22 February 1999.
early Othernews - 1992, 93, 94.
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.
London Journey - a trip from Docklands through Beckenham and back to Docklands.
(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).
We are still redesigning The Other News From England.
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.
I think she may be being lyrical when she says "once we are balanced we will remember we can fly". The articles she has put on this site (see above) will tell you more than I can about what she does. It`s all a bit metaphysical for me.
BUT - remember "the wearing of loose trousers is recommended"!
there is a new one this week, drawn originally for an adult ed class called "Front bites, rear kicks".
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.
I MANAGED TO get through to Southwark Council on the phone this week. It only took a few hours and I was straight through. I had to be a bit cunning to do it, and there is no telling if my call will have any effect, but I am proud of this achievement.
My reason for telephoning was the disappearance of a cheque they allege to have sent me. If they have sent it to me, I really want to know where it is - in case a certain 50-year-old teenager I know of has paid it into a temporary bank account. Since such a person would use a false name and only keep the account for a very short span of time before abandoning it, I needed to get an answer in a hurry. But the person who actually deals with that kind of thing is not available - and presumably nobody else feels it is their duty to do anything about it, so by the time I find out where it went the young man in question or whoever else is on the fiddle will have closed the account again.
However, there is just one thing more I know. The young man in question has suddenly got in his possession cannabis, and it would appear in rather large quantities. So you never know, he might yet be caught.
But will I get my money back? I doubt it. The council will say it is my fault for not being dilligent.
Looking at this question again, I realise there is every possibility - particularly in Southwark - that the cheque (as opposed to the notification, which came by itself) has gone into a bank account temporarily opened by a member of the council`s staff, or by a friend of a member of the council`s staff.
The reason it is so difficult to communicate with Southwark may be that they are trying to hide as much mismanagement as possible, and don`t care how they hide it, but to me a more likely explanation is that they don`t have the funds to hire the staff to do the work they have to do, and at the same time they are so ill-managed that what funds they do have get fiddled and wasted away. This is without also considering the possibility that they may have a large masonic element - something suggested by various things I have experienced in the past.
The result for the person in the street is much the same whichever way you look at it. If you are poor enough, there are certain areas of the council that you need to contact from time to time. These are the areas where nobody answers the phone - or if the phone is answered it is an answering machine that suggests that you will get someone to help you within five minutes and then keeps you waiting for fifty minutes.
Prior to the present system they had a different one. With that system you had a choice. You could phone or write. Phoning being cheaper, most people tried that first, and not infrequently the phone was answered by a real and optimistic-sounding person who would tell you they were putting you through and then cut you off after ten minutes.
The alternative, writing, resulted in the letter disappearing (into the wastepaper bin?), and if you then sent a copy with an accompanaying note telling them that you already sent them this before this also disappeared. I once did this six times, and then a year later followed it up with a letter containing copies of the six originals and asking if they were yet ready to answer the first of them. I did actually get a response, as far as I remember. It was to the effect that they had not received any of the other letters, so I wrote again to ask if they could now answer the original letter a copy of which they now had, and they went dead on me. I still don`t know the answer. It was to do with improvement grants.
Southwark now have a complaints department, whose job it is to investigate complaints against the council, but as they don`t answer the phone you can get into some fairly heavy difficulties there. However, if you phone the chief executive`s department (Julie Belvir, CE) they do answer the phone. Last time I did it they said they couldn`t do anything about the matter, and the time before they said they could and then did nothing for six months, and finally wrote to tell me I was wrong without apparently really understanding what the hell I was talking about.
I had been trying to trace missing cheques.
I was going to hold over the article from last week anyway, as a matter of principle, but this week a list of charges came from Abbey National, showing me how much extra they would be charging in addition to the vastly increased interest charges they were already charging, and some other charges that I might fall foul of in the event of continued financial difficulties.
First thing is the Monthly Arrears Charge of #20. This is the fine for being unable to pay your mortgage, and goes towards creating a situation where they can reasonably apply for possession of your property. It increases the amount owing by #20 per month in addition to the existing arrears.
Referral to Collection and Recoveries is a charge of #60 added when their record-keeping has failed to keep them in touch with what is going on (or you might genuinely be in financial difficulties), thus giving them the impression that you are in great financial difficulty and are to be tapped for all they can get whilst there is anything to get. I must presume this would be followed by a Possession of Property legal action.
Breakdown of Transactions. This presumably would occur if you asked them to show you how they had come to the conclusion that you had arrears. The charge is #20 for each year`s accounts, but I presume must be greater if there are errors, because they might have to do several breakdowns to resolve the matter to their satisfaction. I don`t know how they would feel about your satisfaction. Anyway, in the case of a mortgage like mine there would be 20-something years of records to break down - several hundred #`s.
Discharge. If you manage despite everything to discharge your mortgage, then there is also a discharge fee of #55 - but they send the deeds to you by recorded delivery, so there may be something in it.
Deeds Handling #55. This would presumably apply if you had the extraordinary luck referred to above. They would have to get the deeds out to send them to you during Discharge #55 (above), so I suppose the two would be lumped together to make #110.
Deedsafe #55. This optional service is one where if you continue to be mortgaged to them for as little as 50p they charge you for storing the deeds. An absolute bargain, I am sure you will agree.
Deeds Enquiry/Photocopying only #15. This applies if, in order to find a buyer for your house and therefore pay off the mortgage and other sundries you are obliged to get a copy of the deeds which they are holding because you owe some money on the house.
Customer Inspection of Deeds #30. This is charged for allowing you to view your deeds!
Payment Arrangement #20. This applies when you find you have to make a 'special arrangement' on the account, like for instance having to pay irregularly because you are not paid every month. It`s a good gamble on their behalf because although they say they will not charge it if you keep to the arrangement, they nearly always try to pressure you into making an arrangement just beyond your means, thus almost guaranteeing that at some stage you will fail to keep it. They also know that if you have to make an 'arrangement' there is a high chance they can charge you the Monthly Arrears charge (#20 monthly) and the Referral to Collection charge (#60) as well - quite profitable really.
Changes to Circumstances #95. If you find you are able to fix the problem by getting another buyer to take over the mortgage they will charge you this fee. It will presumably also be accompanied by Reinspection Fee for looking again at the property, and some of the others.
Conversion of Payment Method #50. If you manage to find a way of paying the mortgage that effectively changes the Payment Method (for instance from an endowment to an ordinary mortgage), this charge will apply.
What is really unpleasant about this matter is that I am by default an Abbey National shareholder, and therefore am in some way connected with these unpleasant activities. I apologise on behalf of my firm to anyone who is going through the same sort of thing. I am afraid the matter is outside my control because I am not rich enough to have enough shares to influence things in a more acceptable direction - and if I were I wouldn`t have mortgage arrears, and might not even have a mortgage.
Here is the article that was here last week and the week before:
"I wrote about these people last week (1st Feb), but at that time I hadn`t realised the magnitude of their scam-like activities.
"Looking through the paperwork in connection with the summons for possession I noticed that far from my repayments being #425 a month on #48,000, they are #500, and the interest alone is far greater than the whole repayment on another of their mortgages would be for #60,000!
"The Abbey National say I owe them #47,000 (but that it would take #48,000 to get them off my back) and that the current monthly instalment is #499.91! This makes the total repayments per year amount to just under #6000 - which is approximately 13% of the total. This is the cost of not being able to pay them off.
"Because the mortgage has been going a long time the interest is #364.02 per month, or #4368 per year. This amounts to an interest rate of 9.5%!
"Almost anybody who knows anything about mortgages will know that if I were creditworthy I would be able to borrow money for this kind of purpose at about 6%, and had I been borrowing at normal mortgage rates over the years there would now be no arrears, the total outstanding would be reduced instead of increased, and I would be creditworthy. But I`m not creditworthy, so they know they can charge what they like - and the current reason I`m not creditworthy is largely that they are suing me for possession of my property!
"It doesn`t end there, though. They are also asking for costs!
I know what I`d call them. It isn`t complimentary."
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, aat 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.
(Sorry folks, this is such an important issue to me that I feel bound to leave the article on another week).
I had the great fortune this week to hear Frank Dobson the Health Minister make a speech on the subject of the health service. He was extremely natural and convincing. He was in fact so convincing that the greatest cynic I know - I myself - believed him, which in my eyes is not a bad achievement for a politician.
He told us of some seriously useful sums of money to be spent on bringing the whole Health Service back together to the kind of health service my grandparents, parents and I thought we had already bought before the last government ransacked it. It even made me feel enthusiastic enough to speculate whether I could find myself a Health Service job again (I was once a hospital teacher until the shortage of funds to pay managers made me redundant).
The problems will of course lie not in the idea but in the execution of it.
The National Health Service mental hospital I taught in was both a happy place and one that ran very smoothly (difficult to believe now) when I started in 1981. I had the best job in Britain. The hospital had one manager and his secretary, and all the other employees were people who did the job of attending to patients and maintaining the buildings (and gardens). We were like a community. Even my dog was liked, and would be invited onto the wards for a quick pat.
I could go over the whole eight years of steady decline that occurred whilst I was there, but there is no need because most people will already be familiar with the story. It starts with one manager and plenty of staff and a well served community of mentally ill people, and ends with a team (I think it may have been approaching 20) of managers, too few staff on all wards, no Occupational Therapy activities, buildings in disrepair, discontented staff and patients, the restaurant reduced to a vending machine room, reduced or non-existent access to special facilities such as theatres and swimming pools (all part of the treatment if you`re mentally ill), inadequate cleaning, the gardens in decline, and not enough pay for a family to survive on (except, of course if you are a manager on performance related pay - and even that is being cheese-pared in some cases).
It doesn`t only need huge sums of money thrown at it - those sums might well just disappear into the nearest lodge if the job isn`t done properly. The whole process probably needs to be put into reverse somehow - but how?
It is possible that it also needs to be fully returned to the public so that it is run for the joy of doing the job instead of for the profit of a collection of execs. and shareholders.
We all got our punctures fixed.
And then I noticed the old tyre shop nearby had reopened. This was where they used to devise every trick under the sun to persaude you to buy a new tyre when you only had a puncture ..........
And then this evening, just as I was coming in to finish The Other News the obvious person accused me of stealing his back wheel! I have to say I laughed, because it seemed so appropriate that a person believed by many to be a stealer of bicycles should have his car wheel stolen - but why on earth did he think I took it? And looking at the car resing on it`s rim, it is not difficult to know that without being exceptionally strong I could`t have got the wheel off.
But you know, one of the peculiar things about people who commit crimes is that they think everybody else has the same tendencies - or, alternatively, as in one strange case I came across some years ago in a mental hospital, they believe it couldn`t possibly happen to them! This man in the mental hospital was so shocked that anyone should steal from him that he almost gave himself a heart attack!
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#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.
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