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The Other News From England

20 Oct 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 hyperlinks so that you can skip straight from the index to a given subject. Unfortunately, I can`t get them to work at present. At least you can get an idea of how the thing will work when it`s done.

Almost science

Bonnington Cafe

Colleges

Computers

Ecology

Entertainments

Freemasons

Index of earlier issues. (this link should work)

Politics

Unions and work

For conditions see end of document.

Freemasons

I realised after I had posted last week`s article about freemasons that there was in fact a little more I knew. I know that in order to be a freemason you have to declare a belief in god, and that agnosticism will not do. Since the function of freemasons is to study politics and manipulate things, that would make large numbers of them hypocrites. There`s nothing quite like power (on however small a scale) to corrupt.

Purely by chance, a friend of mine raised the subject again this week. Perhaps she also had seen the leaflet regarding freemasons and council tax. She is a woman from a Catholic background, and so her perception would be as much colored by that fact as mine is by my agnostic background. She told me she thought the main goal of freemasons was to destroy catholicism and went on to suggest that the endless vendetta in Northern Ireland was generated by freemasons. "The Unionists all belong to lodges, don`t they?" (presumably the Catholics have something similar or the conflict in this particular area wouldn`t continue). She has a point, I suppose, but aside from the primitive power struggle motive, why would they want to destroy Catholicism? Are they really so dense that they think it matters what religion somebody has? I doubt it. If I had found the time, I would have asked her to tell me more to justify her claims, but the world is not ideal..........

Perhaps we shall continue this matter next week.

And in the meantime I would suggest that if freemasons are the thieves and cut-throats they are often portrayed as, I am risking my neck by writing about them, and you can reasonably expect me to meet with an accident soon.

Politics

THAT VENERABLE OLD COLLECTION OF THIEVES the British Conservative Party have been in the news this past week or two because they are trying to clean up their image. Of course, it is not by any means the first time they have done this. Every time a Tory (another name for the Conservatives) has been caught with their fingers in the till the same thing happens. The only difference this time is that they lost the election by being caught thus so many times nobody could bear it any longer, and so they now have to find a new image to re-dupe the public with. They will succeed, too, in due course.

I have chosen the word `image` carefully, as opposed to `act` because the kind of people who go in for joining such a party and then stay in it after they find out what it`s really about are unlikely to be able to clean up any act - the nearest they could possily get would be to clean up the image or devise some laws that allow members of the party to put their fingers in the till, and one imagines in the light of the past fifteen years even that would be done with tongue in cheek.

The British public are, however, surprisingly gullible when it comes to this sort of thing, and only recently elected an allegedly more honest version of the same thing to be their government - the main reason for this sudden change of heart seeming to be that the leader of that party is a babyboomer who plays the guitar (see below for more about that).

The concession this new government are going to make to their gullible employers is to try to do something about traffic problems.

They are also talking about a fairer society like the conservatives did before them, and a better National Health Service (not many people now can remember how good it was before the Tories ransacked it) and at least for the present the public believe they really mean it.

We shall see.

The new government have done some other things, too. They have had the sense to try to include the Liberal party in their operations. I don`t know quite why this should be, but I can see that it is a very good strategy to further weaken the Tories. Between the two parties there is a very substantial majority, and even if they ever have the sense to introduce proportional representation (assuming it to be proper PR) as almost promised in the run-up to the general election, they could still expect to have considerable sway if another party got a majority.

But poiliticians think they`re god when they once get a bit of power, and it would be very easy to forget such things in the post-election haze.

Entertainments

ONE OF OUR MILLIONS OF GUITAR TWANGERS last week told the public that he didn`t think the government was responsible for the sudden burgeoning of the arts in Britain - even if the prime minister (another guitar twanger) plays the guitar. I don`t know if he went on to say that he himself was actually the cause, but it sounded like he was thinking along those lines.

Strangely, it is in fact me (a saxophone honker and piano plunker) who is responsible for this magnificent result. You see, I`ve always been a backseat driver in these matters, and put the ideas in people`s heads so that they then they go on and put them into practice in order to claim innovation. It is a very convenient and economical way to get things done.

A theatrical paper recently quoted a union leader as saying that it was necessary for the government to give out a few subsidies in the form of a rise in theatre administrators` salaries (through extra subsidies) or the arts would perish.

It seems to me that what the government could do much more effectively would be to promote the idea that attending live arts is a good one, and I would further suggest that they would do very well to leave the more obvious acts to promote themselves instead of imagining that by promoting a "household name" they are actually promoting anything other than that name. If the government could somehow see through "hype" (not very likely when you consider what keeps politicians in power) and tell the public that it is OK to like something that has not been made famous, and that they ought to go out and find those bits of entertainment that are going on live and now and enjoy them, they could accelerate the growth of "the arts" in the fullest sense. Since there are so many people with spare time now, the arts could once again become a major and seriously useful industry.

(Here you might refer to the previous article about freemasons because to be promoted in British entertainment you have first to become one of the "in crowd" - just like being a freemason. This, generally, is far more important than having ability).

The problem, it has often been argued, is that there is only so much room in the marketplace and it will not support any more acts.

Accordingly, the market place for this ecologically relatively friendly industry needs to be expanded.

Ecology

LONDON ELECTRICITY BOARD came to remove a large transformer from a building next door to the music school. For an engineering freak it was an elegant and graceful operation.

The crew arrived a couple of days before and demolished a wall about 40 feet high and 30 feet wide to allow the huge transformer to come out, then a low-loader trailer came and the transformer (twenty or so feet high) was manoeuvred during the course of several hours along planks using only hand powered equipment (none of your crude petrol or diesel engine sledge-hammer-to-crack-a-nut stuff) until finally it sat on bearers on the trailer.

It was then fixed down with ordinary loadbinders (rather thick ones) and driven away.

The wall, having been demolished, had to be rebuilt, and so new bricks were brought, new cement, new sand, and over the next two days two highly skilled bricklayers built the wall back - an exact replica of the original but in new bricks.

Why am I telling you this?

Because it`s damned unsound ecologically.

It has been bothering me for some years now the way bricklayers, builders and civil engineers are so senselessly unecological in their activities.

Had the wall been built with the right mortar, 99 percent of the bricks would have survived demolition and been available for re-use, thus allowing the rebuilt wall to look like it had never been demolished in the first place, it would have saved the customer money, and (most important of all, perhaps) would have saved the excavating of clay from the ground and the making of new bricks and the filling of the local tip (or a landfill site) with bricks fit for nothing.

My house was built in 1840 something, using lime, sand and horsehair as mortar, (brief reading suggests it may have had a small amount of cement of some sort in it as well, but it is soft enough to dismantle) and when some years ago a wall started to lean a little (after 150 years) I just went up there, lifted the bricks off and put them back on again with new mortar. I did have to buy one or two bricks, but that was only to replace the few bricks that had been damaged by someone using portland cement to do a repair. Those bricks were, of course, a writeoff.

BY comparison, one should now look at another area of the house were council `experts` have been bodging around with portland cement (the man responsible for this mess, by the way is one Whittle). In this area, as soon as there is subsidence the whole area of brickwork breaks free from the rest like one vast brick and will no doubt eventually have to be replaced with new bricks (because it is virtually impossible to get 1840`s London stock bricks any more).

Perhaps one should look at another bit of lunacy with cement whilst we are on the subject of council builders.

The fools have poured many cubic yards of concrete into the semi-basement because it needed a new floor and they hadn`t the skill to make a proper one. The result of this is that as the house heaves up and down with changes in the weather the room concerned sinks and rises at a different pace to the rest, so that a split is steadily growing in the stuccoed front wall.

Waste? At least the following:

Time, huge quantites of materials, and finally the job doesn`t work anyway.

Furthermore, the work they have done will create much further work for future generations of bodgers. There are certain parts of the community where this would be considered a good thing!

Unions and work

I have worked as a lecturer for Bromley Adult College since 1981. In 1993 I was half-time, which was all the work I wanted, and enjoying myself immensely.

In 1994 Bromley Adult College decided to redesign the prospectus, and as a result of this bright idea a lot of classes did not enrol enough students to run. This resulted in a situation where staff generally seemed to feel they didn`t mind accepting a temporary cut in pay to help the college out of a temporary crisis.

That is how good staff relations were in 1994.

In 1995 the error in the design of the prospectus was made good, but those classes which had been lost were not necessarily re-offered.

Furthermore, some students reported to me that they had been told certain classes were full and so they couldn`t enrol on them.

Whilst this was going on, I was being told that some of my classes were not going to enrol enough students to run, and so would have to be cancelled if I didn`t do anything about it.

In the ensuing months I started to try to understand my legal position with regard to redundancy and redundancy payments. I asked a person working in another local college who had some union experience what he thought my position was. He told me that it was anyway too late to claim a redundancy payment, as I only had three months in which to make my claim within the new rules.

So I was about to give up.

However, he also gave me a copy of a letter from the borough explaining the agreements with regard to redundancy, and a little further investigation with the union (NATFHE) revealed that in fact I was redundant if the terms of my contract changed in any way at all.

Jenny Golden, the union rep., offered to help me make a redundancy claim as when I tried on my own the college ignored all correspondence. A draft "compromise agreement" was drawn up, but I was unable to sign it because it had a clause disallowing me from making any further claims from the college. She seemed to believe that the college would not agree to any compromise agreement that didn`t have that clause in it.

Whilst all this had been going on a change took place within the college.

Everybody`s jobs seemed to be threatened suddenly, and that probably didn`t exclude the principal and sub-principals, because whereas any union notice that went on any noticeboard had been removed virtually overnight before, suddenly the principal was urging everybody to join a union, and NATFHE notices went up everywhere and stayed up.

You might think that this would have been the end of my problems, but, you see,I am a part-timer and the principal is a full-timer, and so were the two vice-principals.

I had applied to the Industrial Tribunal for a hearing about my redundancy, so that in due course I came under pressure from them to bring the matter before them.

Meanwhile, unable to sign the agreement and so settle out of court I had asked Jenny Golden how to get round this little problem (essentially that the college, and hence the principal, had conned me into a situation where I could only claim redundancy from a six hour week instead of a seventeen hour week). She told me that if I wished to pursue that matter she would not be able to represent me.

So I phoned the borough solicitor to explain to him the position......

And two days or so later received a letter from Jenny Golden telling me that as I was in breach of union rules she could no longer act for me!

So I went to the Tribunal with no help.

The Tribunal looked at the paperwork and pointed to the standard form with my signature on it that the union had filled in (whether before or after my signature I do not remember at present, but I do remember that Jenny Golden had told me that these details didn`t matter as we could deal with them as the business progressed). They decided that my claim was a valid one and that I should definitely get a redundancy payment on the basis of 6 hours per week!

I pointed to what Jenny Golden had told me (that the other matters could be dealt with as we went along), and they told me that whilst she may have said that, I had still nevertheless claimed for 6 hours. I could, however, still bring another case against the college even after I have received the tiny redundancy payment. I told them I could`t if I signed the agreement the council had written out.

They then awarded me with the statutory minimum redundancy payment, but did not include any condition with regard to further claims against the college.

I have not yet received the 2137 cheque, but rather suspect that the receipt they hope I will sign will have something in it that tries to compromise me over future claims, and that I will need to cross bits out. (We lecturers haven`t trusted our employers for a few years now).

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago I asked the Industrial Tribunal to hear a case of unfair dismissal, breach of contract, constructive dismissal and bullying.

To be continued.

Almost science

The Sunday Times last weekend told us that children learning to play Beethoven or Mozart end up having greater brain power.

This has been a great relevation for me. I always wondered why I was so dim. I can never quite get the intellectual edge over other people.

But then I was brought up on jazz and George Formby.

I wish I had known before it was too late.

Bonnington Cafe

THE GREAT MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WHO USE THE Bonningotn Cafe are far too young to realise that it is a typical Beatnik cafe that has somehow got into the nineties.

You could easily see Bill Broonzy sitting in a corner playing Guitar Shuffle, and a young Roy Guest officiating, with people like Sonny Terry and Browny McGee and etc.

But it is in fact the present, and most of those people are no longer available to us. However, there are other acts.

The Bonnington is also a community centre belonging to the inhabitants of the various housing co-ops in Bonnington Square (Vauxhall, SE), and from time to time they have a benefit night in which they put on a wide selection of things for a very economical price. The proceeds go to the community centre group, who are trying to raise enough money to buy the premises instead of renting it from South London Housing assoc.

Next benefit is 1st Nov 97, with a selection of alternative therapies available and Gabriele Gad piano and Hugh Harris sax in the cafe.

About 10 pounds will buy you a vegetarian meal and whatever else is going on

notes re publication.

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