owner with a view to forcing a sale, or there may have been some other reason, but whatever the reason, it was not long before the owner could no longer maintain the property because as fast as he could fix things they became unfixed again (we are talking about somebody who knows a thing or two about buildings, not a DIYer), or something else mysteriously broke.

Every time something really big broke, the tenant was able to access a person in the council who would fix up a repair notice with a specification so ridiculous that it would be ludicrous to take any notice of it.

Thus, after a few years a few of these completely ludicrous notices had been sent (thus 'fitting up' the owner) and not been complied with, the council was now in a postion to do 'works in default' (which were eventually actually done, despite the ludicrous specifications, and to perhaps the worst standard I`ve ever seen Southwark attain) and then claim payment for them. The shoddiest, cheapest builders available must have been engaged to execute the works.

My contact sued the council for about one and a half times the cost of these works, because they would all have to be undone and redone properly.

The way things were going, if my contact had been successful the council would have forked out about 125,000 by the end of the day, and the building would have been roughly where it was before they started (I believe this may become a reality, but as the meeting to decide the final outcome resulted in a gagging clause I cannot tell you for certain).

But it may surprise you to know that the story looks much more complex than just a bit of ordinary 'politics of envy'. You see, each time the owner was put under pressure a new property dealer appeared out of the woodwork to see if he could negotiate a purchase of this property that was obviously being something of a headache. It was, of course, purely chance that they arrived at the exact right moment when the pressure was at it`s highest, and it may also have been just chance that when he wouldn`t sell, or asked a realistic price, greater pressure came in the form of either council officers demanding the work should be done, or further notices - or, of course, both.

The various property companies may actually have been the same team of people using a collection of different names, but I don`t know. What I do know is that the tenant, certain council employees, the tenant`s son and certain builders seemed to my contact to work as a team. This may be just an illusion, caused by the great stress they put him under.

On one occasion some years ago now, the owner sued the the tenant for possession because the tenant was causing so much trouble, and the local court appeared to ignore all evidence against the tenant, and instead of acting properly awarded the tenant damages for harrassment (Investigation at a much later stage revealed that the address of the tenant`s barrister`s premises was an address that I had always previously thought to have been the head office of the British freemasons).

After the above hearing Safeland PLC made an approach to the landlord, and the landlord, being inquisitive, tried to find out who the directors amd shareholders of Safeland might be, half expecting to find the judge`s and barrister`s name amongst them. Safeland were so evasive on this that he was for all practical purposes unable to get this publicly available information. Safeland never tried again after that.

Of the other three companies, one tried to buy two thirds of the house (the bit with the tenant in) for about 10,000, and the other two have not so far done anything other than make an enquiry (on both occasions rather well timed).

After nine years of evasion, dodging about, inefficiency, waste, bodgery (like most council building jobs, builders came to bodge up the damage they had done last time they were there bodging things up), the matter came to a head the other day. There was a mediation hearing.

During the two weeks running up to the hearing, the council seemed to try a bit of fitting up with a letter threatening impending prosecution for the non-rectification of a 'nuisance', and the landlord had a tyre punctured on his parked car (but as the tenant`s son seemed to have been smoking dope on the evening it occurred he assumed it was just the tenant`s son`s effort).

During the final week before the hearing, the tenant`s son`s car (one of several he parked in the street and in the garden against the owner`s will) had a wheel removed, and the said lad was out in the street bellowing 'you been up to your tricks again?' loud enough for everyone to hear, and the landlord walked on laughing because he knew that this particular young man is thought of by some neighbours as a thief of bicycles and bits thereof (particularly wheels!)

Young men of this type don`t give up very easily - especially if they have already been trying for 15 years or so - and the evening before the hearing he was out in the street again bellowing much the same thing, to which this time the landlord retorted 'you`ll have to grow up some day, you know'. This shut him up for some reason.

The day of the hearing............well, he is an honourable type, and I don`t know what happened because part of the final agreement was that he would not tell anybody about the proceedings or the outcome.

What I do know is that as he walked up to the house after the hearing, he saw the lad putting the wheel back on his car! The wheel was a very perfect match to the other wheels, so ..........

These sort of stories must inevitably make people think of freemasons, but it seems more likely to me that what we could have here is a team of some other 'secret society' types who know how to lay their hands on a cheap property. They could operate in much the same way, making sure they had one member in each trade (the builders who bodged the house up made a bit, and there could have been someone else), and it would not be necessary to be national or international to make a fast buck, as long as you honorably divided the pickings amongst those who helped to attain them. But then again, freemasons are already organised in such a way that this kind of thing would be easy for them.

Of course, in most of these cheap detective stories one of the villains thinks he`s been short-changed and shops the others in the end, but as far as I know it hasn`t happened yet.

On the other hand, it may just be total incompetence, political idealism, Citizen Smith, Class War, envy, greed, or any number of juvenile and cranky teenage ideas coming into play, and none of this detective story stuff.

Whatever the cause, it is totally unacceptable to have one`s employees (`m a council tax payer sometimes) behaving in this way (in a strange way like the Patricians of ancient Rome), and there may be some actual prosecutable (even without fitting up) crimes involved - although it is unlikely they will ever be uncovered.

Unions and Work.

Personnel departments.

When I had been teaching a certain subject to adults two days a week for about fifteen years another similar job came along, but the premises were nowhere near as good, the students had been lifting equipment (thereby suggesting discontent and boredom with the classes) and there being limited equipment and storage space there was little chance of doing any work to a good standard.

So having built the previous workshop and class from the ground up I decided I would apply for this one as a challenge.

I filled in a form with my qualifications (BA etc. - all sorts of old bull), I was interviewed, I waited, and in a few weeks a printed sheet came through the post regretting that I was not short listed for the job because of lack of experience!

This year, by chance, I discovered that the college had tried several well qualified (!) people in the job and had all but given up because the class continued to have problems.

Whilst I was able to smile to myself over this, I do feel I ought to point out that the reason they have had problems over the years may be that they don`t know how to choose staff. Now this must be a bit of a shock to a trained personnel officer, but the evidence is there for all to see. If the personnel officer knew how to choose staff there would by now have been a flourishing and creative class with students coming back year after year, and new students enrolling because of their friends` involvement and enthusiasm.

Whilst I was looking about for work at this stage of my life, I discovered that most (if not all) universities and colleges had taken on 'personnel services' to do their selecting for them (presumably for economic reasons), and as I know the community of students I am able to discover that in not a few cases these colleges now run classes so boring that whilst students enrol because of the class title they rarely stay the whole course - it`s just too damn tedious for them. The college don`t mind once they`ve collected the fees.

The staff are all eminently qualified, because that is the only thing a personnel service can readily identify. The problem may be that the only people who are willing to flog their guts out for a meaningless qualification are people who cannot avoid being boring, but it is much more likely that personnel firms are sifting out the most suitable in order to favour the most qualified.

It is not a job to be done by certificates, statistics or service level agreements, but by intuition, imagination, flexibility, creativity. Perhpas the answer is to sack the personnel staff and the principal and get on with some real teaching.

Sacking people.

There has been a fashion for many years of sacking people in the interests of 'efficiency' (that is, profit for shareholders). Aside from telephone queuing systems this has been almost the only idea business has come up with in recent years, such are it`s limitations of thought. It is anyway a very old idea that has been tried before, and as far as I know has never worked in the long run.

Telephone queuing systems are a way of making you, the customer, pay for the firm`s insufficiency of staff with your time and your telephone bill. It is also a way of turning staff into overworked battery hens, and although that might be their choice, it is unlikely to do them or their employer any good.

But sacking people in the interests of `efficiency` is the sort of thing that only someone with the limitations of thought of a banker could do (apparently most managers). It leaves no freedom for creativity (in the broadest sense) because the battery hen people who are doing the job (often the source of the few ideas put forward and claimed by managers) are so overworked that they do not get the time to think.

Putting people in a queue, most of us will know, pretty well guarantees their contempt, whilst those persons who were fired are no longer able to buy your products because they are too broke.

In the long run treating people like battery hens may well bring your business to it`s knees - and it will be a good thing if it does, because it might make space for a decent employer to do the job properly.

PIPS Alternative disco.

(held over from last week)

These people keep springing up and then disappearing again. They have used a selection of names, but the people always seem to be the same. They are a disco without smoke, alcohol or drugs, and serve refreshments (probably very healthy, macrobiotic, veggy, etc) and dance to a wide range of types of music - including "classical", I am told. Sometimes they go to the Bonnington Cafe afterwards. Also, they occasionally turn up at a LETSSwing gig as a dancing group, and make the dancing a great deal more fun.

Saturdays 7-10pm , 6 March 3 April, 8th May, at The Contact Centre, 60 Hambolt Rd., London SW4. (10 mins from Clapham Common tube stn. or buses 137, 35, 37. For info ring Kathy Hughes 0181 671 7300. They would like more participants.

The Health Service.

Have we still got one, or have we only got a few firms who sew up hernias for a very high fee?

Wanted

A person to helpo make up a subject index for the growing numbers of articles on The Other News From England. Email editor@othernews.co.uk

8- or more- track tape recorder. email pcj@gn.apc.org

Also want good working VW or Volvo 7 series 2.4litre turbodiesel engine. This is the type that goes in an LT van. email pcj@gn.apc.org

#2,000,000 at 0% interest would quite good too, although I would probably waste quite a lot of it employing musicians to do the great work.

All material on this site is copyright. Contact me if you want to use it. I am quite flexible. editor@othernews.co.uk

Educational non-profit use is free but with permission.

That`s all this week folks