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The Other News From England

10 NOV 1997.

The Other News is made up as a single document, so that you can scroll your way through it.

BUT I am also working on links so that you an skip straight from the index to a given subject. Unfortunately, I can`t get them to work at present, so I have just made a list of subjects. At least you can get an idea of how the thing will work when it`s done.

none of these links except "Index of earlier issues" work at the moment, so don`t press them because your browser will waste time not finding them.



Learning to play music

Unions and work

Flatfoot Spin

Stop Press

Index of earlier issues. (this link should work)

For conditions see end of document.


Wanted cheap laptop for writing the Other News when away from base.

Who knows where on the Internet I can get a good freeware or shareware score-writing program that will run on my p100? Please contact


Per capita motor fuel rationing

Looking at an earlier edition, I realise I didn`t clarify what I meant by per capita motor fuel rationing, so I will have another go.

Per capita motor fuel rationing is a system by which every person, upon reaching a certain age (probably 18 is best) receives a right to a quantity of motor fuel per annum, week, etc. This allowance can be sold, used, thrown away or whatever the owner wants to do with it.

The purpose of this manoeuvre is to enable the government to have some control over the total amount of vehicle miles travelled, the total amount of fuel used, and to encourage the public to make some attempts at economy.

But it would have spin-offs as listed in Other News 27 Oct.

Black market? Doesn`t exist because it is not illegal to sell your ration.

Forgery? Happens with paper money, and presumably will happen on roughly on the same scale as it does with paper money if forgery is as vigorously prosecuted. So..........

On the other hand, for a person to be able to be compensated for not using their car by selling the ration might be quite a good idea, and those who never have cars would also be rewarded for their good sense.

As to fools like me, we`d have to pay for our folly, but we`d also be put in a position where it is worth thinking of ways to make vehicles do more for the same amount of fuel, and ways of using them less.

In fact, it would only be the very rich, who tend to be pretty antisocial in their behaviour anyway, who would have the freedom to take no notice. Even they might try to be a little more sensible if the rest of us set them an example.

The motor trade would argue that they can`t afford to be put out of business, which one has to admit is a valid argument in the present economic system, but in point of fact they could probably go on selling ever more economical cars for years to come.

The oil trade would be able take advantage of falling sales by putting prices slowly up, thereby making more profit out of less oil and fuel.

Bus and rail operators would be given an increase in demand that they would have to cope with by (a)buying people`s rations and (b)negotiation with the government over annual requirements.

In fact, we would probably all have to be a great deal more sensible than we are at present about vehicles.


In Lambeth, a local charity send round a `green box` for you to put your recycleables in. Someone comes round and collects the boxes weekly. The council ins some way have become involved, and no doubt various councillors claim to be responsible.

To start the scheme going, a leaflet was sent round telling the residents what sort of things to put in the box, and telling them that they would be recycled by a non-profit organisation. The items suggested were, as far as I remember, aluminium cans, tin cans, glass, (something else) and no more, but of course the implication was that this type of thing rather than monly these things should be put in the box.

I was pretty surprised then to see that my German friend, who does this recycling thing, had thrown an iron in her wastepaper basket!

Of course, what had happened was that she had taken the leaflet literally (is this something about being German? I thought): if you have these things, please submit them to us, but if you don`t, don`t put anything we might want in.

It is quite understandable. Most people want to be seen to be conscienscious about recylcing, but don`t, quite understandably, want to spend their lives trying to work out what it`s all about, end up not knowing exactly what to put where. Those of us who try to know what to put where (I am a sufferer myself, as a matter of fact) become almost buried in recycleables that we have not yet found a disposal site for. It is all very noble, but in reality leaves us paralysed.

What is to be done about it?

A perfect solution is impossible, but a few aware recyclers at every council rubbish (garbage) tip would be a very good start, and might even result in a profit for the council concerned.

These people would not only have the job of sorting the contents of the green boxes, but also the job of sorting the rubbish as it arrives as far as possible and - very important - explaining to those who bring in their own rubbish in cars (there is a continuous stream of them at some depots) that many of the things they bring in can be recycled by this or that process and therefore would be worth separating out, and perhaps explaining to them (without patronising) the great importance of adopting the recycling frame of mind.

Most council rubbish burying or dumping at sea is taxed in this country now, and so the councils, never the most environmentally conscious of organisations, have an incentive to participate in this activity to save the taxpayers money (I am afraid most of us are still at that stage of development where money is more important than quality of life), so there is likely to be some incentive to do something, and I would guess that if the recycling person at the rubbish tip has such a wide - ranging and important role, it would be quite an attractive job to have.

In fact, if it wasn`t for the fact that councils can`t get their minds round the notion of part-time working I wouldn`t mind such a job myself.

Recycling 2.

Having got that off my chest, let`s have a look at something highly specific: those aluminium drinks cans.

They are made of aluminium, and kids are being encouraged to think recycle (though I also have to say many don`t recycle even so - it`s their future not mine).

But every day in this country tons of aluminium takeaway boxes (as opposed to cans) go to the tip. It is quite understandable that the ali recyclers don`t want to have them. They are covered in takeaway remains and stink within 24 hours. And if we wash them (which most wouldn`t anyway) we are probably doing more ecological damage with the washing process than we are arresting with the recycling process.

Ideas are needed here, and I wondered if sending the aluminium to the tip already separated but stinking would enable the recycle-master (the person suggested above) to drop them all in a tank to soak in water before compressing them into blocks for smelting.

This is a far from ideal solution, not only for aesthetic reasons but also for technical reasons, so we would have to look for a better on ASAP. The main technical problem is that thin aluminium disappears when you smelt it.

Now ordinary thin steel cans.

Thin steel has some the same problems as aluminium when you try to recycle it. Applying sufficient heat to melt it results in it burning away, and, having used fuel to melt it, you end up with a bit of carbon and no steel - and some fuel wasted.

Far from ideal, I`d say.

However, it occurs to me that the nature of iron is such that nearly all or entirely all iron ore is in fact rust (iron oxide), and so if we can find a place to put all this thin steel whilst it rusts away we will end up with a pile of iron oxide which we can smelt. Exactly how many thousands of cans we have to rust away before it is enough iron ore to be useful to us I don`t know - but it might be worth investigating.

What I do know is that we can`t go on digging up iron ore forever because there won`t be any to dig up at soon.

Learning to play music

At one of those parties where everyone who can play anything at all has a go, we were all looking at a chord sequence, pointing out where we were, and generally helping each other along when a man who had been dancing turned to me and said "I wish I could do something like that - just play some music", and the following conversation took place:

"well, presumably you can if you just start and go on."

"No I can`t. When I try that it doesn`t come out right."

"How do you know?"

"I`ve got no ear for music. I can hear it isn`t right."

"If you can hear it isn`t right, you obviously do have an ear for music, otherwise you wouldn`t hear it wasn`t right."

"Good point. So waht should I do?"

"Well, you`ve obviously got to start at the beginning, and then listen to what is going on and gradually do more complicated things, and stop doing the things you can hear are wrong."

"Right, I`ll try that."

I had become a little exasperated, so I was glad he had accepted this possible approach.

He sat and watched Gabby palying a keyboard for a good 6 minutes, then stood up sayin "it`s no good. I still don`t see it", and walked out.

Are you kidding, I thought. But no. He`s not kidding. Presumably he had not made the connection between facility at doing something and practice. People in his world could either do something straight away (he`d seen that this evening!) or they couldn`t, and as music when it works sounds easy to play (it is if you`ve practiced) he thought he ought to be able to play it straight away without any knowledge of such things as key, pitch, tone, rhythm (he was a keen rock`n`roller, this guy). It was just something that was there - like hair, eyesight or flatulence.

For those of you who would like to join the fun but can`t yet play, here are a few tips for you to develop the skill no matter how little of it you have now:-

(1)Accept that you are taking on a learnt skill that might take some time to acquire fully, but which you can enjoy almost from the first step, and don`t be too pround to use tutor books or teachers - they are both short cuts.

(2)If you think it sounds awful when you play, try to learn to play only just loud enough to hear what is going on, but definitely don`t stop playing because if you do you won`t learn anything.

(3)If you can hear when it`s wrong, you will be able to hear when you get it right - and that may take a bit of time.

(4)It is absolutely certain that if you don`t try to play, you definitely won`t play, whereas if you do you will be able to play something in due course, however simple it may be.

(5) Music is not about how many notes per second you can play, but about making a sound you and others like.

(6) If playing in a group, keep your sound level as low as you possibly can - only loud enough to hear what you are doing. There is a strange phenomenom by which the quieter everybody plays the clearer and better the overall sound. There may be times when you are the lead part, and a tiny increase in sound level is enough to put you right out there in the front.

(I have played in a 50`s rock and roll band in a hotel where the sound level was so low the singer didn`t need a microphone, and to be honest it was the best gig we did in the four years I was with them. The audience just stopped yelling and danced in silence.)

(7) I have for years had on my wall the following: "what do electric guitarists do when they hear someone else playing? They turn up." This is a most unfortunate fact of the vast majority of electric guitarists, and it is only those who have developed the facility to recognise that everybody else in a band is an equally important part to themselves who ever manage to sound any good. The same idea applies to other instruments.

(Usually reference is made to Eric Clapton with regard to this particular point, but in fact he does seem to have matured a little in recent years.)

(8) If you can only find one note that fits, use it and put it in what you believe to be the right place.

(9) Music played by more than one person cannot happen unless the players know where to put the notes. This usually can`t happen without a fairly steady rhythm, and it is not everybody who has this facility straight away. Dont be ashamed to practice rhythm (on it`s own is just as important as within the music you play) because it is accurate rhythm that will make it possible to play together. (Going back to point (9), the one note could be played as rhythm).

(10) Don`t be ashamed of the rubbish you or we are playing (by doing it we are learning to do it better next time) and don`t knock someone else`s efforts as they are only doing the same thing as the rest of us.

(11) Have a good time. It`s only a game, and it doesn`t have winners and losers.

Unions and work

I am learning to be a negotiator - a role for which I have offered myself for election by my fellow staff.

The College, having managed to partially or completely sack most of their part-time staff by ignoring union agreements and putting into action a few dirty tricks (without paying even the statutory minimum redundancy payment), now wish to be perceived as being good employers following good employment practices.

These practices largely take the form of calling staff valued colleagues, sending them team communications that lead them to believe that they might be able to participate in the running of the service (even though practical experience reveals that this is not the case), and inviting individual members of staff (as opposed to union reps) to stand for election as staff contract negotiators.

I have stood for election as a negotiator. And this is what I am studying.

It is very American.

We do executive excercises and find (as one did in teacher training, life drawing, maths, egg frying and life generally) that things are never quite what they seem, that the other side always have a point, might or might not be honorable, and etc., draw graphs of our own performance, and learn how to negotiate making room for these facts of life.

There are many things you could say against Summerhill (though perhaps not as many as most schools), but in this particular area as a Summerhillian I feel almost over-equipped. We held a school meeting every Saturday, and the whole school decided all rules that were not over-ridden by national law on the basis of one vote per head regardless of age or status. One learnt to put a case, honour other people`s needs, try to understand the position of others, and not behave like a lawyer. It helps.

It is always very interesting to do, this kind of thing, even though one might be able to guess what the training will be in advance of receiving it.

One of the first questions that came up during this training, owing to the great mistrust of management that has developed in our college over the past three or four years, was exactly who of the trainers and colleagues involved in the course was spying on who. That may seem a rather extreme view, but in point of fact I found it expressed by about 75% of the participants (there were only 6, so 75% was not quite possible, and I have made an adjustment for those who were not quite sure. This led to this obscure figure).

Actually, what I am beginning to conclude is that the object of the excercise is divide and rule, and the reason I think this is that the Education Dept must be aware that they are creating a division between people like me and the union (NATFHE, which is completely useless from the point of view of us part-timers). The union have been making a play for some special negotiating rights, but have not so far succeeded, I am told.

Are we, in fact, just part of a countermove by Bromley, and only useful for purposes of the Adult Education Department`s own agenda?

(My struggle with the college over breach of contract will show up again when it moves forward)

To be continued.

Flatfoot Spin

Flatfoot Spin`s disco was attended by 11 persons, which is better than the 9 that came to the previous one.

I don`rt really understand why this should be, since a disco that doesn`t play disco music, does play things like ballet music, jazz, Chopin, and the rest (without doing it loudly) must be a pretty rare thing. You can`t find that wherever you like - especially as it`s also alcohol and smoke free.

I can only say they must have underpromoted themselves.

Luckily, they don`t intend giving up, and if they tell me the date there will be a notice of the next disco on Other News.

stop press

Flatfoot Spin`s next disco is Friday 5 December 1997 at Wheatsheaf Hall, Wheatsheaf Lane, off South Lambeth Rd. London SW8 (nr Vauxhall tube) 7.30-11. Children under 8 free.

notes re publication.

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