Week beginning 12 Jan 1998.
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Unions and work
Index of earlier issues.
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If you haven`t looked at the other News From England before, read this in case it may save you some time.
The Other News consists of a selection of articles on whatever subjects find their way to the top of the pile on the week in which it is written. Whilst some of it is intended to be serious, quite a lot is just a bit of light reading (or heavy, if you are a certain type of person), and intended to keep you amused, and cause people to question some of the assumptions of life. Most of the material here is written by the editor, but no single article necessarily reflects the views of the editor or anyone else who writes here. They only might.
THAMES WATER UTILITIES HAVE FOUND A NICE LITTLE FIDDLE to try on us all (where it can be made to fit).
Having tried by one or two dodges to get me to allow them to install metres and failed they have decided on another strategy.
There is only one main coming into my house, and of course since it was installed the house has always paid water bills based on the assumed number of occupants given the size and type of building. They have done rather well becaue the population is less than you would expect.
In recent years the tenant has been paying the bill because she uses a hose and I don`t, and Thames Water seized upon this fact as an argument for installing water metres.
I wasn`t having any of that, because like most people in this country I think of the water comanies as a pack of thieves looking for any route to a fast buck - an idea not without a lot of circumstantial support (see earlier issues of The Other News, for instance).
I made it quite plain that they could not fit any metres of any kind on any property of mine.
So they retaliated by sending a bill for water charges for the top of the house as though it were a separate entity and the charges had not been paid for the period from 1 April 95 to 31 March 98 - a total of 660.85 Pounds.
Of course, not a few people would take them seriously and pay it (if they had the money). And not a few more would just pay it without querying it at all. So that way they would gain.
But from their point of view, they are looking for a way of forcing a metre on the customer, and shocking them with a bill is one way of intimidating at least some of them into acceptance - and for the rest it gets them into negotiation with the sales force.
Not being interested in getting drawn into their activities I intend to ignore the bill completely, and I hope you will if you get one like it.
Presumably the other "utilities" will be learning from this little game, and we can expect a lot more of the same from them.
I think it is not only time to start taxing these people who are behaving not a little like the spivs of the fifties at a proper rate. It is also time to re-nationalise their operation and all other monopolies that are essential to people`s existence.
And as they have behaved so much like thieves towards us perhaps it would be right if they were taxed heavily on the compulsory purchase money when they got it.
By the time I had got dressed the truck had departed, but luckily the delivery address allowed me to take details from the delivery note.
Unfortunately the delivery note had everything except the registration number of the truck (it even had the driver`s name), so that when I contacted Hall and Co they knew they were in a position to argue.
They replied evasively a few times to letters I sent and then referred me to their Insurers - Guardian Insurance of Ipswich - who asked for details of the incident a bit at a time, so that ten or twenty letters were written instead of one. This, of course, is pretty much standard practice, and one is forced to assume that the idea is that the claimant will give up trying rather than going on writing endless letters - they usually do. Cheap, eh?
But I didn`t. I wrote one more letter telling Guardian that if they didn`t settle within the next two weeks I would take county court action against their client without further notice, and as they didn`t pay I took out a summons.
The matter was to be heard before Lambeth County Court, but fairly near the deadline for responding the court wrote to tell me the matter had been transferred to Reigate county Court. That caused further delay, which is currency to a firm like Guardian.
Not being a lawyer, I was inquisitive as to how this transfer from one court to another could happen, and enquired of the Chief Clerk of Reigat County Court if this had been done for Masonic reasons. Mr Bavister replied that no it had not been done `for reasons of masonic preference` but because the county court rules permitted this.
I was preparing to take exams at the time when the matter came up for hearing, and was told that I could not take time off to attend court without jeopardising my chances in the exams. Thus I had to weigh the chance to get this case heard with me present against the possible failing of the exams. I phoned the chief clerk`s office and found that it would be OK to have the matter heard on the basis of written evidence, but that I must request this in writing, so deciding that the exam was worth more than the few hundred I stood to retrieve I would have to take a chance, and sent them a fax requesting the matter be heard on written evidence.
I had not really thought about the fact that the insurers might be spending serious money on flashy and not particularly respectable solicitors to attend the court, and was surprised by the outcome, which went heavily against me.
I appealed, and in due course heard the fury of the judge that I should make any enquiries about freemasons, coupled with the naming of a masonic judge who I could have hear my case if I liked (I of course told him I didn`t like, but it occurred to me after the event that Judge Enzer himself hadn`t said he wasn`t a freemason). In various ways the matter was found against me, and the damages to be paid doubled, plus a little extra agreed in casual conversation between the judge and the solicitor who attended - but interestingly this last little sum did not appear on the final account!
Meanwhile, neighbours being neighbours, and gossip getting about, I have only once seen a truck from Hall and Co down my road in the past couple of years when they used to be down almost weekly. I hope Guardian are getting the same treatment.
All for a couple of hundred quid!
If we start off looking at the world like a scientist might, and make the hypothesis that there are only (say) thirty humans on the whole planet this gives us a chance to speculate about various things.
First of all, we might try having one (or even several) very smokey and ill-running car each, chucking out great plumes of acrid smoke. Even if we ran the car continually without switching off for the whole of our lifespan it would make no measurable difference to the ecology of the planet simply because it would be such a tiny amount relative to the size of the atmosphere because there would be so few cars.
The same would apply to other things. We could, for instance, afford a few nuclear explosions in such circumstances, as long as we stayed clear of those areas where they had occurred for the next thousand years or so, because the dilution of the fallout would be so great in the whole earth`s atmosphere that the fallout level would be well within the `safe` bounds.
We could dig out all the iron ore we want without making anything more than the slightest mark on the earth`s surface, and as for trees we could burn a tree a day each and still be overwhelmed by the rate at which they grew. We could even burn a tre each and make something out of another tree each every day without causing any real problems.
We should now look at the other extreme, but I am not sure what the current population of the world is.
However, I know it runs into billions instead of thirty.
In our present circumstances, if every one of us ran a car for five minutes every day we would probably already be in danger of poisoning ourselves and most other species out of existence. The reason this doen`t happen is that most people still don`t have cars in anywhere other than "the Western World". Aeroplanes present the same sort of threat, and trains far less so less so because per passenger mile they use far less fuel. In this context, it is worth noting that the gases that come out of an aeroplane are mostly coming out high up in the atmosphere where it may well be easier for them to damage the ozone layer - although damage to the ozone layer is only part of the problem.
The same with the iron. Owing to our great numbers we have already taken most of the easily accessible iron out of the earth, and when it`s gone it leaves great scars where many (possibly most) species cannot live. It is thought that the earth is made of an iron ball with a thin crust of other stuff on it - average thickness about 95 miles, so some people might be tempted to suggest that we can dig very deep to get iron when we have taken all we can off the surface, but there are a great many practical problems about trying to do this, and anyway, do we really want to contaminate and plunder everything we come in contact with?
The nuclear explosions (and nuclear waste) have been publicised at great length, so I won`t tell you yet again that which others can tell better. But do bear in mind that it is not safe to live in an area where there has been a nuclear explosion - allegedly for thousands of years - so that each nuclear explosion reduces the amount of the earth`s surface that it is safe to live on effectively forever from our point of view.
The trees. Well, again, big population means big tree use, big tree use means less trees, less trees means less oxygen, burning things means less oxygen, less oxygen means less life, less life means less life can be supported. Less life being supported means less trees, of course, and there must presumably be a point somewhere in this process where all forms of life fade right away.
And so the story goes on, in every possible direction, and the principle can be applied to everything. Every species needs to be in balance with every other species and it`s environment, and if any one species gets significantly out of balance with the others you can expect a chain reaction - however long it takes.
So we think we are a great success because we exist in such great numbers and in certain ways are so ingenious, when in fact it could more easily be argued that we are a great disaster, and because of our alleged intelligence we owe it to ourselves to limit our numbers.
But shall we try to do it without using those methods described last week? There really is no need......
POLITICIANS AREN`T SO MUCH INTERESTED IN DOING THE RIGHT thing as getting votes and winning debates, and education for years has suffered the results.
Recently three items of interest have come to the fore, and they are all as far as I can see linked to this administrative problem. It might be worth looking at the relationships between these items to clarify a few points:
A selection of statistics were released telling us that most street crime is done by truants. The minister of education told us that as this was probably mainly due to the frustration of those children not able to read or write, extra pressure would be put on children at school to try to get them to read by age six. At a later stage the very sensible idea of not requiring them to tackle quite so many subjects (but hopefully allowing them to if they want) has come up, and this might make it easier for schools to get nearer to attaining the unattainable.
Summerhill School, which has a zero or near-zero truancy rate and is famous for it`s non-compulsion regarding lessons and it`s self-government, has been telling the world that the school inspectors want to close it down because it has a poor record for literacy (without taking into account the large proportion of persons from other countries who are pupils there).
Schools that fall below `standards` will be taken over and run by private companies (like, for instance, Thames Water mentioned above? Wow).
First of all, what is the point in closing a school that has an excellent record regarding truancy and only a poor standard of literacy because so many of it`s students come from other countries? Is it, perhaps, to prove some point for the school inspectors? Is it to aquire a school to create "jobs for the boys" (this would be a resonding failure because the type of people who send children to Summerhill would immediately withdraw their children under such circumstances). Is it to save face for the inspectors and win votes for the politicians? (This is likely to backfire, since the local people find the school a highly satisfactory neighbour).
As most if not all teachers will tell you, the greater the pressure you put on a kid the more likely they are to have difficulties - they do in fact have lives and feelings of their own (they are real people, not toys for adults to play about with), and even if they thought their life depended on it, it is unlikely one could teach them to read any faster than they are currently taught - except possibly by having adequate staff/pupil ratios, which is certainly something we don`t have at present.
In fact, it might well be a great deal more difficult for children under high pressure to learn anything. I can think of a very bright child or two who, having been accepted into a "high-achiever" school have begun to play truant because the fools who teach them think that as they are bright they can can pressure them into being a genius in their (the teacher`s) subject, thus furthering their (the teacher`s) career.
I know a very bright lad who last term started refusing to go to school because there was so much homework that he couldn`t possibly do it (and therefore he was in a position of constant failure) and he felt like he didn`t belong to himself any more.
So where does that put us?
To someone like me it is fairly obvious (but then I don`t have to do things to win votes).
If we have schools with 40 or so to a class it is hardly surprising that some of the kids get bored, and very little gets learned. Probably the brighter ones will fall behind with reading because they haven`t the patience with all this school twaddle. Of course, in addition to these there will be the few who are not up to reading without a great deal of one-to-one help - and finally those who really don`t have the ability.
And then there will be the ones in the middle who read.
So that what will appear to be brightness may only actually be averageness, whilst the methods of assessing kids are in danger of labelling the bright ones as dim (this has the distinct advantage for some of getting them sent by their not-too-bright heads to woodwork, engineering, and other highly creative classes where they can enjoy themselves and get a positive attitude towards education. I believe it is pretty much standard practice to mention Einstein in connection with this particular idea. His head thought he was a bit dense....).
Those others who really do not have the ability to read will continue not to read because they don`t have the ability, and the sooner we accept that there will always be some who come into that category and honour them for being themselves the sooner we will enable them and us to enjoy their lives for what they are instead of feeling ashamed and guilty about them.
Now we come back to Summerhill. Given that it has such an amazingly good record on truancy, that a large proportion of it`s pupils are not English, and that it`s pupils tend to be perfectly satisfactory citizens who do an honest day`s work and pay their taxes, respect their neighbours, are well-known in some circles for their exceptional teaching skills (yes!)......etc.........why close them down?
Will it get any votes? Will it do anything useful at all?
And will it really do anything other than get votes to have people like those who run British Gas or Thames Water running our truant-houses? I doubt it. Surely we would be better off accepting that to provide good education requires large numbers of the right people, is worth paying for, and is an investment in our future?
There are an awful lot of very able people unemployed at present.
Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy: press here.
LETSSwing are booked to play at the opening of the new Bexley (Kent/S E London) LETS system on the 16th. January. If you wish to go or want to join Bexley LETS, the only contact number I have is 0181 855 4124. Entry will either be free or very nearly free.
Also playing at Green Adventure`s party in Camberwell SE5 on 31 Jan (0171 277 2529 to join GA or see the band). Entry will be free or nearly free.
We have a lovely fieldmouse/who hasn`t got a home./His mother didn`t bother/She reallis to blame/One day when he was hunting he came across a van./ I don`t know who the owner was/But it didn`t belong to Ann./"I think I`ll go down under/And try to find a hole/that I can store my nuts in/God bless my mousey soul"./So he searched right through the engine/ And underneath the floor/But he still can`t find the sort he wants./They don`t make them any more.
The starlings who live at the castle/Are frightfully busy they say./We`ve got one who is Johnny the Rotter by night?And Desperate Dan by day..........Where`s the rest?
the robin is a darling bird./He`s never far away./You`ll find him in the stable,/You`ll find him in the barn./When you find he isn`t there/He`s drinking at the tarn.
Remarkable what we do when we can`t get about so much.
It is done in a variety of ways ranging from writing out the whole piece for all instruments (many would argue not jazz at all) to `let`s play "///"` without even stating what key it is in and seeing what happens (this is the hair-raising bit, but quite a laugh).
The first is particularly good if you want to be asked to play things that you would never think of playing out of your own head, whilst the last is particularly good if you wish to learn to judge intervals as you play.
The disadvantage with the last is that you rarely find yourself playing in anything other than the most obvious keys, and whilst that doesn`t in itself matter it leaves you disarmed when you are called upon to play with a different range of instruments, whose favourite and easier keys are not the same as yours. Someone has to give ground, and usually some people end up unable to play anything they can think of as significant. It can, of course, also be used as a lesson in what keys it might be worth practicing in.
The part-way position is one where you know "the chords" and from these you are able to deduce what notes will easily fit. This is a method by which the players write down the sequence of chords which the guitar/piano/banjo (or whatever) is playing, and these the players learn or have learnt to play as arpeggios (see the meaning of chords and arpeggios in a musical dictionary), so that they always have a few notes that can be guaranteed to fit as long as they know what chord is being played at the time. To these notes, they also can add other notes that have been found to fit by trial and error (they are in fact largely predictable, and it is only how you use them that really counts). Bar lines are used, so that you can actually read a chord sequence the same as you can read an ordinary written piece of music.
Here is a chord sequence of a "12 bar blues" in 4/4 time. These: / are being used in place of bar lines:
C / F / C / C7 / F / F / C / C / G7 / F7 / C.F./ C.G7/
The letters name the arpeggios ("chords") and where needed the dots are beats, so that the two last bars consist of two beats of each chord shown in the bar concerned - that is 2 beats C and two beats F in bar 11 and 2 beats C and 2 beats G7 in bar 12 - whilst the earlier bars are 4 beats of one chord each.You have found out what a basic arpeggio is from the dictionary, and the notes in each, so now just accept that the "7" on the F`s and G`s are extra (an E flat on the F chord and an F on the G chord) you should find you have enough notes just within the arpeggios to play a sort of a blues.
Start by just playing them evenly spaced within the bars, and go on by experimenting to see what else you can do with them.
Having somebody else play the chords themselves whilst you play over them will help if you can manage the problems of transposition - a subject which I will try to cover on another occasion - hopefully next week.
Wow. That sounds good.
This has become rather boring at the present, so I will leave it out until a bit more of a plot develops. I am meeting with the principal this week - "to discuss my future work with the college"!
Nothing this week, but when term starts......
I have thousands of articles on PCW disks that I want to gradually feed onto The Other News. To do this I need a means of converting from 3" disks to 3.5" disks. Has anyone in South East england got either a 3.5" drive for PCW or another means of converting? email@example.com.
Cheap laptop for writing the Other News when away from base. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanted pc/Acorn monitor, London area. email@example.com
Who knows where on the Internet I can get a good freeware or shareware score-writing program that will run on my p100 or Acorn 5000? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
(Will take LETS currencies): Industrial quality roofrack about 7 feet X 3.5 feet, made to measure for ford Sierra estate. I used it for woodwork contracting. It is the best I`ve ever seen. Contact email@example.com
Same again, about 48" by 96", but lesser quality, for Ford Granada estate or Volvo 7 series -almost free owing to poor condition - but it works. firstname.lastname@example.org
LETSSwing (the London all-LETS-members band) need a bass player. Suit someone who thinks of playing and writing music as a creative, co-operative, gentle activity, who likes out-of-date pop and jazz, and who doesn`t like making a noise. We play so quiet you could have it in your livingroom without bothering the neighbours most of the time, and are looking at the possibilities for involvement in `the community` (playing in hospitals and so on). Contact email@example.com
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