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The Other News From England.

16 August 1999.

This week.

Index of earlier issues - click here.

Advance warning.

THE RSI is still a little bit of a problem, so there may yet be further interruptions in the regularity of The Other News.

(Those who like digging about will find that there are hundreds of articles on many subjects to be found on this site. Look at the Index of Earlier issues for a start. There are also some drawings and sheet music.)

Consumers - French banks.

BEWARE. French banks have discovered a fine new fiddle using the Euro.

Like most people, I don't entirely trust my maths, so when I bought French francs for US dollars I thought I must have made a mistake in thinking that the dollars I had should come to about 3,800 francs when they actually came to 3,110 or so - a difference of about 700 francs or 70 pounds sterling, and about 20% percent less than I thought I'd get.

Although I speak French, my French is not comprehensive, and I knew that I would be unable to argue or even understand the explanation, so I let the matter rest - I had just enough to pay my hotel bill and take a leisurely trip towards home, and being on holiday this would do.

During the leisurely trip home there was time to sit about reading, and so amongst other things I decided to read the exchange note. I once again checked my maths, and was indeed in error by a little, but I noted another thing: although I had asked to buy francs for dollars, they had changed the dollars to Euros and then the Euros to francs, thus giving themselves two exchange differentials instead of one, and a commission on top. Just to check it out, I looked at another exchange note (marks to francs) and found the same thing - marks to Euros then Euros to francs, and a commission on top.

Easy money for at least two French banks.

Would it be sensible to buy foreign currency at home? I doubt it. They must all be at it by now.


THE LAW SOCIETY IS the trade association of solicitors (for those of you who don't know the word, solicitors are a branch of British lawyers, who are treated as 'the lower classes' by barristers, who are another, equally unacceptable, branch). It exists to give solicitors credibility by allegedly serving the public. If you want to find something out about solicitors generally, or to make a complaint against one, there is no other place to go to. You have to contact the Law Society, who, by having a complete monopoly of the field, are in a position to give you just as much as they feel like giving you and no more. They probably, like the Bar Association (the other British lawyers' self-interest group) have an 'independant lay panel' who are employed by them and thus always know which way to lean if they wish to keep their jobs, and it would be the lay panel's job to oversee complaints against solicitors.

I once tried to make a complaint against an extremely bent barrister and was able to experience the degree of impartiality of one of these 'independant lay panels' (I think by now that extremely bent barrister must surely be a judge), and once tried to get a complaint against a solicitor heard at the Law Society, and so I don't hold out much hope for my chances with them.

However, it would be unfair to dismiss them without first trying them out (that's the sort of thing judges do), so I decided to give it a go. That was several years ago, and they might by now have turned over a new leaf.

Having had, during the mid-90's, a solicitor who sat on my paperwork for five or six years without doing anything and ignored my correspondence and requests for action (I was on Legal Aid, you see, and whilst it is a useful thing for lawyers during a recession it is not during higher times), I thought it might be a good idea to claim from his employers' malpractice insurance enough money to cover my very substantial losses resulting from his inaction. So, although I had contacted the Law Society and met with a wall in the past I decided it might be worth trying them again in case they had decided that in order to maintain their credibility they should become honorable.

You never know. These things have been known.

I contacted them to ask whether they had any pamphlets or other sources of information about making a complaint against a solicitor, and discovered to my astonishment that (probably in response to some over-optimistic politician's attempts at reforming them) they have installed a department called the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors, whose sole job it would appear is to deal with such matters.

The resources of the Law Society presumably are not endless, and even if they were it is not very likely that they would put a huge amount into a department whose job it is to penalise their members, and so I was not surprised to be told by the lady on the other end of the phone that they were rather busy (mind you, on the basis of all I have heard they would need a team of thousands to deal with all the complaints properly).

She did, however, agree to put me through. They have a call queuing system, which must be a godsend to Telecom, because you have to phone it to find out if there is a queue, and then you have to wait to find out if it is a short queue or a long one (because it doesn't tell you how many calls are in front of you), and of course finally you don't know how long each caller is going to take with their matter - and even then you don't really know if anybody is intended to pick up the phone at all. For the impoverished recipients of solicitors' malpractice this is just what is needed to put them off. It forewarns of things yet to be understood but which are unlikely to be helpful.

Haing spent a while paying Telecom I gave up because it was beginning to feel obvious that I would get nowhere by this route, and in the evening I tried to log onto their website - a suggestion for an alternative route made by the lady who had first put me through. Websites have their own call queuing systems, and I need not tell you that I couldn't get to the pertinent bit. Whether the site actually works or not I do not know. Certainly it works if all it is intended to do is to give the right impression without actually serving anybody, because it did briefly show a 'front page' with no means of going any further, which is enough to lead your average punter to believe that the society really are trying but that there is something wrong with his computer.

Now I shall write a letter, which, when you consider the nature of the matter, should get me nowhere. I wonder if there is any public funding going into this farce?


IN OUR STREET there is a seventy six year old lady who has not yet grown out of childhood crime. She has a fiddle here, a fiddle there, a bit of vandalism, steals anything she can easily steal knowing that people would be embarrassed to confront a 'poor old lady who doesn't know what she's doing', and shouts at anyone who might enquire as to whether what she is doing is entirely legal, honorable and honest.

In fact, she is a pain in the arse, and so is her 50-year-old teenage son, who has the same mentality (even more pathetic in a 50-year-old) because she has demonstrated to this unfortunate half-wit that this is a correct and just way to behave in our society. Not a few neighbours hate them - but particularly the son, because many have been here long enough to have had him coming round stealing their bikes when he was younger. Again, believing him to be a half-wit and wishing to keep the peace they have not confronted him. This may have been foolish, but with persons of such limited ability it is difficult to know what to do.

I was talking about these two to a man I know this morning, and whilst I told him the kinds of things these people do (anything that will irritate people, or anything that will bring the two of them a gain, however small, regardless of the consequences for someone else), I din't mention their ages. He immediately (despite being a quaker) launched into how I should tell the local police and they would then set up some plain-clothes police and in a few days the vandals would be seen to.

Then I told him she was 76.

"Really!" he said. "It never occurred to me that such a thing could be possible. You should write a paper on it."!

That doesn't really solve my problem, I told him. Nobody will prosecute a 76-year-old for teenage behaviour - or even a 50-year-old for that matter - and that is what is needed.

I tried phoning the social services because the two of them are obviously mentally ill, but discovered that they could do nothing for me because I am under 65, and nothing for them because they have not asked for help.

I now know that the only chance of getting help with my problem is to go mad myself, thus getting full attention from the doctor, whom I can then persuade that I am only mad because my neighbour is mad, and that if something were done about the neighbour I would get better, and so would everyone else in the road (for I am not alone in being driven mad by this bitch), thereby getting her and her son certified insane.

That would be a delightful outcome, which might well end in a street party.


The stuff that doesn`t often get changed now follows:

This is a recycling site based in London, and offering materials to anybody. The organisation is a charity seeking to link suppliers of surplus materials with users. Especially good for the more ingenious designers amongst us.

The email of the people who run the above site is They are called Creative Supplies. Look them up for more info.

Here's an interesting education site - particularly for those who have young children and are not quite sure what to do to avoid the worst of what`s on offer in the mainstream of education.They are called

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.

(Friday Woodworkers are suffering a temporary break due to some of the episodes not having been fully edited at the time of writing. It may take some timne to fix this problem.

Episode 17.

(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. Noticed the change so far?

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 I think 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. Authors will be named if they so wish. 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.



One 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.

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

There will soon be a new twist to this story, but I am not sure what it will be until it happens. They are trying to make it as difficult as possible instead of as easy as possible to resolve the present dispute.


(see several weeks back).

This Lexmark business gets worse. I refilled the black cartridge with an ordinary cartridge refilling outfit and it won`t print despite telling me that the cartridge is full and that it is printing.

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 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.

All material on this site is copyright. Contact me if you want to use it. I am quite flexible. Educational non-profit use is free - but ask for permission and print an acknowledgement. If you can`t think what to print, put:

From The Other News From England.

That`s all this week folks