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The Other News From England.

23 May 1999.

This week.

Index of earlier issues.


THE EDITOR has developed RSI in one arm through writing too much on the computer, playing the saxophone and piano too much, and generally being a bit over-physical. There will therefore be an erratic performance until this has cleared up.

Those who like that sort of thing 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.


OFSTED HAVE extended the notion of the control of education being put in the hands of the uneducated yet a little further than it was during the Thatcher years. I am sure a few dozen people will be very impressed by their latest antics, which do appear to be designed to make sure that we all have the same level of opportunities - and so perhaps that will be OK. Their most impressive manoeuvre (spelling?), I was told, was to claim that one of the few schools in the country with a very definite philosophy has no philosophy!

Like all idealism, entirely equal opportunities (something I heartily support) can only be obtained by levelling downwards, and I don`t mind that particularly, but the government`s apparent perception of what education should be is something that should give the most opportunities to those who are most likely to take them, and this particular bit of narrowmindedness shoots that idea in the foot.

Their latest and most aggressively attacked target has been Summerhill School in Suffolk, which is world famous for it`s freedom, eccentric educational approach, output of extremely good teachers (and lecturers), and laid-back attitude to non-attendance of lessons. I don`t suppose it is denied by the school that, like all schools, they have some pupils who are short on certain areas of knowledge (probably the national average), and that the reading level is no higher than any other British school (though I would personally doubt that) - but the real issue at stake here would appear to be the envy felt by those who must attend lessons (or once had to attend lessons) for those who are not obliged to do so.

Your average school inpector, one must assume, would be someone who had jumped through all the hoops necessary to get the pieces of paper (however meaningless) to be able to escape from teaching and, like many principals and administrators of colleges, thereby avoid showing their own inadequacies in the field whilst telling others how to go about it and getting paid a bit more for doing so.

I once worked in a school that had been carefully modelled on the famous Summerhill, which was quite a success educationally, and I still know a great many of the ex-pupils. I do not know them all, but what is striking to me about those people I do know is that they are all what any sane person would call successful - that is, they are useful, and can do things, and are not criminal in their behaviour - something I am told you cannot say for most other schools (of every 'class'). Most of them are not rich, but get by like everyone else.

However, I was telling you this because I had gossip recently that the headmistress of this school (a member of one of the founding families of it) recently became an OFSTED inspector!

(The inspectors` report ended thus:

"The school fails to meet the requirements under the Education Act 1996 in the following respects: the instruction in not efficient or suitable; the welfare of boarders in not adequately safeguarded and promoted; and the school does not provide suitable accommodation".

There are plenty of parents and children who would disagree, and I believe I am right in saying that there has been no incident in the years between 1926 and now that has actually shown the welfare and accomodation to be insufficient.)


AFTER QUEUING BEHIND 47 people in the post office and discovering when I reached the counter that I would need to make a phone call to find the information I needed, I made a phone call and was answered by an answering machine that offered me a great deal of irrelevant information (after I had queued at much cost in their call-queuing system), and ended up by telling me that I had two options: either hang up or hear the same thing again - so I hung up, still none the wiser on this important matter of what I could and could not legally do in my pursuit of a living.

Not to be beaten (indeed, I still need to make a living) I tried to contact the police, who should also have the same information, and after being in a telephone queue for ten minutes was cut off, so I tried again, and this time found an officer who told me that I needed to go to the same source I had already failed to get any help from to get that information, wished me luck and could offer no other info - it is not, after all their job to tell me what I can drive without breaking the law until they actually catch me driving it - and anyway, Southwark not being an 'important' area, it doesn`t have anything like enough police people to serve the community properly (you only get that in areas where people have time to complain).

Later, I tried to contact the council (Southwark), and after being held in a queue for 50 minutes gave up because even more pressing matters needed seeing to if I was to pay this huge phone bill I was running up. Steve who plays in LETSSwing told me that he once queued for 110 minutes before getting through, only to be told that they would write to him (even though they have nobody capable of either understanding or writing a letter) so perhaps it is just as well.

I needed to go to the (Abbey National) bank to pay the mortgage, and so I went and queued for a bus that came no more than 15 minutes late, and queued behind 15 people to get to the till, where I was told that I would need to bring my cheque book if I wanted to make a transfer from an Abbey National banking account to an Abbey National mortgage account (both in the same name), so I nipped across the road, queued ten minutes for a bus, got off near my house, went in, got the chequebook, came out and queued for the bus (only 10 minutes), queued behind twelve people in Abbey National, and then was offered a form to take home to fill in and post.

That was one working day used up.

The next day, I realised the only solution to one of my domestic problems was the police, but as there had been an incident somewhere all police were out doing things and there was nobody available to attend to my needs. The local officer suggested a police agency that he thought could deal with this problem, but who, after multiple attempts to get through, finally phoned back to tell me they could not deal with this particular problem, as they were only trained to deal with certain highly specific things (marital violence, I think they were).

A letter arrived from the council asking for an answer to a question I had already answered, and not giving me any means of replying except by writing back - an excercise that only leads to failure in my experience. Come to think of it, so does making a phone call: the only thing that could guarantee to get action would be if by responding to your attempt at communication the council could get some money out of you. In my case, this is highly unlikely, because they have already near enough bankrupted me.

I went to a meeting of tutors to discuss next year`s curriculum, at which the manager (yes!) of the college talked about 'local and government initiatives', 'life-long learning', more adults passing exams, targets, 'curriculum priorities for acreditation', 3 year plan, waffle, waffle, waffle, and pointed out to the ageing and very popular art teacher that her subject was 'not important' because it was not a serious subject and OFSTED (government inspectors) wanted more exam passes and sod the education part of it - and incidentally Surrey Adult Education had collapsed completely, thereby demonstrating very clearly to my way of looking at things that education is run by the uneducated (in fact, that was one of the great Tory achievements of the past twenty years or so), and that the real plan is to kill all adult and further education stone dead unless it be something people are personally paying for or 'vocational'. The people who have formulated this plan are apparently incapable of realising that an educated populace (as opposed to a qualified populace, which is quite another thing) are necessary if we are to have a vibrant and healthy economy.

ALL THE ABOVE are just symptoms of the dimwitted attitudes of politicians who took over the unpleasant and only temporarily workable Thatcherism and have not in any way diluted it despite the evidence - in fact, they have probably intensified it. And whilst we, the great mass of English, are divided by the unbelievably poor service we are getting from private and public sector alike, and whilst we express our exasperation by bickering amongst ourselves and thereby wasting yet more time, these parasites are cashing in on the spaces we leave by allowing ourselves to be distracted instead of getting on with things. They are also, of course, cashing in on things like shares in the telephone companies, which encourage the hopelessness I have been describing.

It is very much the the same sort of thing that finally brought the Roman Empire down, but just using modern methods, and seems even to have the same apathy that stopped people bothering to stand for election or vote. No point in supporting a political system that doesn`t belong to you.

Given the politicians we have, the stage is entirely empty. Would you be shameless enough to be a politician? If you would, no matter how inadequate, we need you.

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. 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