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The Other News From England.

8 March 1999

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.


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 16.

(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.

A READER COMPLAINED that it was not possible to go back more than 6 articles in Gabriele`s area. Regrettably this is because there is no index, and I have not the time to organise one yet. However, for those determined enough to find the early ones, they should be accessible by going to an early Other News and clicking through from it. This will not be fast, but will do the job. They started about November 1997 I think.

Cartoons and graphics.

drawings click here.

sheet music click here.


(I wish someone would make a contribution before I am forced to put in some of my own stuff here).

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.



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

Interestingly, one of the London papers described them as being "among the greediest".

The Health Service.

A YOUNG MAN OF what appeared to be normal intelligence but no ability to speak managed to explain to me that they were about to knock down the hospital, and as he had lived there for a while he wanted to know why?

It was difficult to just say "greed" because that would then need a long explanation unless he had already considered the question. I then thought about the Thatcher time and realised that he was too young to know what I was talking about - and anyway might not have learnt to read (another way of finding things out) on account of nobody realising his potential to do so.

So I ended up shrugging.

But he had challenged my ability to communicate an idea, and this caused me to think about what exactly I did mean. Well, what I meant was this:

The question that must first have arisen I presume was along these lines: There is an awful lot of valueable land there. How can we lay hold of it whilst seeming to be thinking of the best interests of the patients?

This young man`s hospital had a great amount of land, and although it was probably populated by those who lived in it at an acceptable density for the area (an acceptable number of persons per acre) it was also fine land on which to build an estate of cheapskate housing to make a quick buck - particularly if developed to a higher density than intended for the area by the various processes available to developers (stuff to do with designing so that it is possible to house more than the intended number of occupants, changing the designed proportions between drawing board and finished property, moving sites about, fiddling this, fiddling that).

Who are the developers? It is always difficult to know, but it is not difficult to surmise that they have friends on the health authority, or are themselves on the health authority, and that they will make an extremely fat profit. And that the profit, compared to serving the community (and all that twaddle), must surely be a priority. As long as everybody in a controlling position gets a tiny crust, there should be no difficulties in pushing this matter through......a cut-price loan should suffice in most cases. Etc.

And as to the people who live there now - well, they would not be thought of as being of any importance - certainly nothing worth putting any money into, or missing a fast buck for, they`re only a bunch of nutters, they will anyway be better off in the community, wouldn`t appreciate wealth, etc........

The peculiar thing is that once this idea had started perfectly normal people just accepted it, and once having accepted it and seen it in action they still went on accepting it despite the evidence. I suppose it was just too difficult to stop.

There is just a faint hope that the present government might start thinking in terms of serving the public, but I doubt that even if they do they will have the tools and ability to do so. If they do, this just might be one of the Thatcher strategies they will consider worth reversing.


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 22.4 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.



"A Certain Dullness of the ******* Imagination.

" We have already shown reason for our statement that the *********** system was a very unsound political growth indeed. It is absurd to write of its statecraft; it had none. At its best it had a bureaucratic administration which kept the peace ******* for a time and failed altogether to secure it.

"Let us note here the main factors in its failure.

"The clue to all its failures lies in the absence of any free mental activity and any organization for the increase, development and application of knowledge. It respected wealth and it despised science. It gave government to the rich, and imagined that wise men could be bought and bargained for in the ****** markets when they were needed. It was, therefore, a colossally ignorant and unimaginative empire. It foresaw nothing."

Ring a bell? Does it not sound strangely like the Thatcher government, and any government since then up to this present day?

It is in fact a quote from H. G. Wells` "Outline of History" written at the beginning of this century, and the government he is talking about is the government of the Roman Empire round about 150 AD! The bits that have been replaced by asterisks are as follows (from the top): (1) Roman (2) Roman Empire (3) in the world (4) slave.

Wells was a subtle writer, and realised that the reader had already taken in the fact that the Romans did have a sort of education - one were you learnt what other people already knew and nothing else - and that therefore it could be readily dismissed, and so the bit about development of knowledge could easily be compared to a contemporary English government`s efforts.

But it doesn`t end there. He wrote about the whole Roman period from some hundreds of years before Christ to some hundreds of years after. Apart from the likeness of Cato the Censor to many modern persons in politics (he was the parsimonious git who said that when a slave wasn`t sleeping he should be working, and spent his life going round trying to stop people enjoying themselves - he was quite popular with some Romans), there is a huge catalogue of persons who did not know how to behave themselves, any number of whom could be reasonably compared with modern-day political figures.

When I started writing this article I was thinking in terms of comparing these Romans with modern English political people, which I would not consider unreasonable, but as soon as I began to write it I began to realise that the same things could be said of most elected and unelected political people in the world: A collection of adventurers, thieves, rascals, murderers, looters and ransomers, slave-drivers, often intellectually limited, and not much else.

Surely we can do better than that? This is, after all, at least 1,500 years later. Have we learnt nothing?



I DISCOVERED quite by chance that most of the staff of Southwark Council were out on strike this Tuesday. Then on Thursday I discovered quite by chance that the Labour Whip Cris Claridge was resigning. I admire her for doing so, but question the wisdom of such a move, given that she may be the only person on the council who wishes to stand up for a decent standard of conduct towards council employees, and I wondered if the employees understood that the council was liable for a redundancy payment for virtually all of them, including those who were on "temporary contracts", "sessional contracts", and the like - almost whatever the contract says to the contrary. I have put it to the test, and this seems to be part of European law, as long as you have been in the job at least two years.

However, I was digressing there. I am told the reason they were on strike was that through a marvellous new American management system that required them all to pick on the person below them in the pecking order in order to increase their own expected pay (they couldn`t be sure of it because of the one pecking from above) the whole operation had ground to a halt, and was making everybody unhappy - except possibly the few who have managed to stay at the top of this order.

Furthermore, the council had announced that whoever did not accept the new contract was to be dismissed. And if they are the sort of council I think they are, they will probably behave like Bromley council and fight tooth and nail to avoid making statutory redundancy payments to anybody who should by chance discover that they had a right to receive one - with certain predictable exceptions.

(Southwark`s head of communications {fancy! communications! See earlier articles} was reported to have said that the council had consulted with the unions throughout and that its door was always open. People do sometimes leave their doors open, but that doesn`t necessarily mean they would take any notice of callers - they don`t seem to in Bromley. What has allegedly happened here is clearly something that a lot of people do not agree with).

I am not surprised that it should make them unhappy. I think it would make me unhappy to work under such circumstances. In fact, it would probably make me so unhappy that I would contrive to get sacked so that I could claim redundancy and then sign on as unemployed and live on that pittance. The council, no doubt, would be pleased to be able to lose another member of it`s staff, thereby leaving that extra bit of budget to find it`s way to the top of the pile, and I have already suggested they might not bother to tell me that I could claim redundancy - when it is almost certainly part of their agreement with the unions to tell me so.

It was purely chance that the previous two weeks I have been writing about how much doesn`t seem to work in Southwark, how little they are able to communicate, how little intelligence they are able to summon in their dealings with the public, how confused and confusing their council tax accounts are, how incompetent various people seem to be, how it appears as though they are riddled with corruption and possible "liberating of funds" to unknown destinations.......

And then this strike comes along and puts another dimension on it. Working conditions may be (for as Southwark seems to try to keep everything a secret, we don`t know) such that it only appears as though these things are happening, when perhaps there are so few employees (and all very young and inexperienced because nobody with experience would work for an organisation that runs such a system of management or for so little money) that it is impossible to do anything properly.

I had suspected it all along, but would still love to know where those cheques I talked about last week went. The problem is, they haven`t the staff to answer my query, and so because they don`t answer it I keep on writing to them again and again, thus increasing the backlog of unanswered mail for them to chuck in the shredder.

It`s very unecological, very uncivilised, inefficient, arrogant, and generally offensive, but they can`t help it. The administrators presumably get their instructions from central government, and are getting an ever-reducing budget to split more and more parsimoniously amongst themselves, the slaves and their drivers.

More Southwark.

AN ALMOST COMPLETELY INCOMPREHENSIBLE note came from the Council tax department telling me that I had overpaid the council tax last year by several hundred pounds and therefore had a large credit to my account (comprehensible to that extent), followed by a note from the bailliffs employed by the council demanding even more hundreds of pounds. They both came within a fortnight of each other. Between the two was another one whose meaning was not clear to me.

I have around me several notices of both these types, and I have on disk various letters that have been sent to the council in attempts to discover what they all mean, but only one reply to one letter - one about council tax benefit - presumably they replied because they hadn`t realised I was also a landlord or they wouldn`t have bothered to write. All landlords in Southwark are wicked, as everyone knows.

Since I have never understood any communication from the council to do with council tax other than the council tax account itself without other additional figures, and I have learnt not to trust the council`s bailiffs (I could tell you one or two stories about them, but not now), I am in a bit of a spot.

I have considered a selection of possible solutions:

Anyway, there is no hearing, and there was no hearing to which I was invited when the council allegedly managed to obtain a liability order dated 19/09/97. But even if there had been, I don`t really know what a liability order is.

The questions are:

It seems to me we are up against the usual Southwark stuff.

Did I tell you about the lady whose house was emptied so that they could do repairs and then when the things were returned all the Clarice Cliff and antique stuff had somehow got lost along the way? I didn`t study it in any detail, but noticed a headline telling us something along the lines of "Council Burgled Tenant Whilst Doing Repairs."

Ancient Rome again.

More about modern Southwark next week I think.

Unions and Work.

Sacking people.

(Held from last week in solidarity with the Southwark Council staff. If they weren`t there I might have nothing to write about.)

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 again.)

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.


A person to help make up a subject index for the growing numbers of articles on The Other News From England. Email

8- or more- track tape recorder. email

Also want good working VW or Volvo 7 series 2.4litre turbodiesel engine. This is the type that goes in an LT van or a Volvo 740TD. email

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.

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From The Other News From England.

That`s all this week folks