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The Other News From England

Week beginning 23 Feb 1998.

The Other News is made up as a single document, so that you can scroll your way through it.

Blackspot on integrated freight transport. .





Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy.




Unions and work


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Last week`s edition.

Index of earlier issues.

For conditions see end of document.


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.


QUEUES seem as though they must have been invented by the Conservatives, but in fact I can remember times when we had queues under a Labour government before now. They were also very popular in Soviet Russia, I am told.

These devices are a means of `maximising the return on capital` by turning the people who serve them into battery hens, and at the same time cause the customer to pay further for the firm`s parsimony with the time they waste queuing. for some reason customers think this is all perfectly reasonable - there is no accounting for people`s personal philosophies, and I am told it is fairly common for someone to miss lunch because they have spent the lunchbreak queuing.

They can only be operated at their most efficient in a monopoly situation, of course, like they did in Russia, but even in a partial monopoly they can be quite effective. I have, for instance, seen queues of never less than twleve in the local post office, where a notice on the wall invites you to complain if service is poor - the only snag is that they don`t have any staff spare to do the job in hand, so god knows how they`ll manage to find the time to shred the complaints. It is not anyway the fault of the counter staff if there are not enough people working there, so one doesn`t like to complain to these unfortunate people.

From time to time I try to complain to Abbey National that they have too few staff (their queues often go right out into the street and move extremely slowly), and get back Standard Answer Number....., which, being entirely computer generated and written to answer all complaints, states that they always give the best possible service, that they are sorry that I am disatisfied, and has invariably failed to give an answer to my complaint....which is that they ought to learn how to treat their staff and customers like humans (but I have to admit I also sometimes ramble on about wasting resources on image when you haven`t yet learnt to do the job in hand properly).

Firms like that seem to have a knack of hiring people who feel personally responsible for the greed of their employers, and so I am fairly easily put off complaining because I want my complaint to reach the board of directors - people it can never reach because instead these unfortunates take the blow even though it is not their responsibility. I wish they would fight back.

The reason for all this hopeless service is that they can get away with it because you and I don`t close our accounts. They have pushed things to the very brink, but know exactly where to stop.

In my own case I actually profit minutely from this failure of theirs, because as I had a building society account with them when their directors` greed caused them to sell the idea of becoming a bank to the public I became without any choice a shareholder, and shareholders on that scale get a minute crumb of the enhanced profits.

Personally, I`d rather my firm treated its staff like humans - and I`d like it even better if they treated the public like humans at the same time. It would be worth the minute loss of dividend, and it might well by mistake result in increased sales and therefore increased profit.

I am still disatisfied.


Politicians and dictators of the world are putting the wind up us all about chemical and biological weapons, and that is no surprise - there is almost certainly something to worry about. What is surprising is that we all talk about the enormous possible loss of human lives without talking about the enormous possible loss of other lives and general damage to the ecology (though Blackspot mentioned this very thing this week in an email to me).

If a large enough quantity of deadly gas or biological stuff to kill a whole nation (possible) were released it would also kill virtually all other animals, probably some plants, and not a few insects. In the main, the remaining species would die off owing to ecological inbalance and starvation.

So supposing Saddam (being generally thought of as being only interested in himself) were to release such a charge he would be in grave danger of destroying his own means of survival, and you might think that would be sufficient deterrent. But, having worked in mental health I can tell you that if he is, as some people have said, a psychopath, then it is quite likely that other parts of his mental function are equally questionable, and one of those parts is quite likely to be reason. Therefore, assuming them to be right there is a very genuine danger of a release of this type, and a real danger of permanent damage to the ecology on a scale we probably haven`t seen before.

At least one politician has pointed out that if a bomb hits one of the chemical or biological stores it could quite easily send a massive cloud of contamination up into the air, which could quite easily distribute itself around the whole region killing everything in it`s path, and if big enough around the rest of the world.

So now we come to the dilemma. If Saddam is not stopped it is quite likely he will manufacture more of this stuff, and there is no reason to believe that he won`t use it.

The United Nations has become lumbered with the problem of taking the risk of damaging the world almost beyond repair or taking the risk of allowing someone else to do so.

As someone who is almost a pacifist I find this a difficult area even to contemplate, but assuming the information we have available to us is genuine and not just proganda I have to say I consider the first risk to be a far better one than the second one.

The painful part of it is that I really do not want to see all those people get bombed, and I have to admit that I am glad the responsibilty for those decisions doesn`t lie with me.

Blackspot on integrated freight transport.

I don`t necessarily read his articles before posting them, and this week that is the case. However, this subject is quite pertinent to ecological matters.


An article appeared in the The Guardian this week telling us that Summerhill had been accepted as OK after all by OFSTED (govewrnment inspectors).

Summerhill itself has not yet heard the news (we had an email from Zoe Neill) so it may be that The Guardian know something that Summerhill doesn`t.


IF I STARTED A `SOCIETY WITH SECRETS` nobody would trust me or the society, and I wouldn`t blame them. We would `study politics` and generally go about seeing what of the public`s resources we could collar for the benefit of our membership - mostly certain key members, but there would be a few crumbs for the infantry - enough to keep them loyal. We would also have a few secret signs, so that if we were in a skirmish of some sort we could call upon any members who happened to be around by a secret signal and rely on them for help - even if it wasn`t justified. The membership would think it was great, and the public would hate us - but as we would be a `society with secrets` they would be scared to do anything about our antics for fear of recriminations.

And in due course we would infest the whole of society - particularly those areas of administration that might be useful in furthering the Society`s ends.

Yet somehow freemasons, who as far as I can gather most people in this country don`t trust, think it is perfectly alright for a judge to be a freemason and keep it a secret. Why?

Jack Straw, the new home secretary, has asked judges and others involved in the `criminal justice system` to tell us if they are freemasons, and has told them that if they do not own up voluntarily he will make laws making it compulsory to register. Unfortunately, as we are already quite badly infested he is likely to meet with quite serious opposition at every turn and on every level. He doesn`t yet know, for instance, how many MP`s are freemasons. If there are enough, he might have trouble getting any legislation past the first hurdle.

Yet it is a bit like Iraq. If you don`t do something about it you are allowing the problem to increase and taking a risk of massive bloodshed that grows daily, and if you do you will cause some slightly less massive bloodshed. In the present case, it would be the government risking a vote of no confidence and causing an election. It seems highly likely they would get re-elected, of course, but to reintroduce the subject is taking a risk of the same thing being repeated, and so by trying to serve the public better than any government before them for many years they take the risk of losing their seats.

Yet freemasons are perceived as a menace not only in the legal system, where they are not infrequently blamed for a wide range of injustices, they are also thought to infest most administrations. My own thoughts on the matter are that they have infiltrated most if not all civil service areas, and it is very difficult to get anything done where the thing being done, though perfectly acceptable and legal, is contrary to masonic interests. I have spent years pursuing a matter through the ombudsman system, for instance, only to find myself up against obstacles that can only be accounted for in this way. I had to conclude the person against whom my initial complaint was made was a freemason, and the ombudsman or someone in the ombudsman`s office was a freemason too, plus the complaints officer of the council. You wouldn`t think Southwark was rich enough to be worth meddling in, would you?

I wonder if Mr. Straw has considered the possibility that the judges don`t wish to own up because there are no judges who are not freemasons? This would show us just how widespread the malpractice of electing people to be judges because they are freemasons is. Even so, it would be a great relief to Joe Public to know who was doing what. Joe Public could then tell his solicitor that he did/didn`t want to deal with them if they were a masonic firm and sue them if they misled him. Unfortunately, he might be taking the very high risk of getting a masonic judge and losing his shirt, but I suppose the world isn`t a perfect place.

The other pressing question is why he is only asking people in the `criminal justice system` to declare themselves and not all public servants? Is it perhaps that there are so many elsewhere that he doesn`t stand a chance and he knows it?

If the Laboaur party achieve nothing else during their term of office, this one thing will be of very great importance to a great many ordinary people, and for not a few it will have been worth voting for.

(I should say at this point that I don`t normally vote, and this last election I did vote but didn`t vote Labour). Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy.


In wednesday`s newspaper there was a mention of a Miscarriage of Justice Commission. I can only guess what it`s purpose is/will be, but as far as I can gather it was intended to be a means by which members of the public could have their grievances against our rickety legal system heard - presumably by the same judges who have administered it to get the results it has been getting! I imagined them heaving out old cases that had been so obviously bent during the time the Tories were in power, and those cases being resolved properly - perhaps I was being a little excessive.

I couldn`t help speculating on the effect the declaration of freemasonry might have on this Commission. Since large portions of the population don`t seem to trust freemasons it would be reasonable to expect that the first judge to admit his (there are female freemasons and judges these days, too, but I doubt they would have the same `success` as male ones) freemasonry would reap a string of complaints to the Commission on the grounds that he was a freemason and that therefore there hadn`t been a fair hearing.

There might of course be difficulty getting any lawyer to pursue the case because of freemasonry, but assuming the case took off at all one imagines the argument would go along the lines of pointing out that as it was not possible to tell whether or not the judge and the prosecution were freemasons one must assume they were. If they were, then part of the masonic system consists of making secret signals and helping each other out. Therefore, the complainant would say, his defence were not in a position to know the full prosecution argument - only that part which was presented verbally - and of course it would not be difficult to argue that two members of a `society with secrets` whose code of conduct requires them to help each other could not manage to be honest and that therefore the result would be a biassed decision. Rather difficult to deny - particularly if you are the sort of person who is attracted by secrets.

The only problem with the last argument, however, is that it is quite likely that unwhittingly the defendant was represented by an equally masonic lawyer, and that therefore the contest was even. Both sides had secrets - wonderful.

However, when your liberty is at stake a contest is not the ideal thing for it to rely on.

Something a bit more like reason might be a good idea, but that is perhaps a little beyond the capabilities of our current system.


I`m still saying the same thing because I haven`t yet actually managed to put the stuff on the site:

Some of the LETSSwing material will be available as sheet music on the net soon. It will probably take the form of `fake book` pieces that have been copied from hand-drawn parts, but if someone wants orchestrated versions it might be possible to find the time to write a small score or two. email

Most pieces are either beginner or intermediate standard, but anyway - as you will be able to download for free (although we retain copyrights) why worry?

If you are in a LETS somewhere and would like LETSSwing to play to you, please contact

And if you are not, would you like to book a band about which one person said "it has a certain something." ?

Quite what, I don`t know.


Chords continued.

RELATIVE MINOR is the term. You will by now have experimented with the scales and heard what a minor scale and a minor chord sounds like, so I won`t try to describe it to you.

The relative minor of C is A minor, and as A is the 6th note in the C scale you will know by counting that (for instance) E minor is the relative minor of G and C minor is the relative minor of E flat. That is a fixed relationship that is utilised in not a few compositions. Try this to see what I mean. You should be able to find at least thirty well known tunes that fit with this sequence, and another lot whose sequences are nearly the same:


Keep repeating it. Most of Blue Moon, Every Breath That You Take, and a host of others whose names I forget but whose tunes I remember come to mind. Try replacing the F with a Dminor. Try the same set in G, F, etc.

We would do well to look at a tune whose key is a minor one. Those who read music should ignore what happens when you read the key signature to tell what minor key the piece is in, because what we are doing here is trying to do something for all levels and some can`t yet read music.

In C minor (the relative minor of E flat) we still have the three chords and it would be easy for you to imagine they will all be minor chords. In practice that doesn`t work. What does work is for the C and the F to be minors, and the G to be an ordinary major chord. The sort of tunes you can get out of this set of chords is almost invariably a sad one. Try playing them in various relations with each other and hear what I mean.

If we wanted to start a tune in E flat and go into it`s relative minor (Cm) we would be able to just change immediately we felt like it to C minor, or prepare the way by playing a G7. The G7 is the chord that `leads` to Cm just as G7 leads to C major. It is a matter of choice and listening. Try the following to hear the change via G7:


You will find that type of change in a few tunes (my own Pavanne being one). Classical people I believe call the E flat G7 C bit 1,3, 6 minor because the 1 is the E flat, the 3 is the G(7), and the 6 minor is the C minor.

Once you have moved into C minor you can stay there using the Cm Fm G7 set, or return to the E flat either direct or through B flat7 (the `leading chord` of E flat). It depends on the type of tune you are playing.

I feel a great temptation to go on, but I think you might need a week to digest that lot.

IF THIS COURSE IS MOVING TOO FAST FOR YOU, try going back a week or two through the hyperlink at top of page. It might surprise you how much you have learnt when you thought it was all a bit too much. Every episode so far is on the Othernews site.

Next week I want to look at chord sequences that do not entirely comply with the set of three idea, and I hope to follow that by doubling back a bit and going over the whole subject of chords again with melody instruments and maybe guitars, basses and banjos (so Steve keep with it - it was you who made me realise I was missing out stuff for people like you).

Unions and work

The industrial tribunal accepted my application on account of it being on the form that was so difficult to find, and now ACAS have contacted me offering a mediation service. More I cannot tell you at this moment, except that when I phoned ACAS to accept their offer I got an answering machine and the man whose machine it was has not phoned me back. So I phoned him again on Friday and his message had been changed. It now said he wasn`t able to be in the office this Friday, but would I leave a message?

One must remember that they, like everything else designed to help ordinary people, have been financially strangulated during the last government.



Just a little thing about planes. I cannot at present work out how to tell you how to sharpen a plane, but I can tell you a few things about how to assess it`s condition and set it up to work if it is sharp.

The plane blade should be as sharp as a razor blade, and anything significantly less will reult in no result or an extremely lousy result. The tip of the blade must be slightly curved (not straight like those school sharpening machines do) and sticking out not more than 6 thousanths of an inch (ask to see a feeler gauge or a micrometer to get an idea of how much this is).

The sound of the plane in use will tell you most of what you need to know about it. A sharp plane will make a bright hissing sound as it goes along the surface of the wood. If it does anything other than change the sound of it`s hiss as it passes over a knot it is blunt, and if it sounds like a tobogan going over hard ice it is so blunt you really might injure yourself with the effort of trying to use it.

The other thing to watch out for is the lovely clean shavings that come out when all is well (they should not be the width of the blade).

The reason for the slightly curved blade tip is twofold. First, it will not leave a step at the side of your cut if you are planing a large flat area, and secondly it enables you when planing the edges of boards to have control over whether they are square or not. Imagine how it would be if you used only one side of the plane - as it can only cut in the middle (owing to the curve and the fact that you have set it to 6 thou, which should leave none sticking out at the sides), the side would get planed without the middle and so the edge would gradually slope more and more. To correct this, just plane with the centre of the plane over the highest spot.

So now you need to know how to set it. I cannot describe it with a wooden plane, but if you first do it with a metal one you will know what you are looking for when you try to set a wooden one.

The screw thing under the blade at the back on a steel plane lowers and raises the blade, whilst the little lever behind the blade swings the blade from side to side allowing you to make sure it is not sticking out lopsided. the plated piece of metal with a screw through it holds the blade in, and you should not use a screwdriver on it but lift the lever to release the blade. Once the blade is loose you can adjust the screw with your fingers until you get it just the right amount to hold the blade firm whilst at the same time allowing you to adjust it.

You will have to look at the plane in great detail to see what I mean if you are not already familiar with it - and try the two adjustments. Wind it up and wind it back down, and wiggle the lever from side to side to see the effect they have.

If you decide to separate the piece of metal fixed to the flat side of the blade, make a mental note of whgich way round it and the blade are, as I know from years of teaching that people often put them back together the wrong way round, on the wrong side, etc. - and even upside down. This is very important, as the plane will not work at all if you get it wrong.

Having familiarised yourself with those movements, now take the blade back and then wind it forward till it just begins to come through. Now centralise it (so that it is not cutting all one side) and then finally wind it down till it sticks out 6 thou or so.

Do not wind it forwards and then back, because as soon as it hits the wood it will be pushed back by the amont of free play you have left and not do any cutting as a result.

Don`t tell me you can`t do it because I know you can. It is just a question of trying it several times and experimenting with the result.

Don`t try planing damp boards out of the shed, as they will wear you out and won`t give any true picture of how successful you have been in your plane setting activities.

You have just embarked on one of the most satisfying manual tasks in this game. When you get it right the aesthetics of it are parallel to playing music.

I must think about how to write about sharpening blades during the week.

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Some different small ads.

I want some Locolink stuff. This is the program and disks for getting data off Amstrad PCW`s onto ordinary PC`s.

Cheap laptop for writing the Other News when away from base. Contact

Wanted pc/Acorn monitor, and Acorn technical info plus extra RAM. London area.

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

For sale or barter


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

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notes re publication.

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