25 January 1999.
the Other News From England used to be sent by ordinary post to a selection of editors in other parts of the world in the early 1990`s. Some of these early issues are quite a good read. I am beginning to process them for publication here.
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.
(this article retained from last week.) I MADE THE MISTAKE OF believing a Tempo salesman in November. It has not been a pleasing experience.
Tempo are a British chain or retail outlets specialising in consumer electricals and computer stuff. They are selling pretty hard and fast, and do have a customer complaints dept who sound as though they will try to do something for you, but that seems to be as far as it goes.
I bought a Lexmark 3200 printer from them on November the fifth last year, because of the manufacturer`s specifications and the salesman`s claim that it would print at least 500 pages of colour before it needed a new cartridge.
Apart from the amazing slowness of the thing I was quite pleased with it.
It took me till late December to go through three hundred sheets of paper - most of them printed with black only - before the colour started to run out.
I phoned the shop asking for a refund and they were not friendly. So I phoned the local trading standards office, who informed me that Tempo would get away with it because I had kept it more than 28 days (that`s how long it took to use the paper and find out - hard luck) - the limit in British law unless the machine did not come up to the manufacturer`s specifications.
Then I tried the customer services department, where I got a very pleasant young woman who told me that I would not get any satisfaction unless it might be that I would accept an alternative printer in exchange. As there would be nothing wrong with this (subject to it coming up to a suitable specification) I said this might suit the purpose. She gave me the name of one Spencer Mason, who is customer relatiuons manager. I had to contact him by fax, and this is the fax (my error to call him `Mr. Spencer`):
(I tried to send this yesterday (6 Jan 99) as an internet fax, but it wouldn`t go. Here is another try. I am borrowing the fax machine, so I cannot necessarily receive a fax reply.)
I have been talking to Charmaine at customer relations, who has suggested I should contact you.
On 5th. November I bought a Lexmark 3200 printer, having been told by the salesman that it would do at least 500 pages of A4 in colour before the very expensive colour cartridge ran out. I was, however, aware that the black cartridge would be nearly empty at time of purchase, so when it ran out soon after purchase I replaced it (with one that incidentally didn`t work and had to be changed again).
Then a few days ago the colour started to run out. Since I was still using the same ream of paper (part of which had already been used before I got this printer), most of my printing with this machine has been black, where I have used colour it has been very modestly used (perhaps 2% or page area), and there are still 200 sheets left, I can very easily certify that it does not do anything like 500 copies per cartridge on colour.
So I phoned the shop who will not accept it as a return - but of course it is after 28 days.
The problem is that I don`t use the printer enough to have found out before the twenty eight days that it doesn`t live up to the salesman`s description.
(Incidentally I tried one or two things to check the manufacturer`s spec too, and with regard to print speed they are greatly stretching a point, in that the only way it can do 6 sheets per minute is when the sheet has a couple of lines of ascii and nothing else on it and the printer is printing at 300 dpi.)
I would appreciate being able to return it for full refund, but would also be interested in another printer that can really match up to the alleged spec., together with a replacement black cartridge so that I don`t within a week have to buy one. The main specs for me where:
Capability for photographs
6ppmin for high speed B&W printing
High resolution (1200 or more) where needed
Capability to print labels, thin paper, ordinary paper and light card
Invoice no 24229417 dated 5 Nov 112-116 New Oxford St WC1A 1HH 149.99 cash.
Dear Mr. Harris
Thank you for your fax received on the eighth January.
I am afraid we are unable to accept your claim as it is impossible to state how many prints you would receive from any cartridge from any computer as each user consumes a different amount of paper and ink on whatever is being printed.
However, on this occasion, as a gesture of goodwill I enclose #30 vouchers which can be used to purchase a new cartridge from any of our Tempo stores.
Customer Relations Manager
As to the #30 vouchers, they can ony be used in Tempo, where the cartridges are very expensive, and from Tempo`s point of view they amount to about #5 in the light of the company`s markups. Pretty cheap, I`d say.
I wonder why they didn`t just opt for sending me a plastic pen and pencil set like you get down the market for a pound?
Ecology and Environment.
I STARTED TO LAUGH when I saw that Michael Meacher, our Environment Minister, had been given an award for Special Environmental Protection, but my mirth didn`t last very long. This is an outstanding example of politicians up to their tricks again, thinking (I daresay quite rightly) that people will be impressed and suitably taken in. This would enable the public to have confidence in what M. Meacher does next. I, personally, am not the least bit convinced - not any more than I have been by the architects of concrete junk when they get awards.
Mr. Meacher is the politician who, as Environment Minister, expressed a desire to "protect beneficial species", thereby inviting such comments as "ecological nitwit". I will not risk boring you by describing why talking about "beneficial species" in this way can be considerd to be a sign of lack of knowledge/insight, but instead refer you to earlier Othernews`, several of which try to point out how it is that all species are beneficial, and should be left alone as much as possible.
I will say the photograph of him in my newspaper, allegedly taken at the time of the award being made, did seem to show a man looking extremely ashamed of himself. That, at least, might be an indicator that somewhere inside is a man capable of having principle, intelligence and ability.
Going private! Yes. What a brilliant idea! Bound to get more people reading. Bound to give people a better attitude - like, say, old Etonian Aitken, for instance.
The question now is who will get the contracts? Group 4 or Virgin?
Group 4 I suppose would have the distinct advantage of being run like a prison, thereby preparing those of us from poor areas for adulthood, but what would Virgin offer? Better pensions? Better staff pensions?
Actually, the two could work together, Group 4 running the schools and Virgin doing the pensions part of it.
But there may be other takers. Who knows?
London Property prices.
Looking at the property pages of a London newspaper I was struck by the enormous differences in prices for what was often nearly the same thing but in different areas.
It is not necessarily that one area is more attractive than another, as any tour of London will reveal, but some other thing.
I chose houses of two types, and looked for them in different areas. Starting with a house in Grafton Square, Clapham, at #975,000, I then looked at Champion Grove, where the same but with more garden recently fetched #375,000, Chelsea where if you could get it it would be 2 or 3 million, Wimbledon where it would be about #1.2m, Greenwich #600,000, Chiswick #975,000.......and so it goes on.
The other category I looked at was an ordinary 3 bed family house built built between 1870 and 1910 - a rather wide range of dates, but usually cnsidered to be equally attractive. These ranged from about #300,000 in wimbledon to #125,000 in East Dulwich, again with little difference in the surrounding environment - although I would say East Dulwich might be an aquired taste.
These are all areas that I know well enough to know that they are equally attractive, and although on occasion a house might be near a park or something (most London houses are unless they are in the very centre) there is nothing in it to make one more attractive than another.
So why is Champion Grove (or Camberwlell Grove for that matter) so relatively cheap? I think a few people out there ought to be looking at these places to pick up what they will be calling a bargain.
In this country we have a rather silly system by which a few people are "democratically" elected to govern, whilst the rest of the government are time-servers, thieves, members of "the honourable profession", manipulators, people who bribe officials, people who inherited large amounts of wealth, people who think the monarchy is important, etc., and are not democratically elected at all. These are called "peers", because they are thought to be peers (in the sense of `equal to`) of the realm (the monarchy).
There has been a habit over hundreds of years of choosing those persons who already support the monarchy to fill this role, and these people (who don`t necessarily have any particularly special worth) by the natural process that brought about the system in the first place turn out to be pretty well all of one type. When you consider it, it is no surprise, since they all have the common factor that they support an outdated and undemocratic system by supporting the monarchy.
In order to get people to fill this role in sufficient numbers, it would be necessary to give them certain privileges and financial advantages that make them want to maintain the status quo, so in some way you enrich them and then put in their heads the idea that their wealth would not exist without the monarchy. They could be described as conservative with a small c, and are likely to be Conservative with a big C.
The present government say they want to change all that. They intend to engage "people`s peers" because (they say) ordinary people are not represented. The problem is that if they first of all have to be supporters of the realm (which is what the government says it wants them to be) it is quite likely that at least half the population would not be eligible for the post, whilst those who angle for the position are likley to be just the same as the peers we have now.
There must be a democratic way of getting a second house, but I doubt that any of our elected servants will want to organise it.
I saw a whole collection of people outside Parliament campaigning with placards for the release of Pinochet. One placard proclaimed "Pinochet saved us from Communism" (extraordinary claim, that, given that the world has never seen communism).
I presume they are trying to save Pinochet from being extradited to Spain, where he would have to face a selection of charges. The "Law Lords" were deliberating about whether he should be sent to Spain or not, and the protesters were trying to influence their decision.
It seems to me that if Pinochet has no charges to answer he should go to Spain and fix things, and and if he has he should go to Spain and face them - just like any other person charged with crimes.
This is, after all, Europe, where we like to think we have a system of justice that from time to time works properly. You never know, it might work for him.
On the bus I noticed the sign "LT Buses Fare Evasion Campaign".
Of course, the idea is to get as many people to evade paying their fares as possible, but why?