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The Other News From England.

19 July 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.)

Education and politics.

I SUPPOSE IT WON'T BE SURPRISING to you to see these two subjects that are so alien to each other included under the same heading. Politicians have always felt they know everything about education (indeed, possibly everything about everything), and it is unlikely they could be told anything useful without first checking whether there are any votes in it.

This week, I am going to try to show you an aspect of the current (and past) Thatcherism that may have escaped your notice - I had always suspected it, but had never before had any proof because I used to ignore everything that had to do with this matter - it was too boring to do otherwise.

With Thatcher and her gang came the notion that everything should be done like a business - maximum efficiency would be obtained this way (like the Post Office, for instance, or the National Health Service!), and the best people would find their way to the top. We would have educated and competent executives in charge of things, and they would make the decisions for minions to carry out and be paid huge salaries 'because they are worth it', and the public would be served.

Part of this muddle-brained wisdom lay in the notion that the private sector could do everything better, and so it was not long before universities were unable to select their own students, and government jobs were obtained by filling in forms for a personnel company to vet. Even public cleansing was being let out to the allegedly best.

The personnel companies were bound to be more efficient than those academics, and so in it's search for excellence (well, the word's a useful one even if you don't know what it means) the government contracted out to them the job of personnel selection fully convinced that they would have the best people working for them, who would be able to act efficiently and intelligently.

Thus, when I found a government job that required my mature years and wealth of experience I was pleased to ask for an application form. What I did not yet know was that the firm engaged to vet the likes of me were one of the most famous head-hunters in the land - overkill, you might say, on the part of the government, who would be paying an arm and a leg for such services - but then, they have to be efficient, intelligent, have to show you know what you're doing.

I don't suppose the Prime Minister will ever notice that these people are illiterate - and even if he did I don't imagine him doing anything about it. After all, they are, according to legend, the best we have, so there is no point in trying to do any better. Furthermore, to be in business illiteracy may well be a very useful attribute, even if you don't know the difference between personnel relationships (from one of the questions on the form) and personal relationships. The City is teeming with such people.

I am reminded of that wonderful time when Lord Lane (then lord high something or other) pompously told the whole nation that it was essential that all judges should be Oxbridge graduates. Whilst I laughed, it was a little hollow.

But isn't Tony Blair an Oxbridge graduate?


I THINK I HAVE DISCOVERED why the post office is so hopelessly inefficient. The government is about to privatise it, and wants a profit even if not a single customer is served, because that will make it more attractive to 'the institutions', who don't give a toss about serving the public.

The way to get a short-term profit out of a hopelessly understaffed and ill-managed business is to employ even less staff and do even less for the customers over a short span of time, and then quickly make the books before the defects begin to show. The fact that this strategy can lead to bankruptcy is of no consequence, since for all practical purposes the thing is already bankrupt, and the flotation will have taken place before the bankruptcy comes - and anyway, since the nation has to have some type of post office the new directors (once they have awarded themselves 1.5m P.A. or so each in salaries) can twist the government's arm for some subsidy.

It is possible, however, that the Post Office Pension fund might be available for a bit of ransacking. That could really amount to something for the city.


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. 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 last week but one).

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.

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.

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