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The Other News From England

Week beginning 26 Jan 1998.

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




Gabriele Gad



Unions and work


Small ads

Stop Press

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.


Blackspot on railways: click here.


Credit Cards

TO ILLUSTRATE how amazingly profitable credit cards must be for the banks I will tell you a little story.

A company called NBNA (what? you say) has been canvassing people in Kent offering them a `silver card`. This card has a credit limit on it that is too low for the credit my friend wanted, so he declined the (ubsolicited) offer.

So they offered him a `Gold Card`. This card had a limit that was too low for him so he declined the offer.

So they offered him a `Platinum Card`.

This card allowed enough credit to buy the things he wanted to buy, so he filled in the application forms.

In due course he received a call from NBNA congratulating him on being granted a `Silver Card`! (trick no.1)

"But I don`t want a `Silver Card`" he said. "I have no use for a Silver Card, and if I had wanted one I would have applied for it."

He was told that he had one anyway. But he wanted to cancel it and they wouldn`t let him. So he said he would post it back to them in the reply-paid envelope, but they said they wouldn`t accept it back. (trick no. 2)

I now wish I had discussed it with him, because of course if he didn`t order it one imagines he has no responsibility to do anything at all about it.

So he could just put it all in an envelope (card, PIN, and all) and post it back to them, and if it disappears and gets misused I imagine it is down to NBNA to foot the bill.

Although they deserve it, it would be foolish and either completely or verging on illegal to buy a whole lot of goods with it and then return it to them.

Trick no. 2 in this game is illegal in England when done with books, and probably is also illegal when done with credit cards. The reason it is illegal is that there was a period in the sixties when book selling companies started sending books to people without the books being requested, and then billing the people for them when they were not returned. Consumers retaliated by keeping the books and not paying for them, and finally the government legislated against the strategy.

I still have a very nice Oxford Encyclopaedia of Music that a friend of mine obtained by requesting one of the offending companies to send it to "R N Nelson, Napoleon`s Folly, 14 Brns Crt Rd....." etc!

It`s very useful.

Thames Water

If you refer to Other News for the week beginning 12 Jan 1998 you will find a story about Thames Water`s neat little fiddle to get some extra money out of customers.

This week the threatening letter has arrived.

"If you delay," they say, "we will consider taking you to court. If the court case goes against you, you may have to pay costs. If you still do not pay, we may have to cut off your water supply."

This is then followed by notes telling me how easy it is to pay them, and no mention of the fact that that the money is not due.

Since I am not willing to get involved in a whole lot of pointless correspondence, I will leave it up to them to take me to court if they feel like it, and I imagine I will be able to claim at least for the stress this irritating matter puts upon me, and maybe if they cut off the water.......

What a wonderful thing this privatisation is.


recycling wormy wood.

The college rents it`s premises from the council, and as a result we have to move bits of college about from time to time.

It was decided that the woodwork shop should be moved into the gymnasium, but before the woodwork shop moves it was decided that the maple floor in the gym should be taken up as it had signs of worm in it, and replaced by shuttering ply if it is dry underneath or marine ply if it is damp underneath. Eleven thousand pounds was the price, and one can`t help speculating about what effect that had on the decision.

Students upon hearing that so much maple was coming up flocked to the gym and took large amounts to the woodwork shop to make things out of. I also took some.

The principal being on holiday, the vice principal panicked and told us we would have to take it all out of the building because it had worm in it.

The students then pointed out to me that for the past twelve years people have been bringing in wormy furniture to restore in the furniture restoration classes and we did not seem to have any wormholes whatever in the benches, cupboards, timber racks or any of the items that didn`t come in with wormholes already in them. In fact, someone pointed out, some of the benches are over a hundred years old and have no worm in them.

So I gave this some consideration, and realised that despite my taking no precautions during the past 17 years, and frequently knowingly bringing wormy timber in, the only places I`ve seen worm is in other buildings where the building and timber have been damp over long periods of time. Furthermore, those pieces of timber that have come into our workshop with holes in them have developed no further, no matter how long they`ve been in there. It would appear that the reason for this is that the timber dries out and the beetles (`woodworm`) die off.

So I wrote to the vice principal to try to quench her anxiety. I didn`t want my students to be disappointed, and I didn`t want to see the maple wasted.

This however isn`t the end of what I have to say, because although there was only an area of about 500 square feet that presented suitable conditions for worm to exist the contractors removed all 3000 square feet of floor instead of just replacing the wormy bit (which, it turned out, was not badly enough wormed to be any problem, and (a) could have been treated and (b) had already been fixed as far as the damp which appeared to have been the cause of the infestation was concerned).

2500 square feet of inch thick maple floorboards to the tip for no real reason, and three thousand square feet of tropical hardwood marine ply (also one inch) wasted on a floor that didn`t need replacing!

Of course, the principal, caretaker, etc cannot be blamed for being a bit paranoid about woodworm. After all, they`ve had their brains washed by those who sell `cures` for such things in bottles and cans.

But what ecological and economic nonsense!


I`ve racked my brains, but there is nothing I can think of to be self-opinionated about this week.

Gabriele Gad

Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy: press here.


LETSSwing are playing at Green Adventure`s party in Camberwell SE5 on 31 Jan at about 2pm -8pm (not all the time - about 2-3 and 5.30-8 with breaks). Phone 0171 277 2529 to join GA or see the band. Entry will be free or nearly free.


The naming of notes.

I once had a converstaion with a reasonably well-known and certainly competent jazz pianist in which it became apparent that she did not up till that moment realise that the relationships between the notes on a piano were the same as they were on other instruments, and as far as I could make out she also didn`t realise they were in a fixed mathematical relationship to each other. This was of course mainly because she had never needed to think about the matter.

This is not so surprising, since you can keep on poking about at notes until you find the ones you want and then play them by rote (dictionary if you need it), but it is a lot easier to know how they relate to each other for a number of reasons. This article attempts to explain how they relate.

Take your time whilst reading this article, and don`t necessarily expect to understand it first reading. People often don`t, but they all seem to get there in the end - a bit like that infuriating computer most of us have.

When you look at a piano keyboard (or keyboard keyboard for that matter) it becomes apparent that it is layed out in a regular pattern. The black notes are in groups of three and two, with spaces where one might reasonably expect a black note to be between these groups.

Of course, if all the spaces where filled in, then we wouldn`t have the groups of twos and threes.

We should now arm ourselves with the knowledge that the musical alphabet goes from A to G, and that these notes are not evenly spaced in terms of pitch (the distance between one note and the next). This will help us discover how it all works.

I will identify A for you. It is the white note immediately before the last black note of any set of three. So the next white note is B, and then the next white note is C.....and so on up all the white notes to G, and at this point we come to the next A up the piano.

The distance from one A to the next (or one C to the next, for that matter) is called an Octave. My piano starts on a very low A and goes through several octaves and then a bit more to end on a C at the top. In all and without counting, I think there are 88 notes.

We now have a way of giving a name to a white note, and normally the C nearest to the centre of the keyboard on a piano is the note Middle C.Thus we can say things like `A above middle C`, or `C two octaves above middle C` to identify which particular note we are talking about.

But so far we haven`t got a way of naming the black notes (those of you who have piano with other colours will have to adjust your minds). The method of naming these is simple. Those that are of higher pitch than their nearest fellow white note are called by that note`s name but `sharp`, and those below `flat`. Thus the black note just above G is called G sharp, and the black note just below A is called A flat.

It has probably come into your head by now that the black notes can have two names, because G sharp (for instance) could also be called A flat. Look at it if you don`t believe me.

And on those rare occasions when a composer has need for it (for score-writing purposes) it is possible to write C flat - which, because there is no black note between, is B. Like wise, F flat is E for the same reason.

That might need a little more explanation. The amount of change in pitch between B and C is the same as that between C and C sharp, and the amount of change in pitch between E and F is the same as that between F and F sharp. These musical distances are called half tones by the English and Half Notes by the Americans.

And so that the whole thing is laid out mathematically evenly, allowing you to write music in any `key` (god - another thing I haven`t talked about), all the distances between notes and their nearest next notes are the same spacing. If you want to try it out, play first C-C sharp-D-E flat-E, and then try (say) G-G sharp-A-B flat-B.

To sum up, where there is no black note between two adjacent white notes the musical distance between those notes is called a half tone (and of course two half tones make a tone), and the distance from a white note to it`s nearest black note is also a half tone, the notes are named from A to G, with the black notes named after their nearest white note, either sharp for a black note above the named note or flat for a black note below the named note.

My god that was hard work. I hope it is helpful.

Unions and work

Pay and conditions negotiators have been having an extraordinary amount of trouble getting any useful information out of the college. We meet on Tuesday 27th for the first time, having only just received that information which the college wishes to give us (I haven`t yet had time to read mine), and possibly none of the information we have been asking for. I shall propose that we say nothing at all until we have had time to digest and discuss the information we have not yet got.


See above Ecology/Recycling, but I did come across something this week which quite often comes up for my students.

It is often stated in the glass trade that you cannot recut secondhand glass (in our case for glass cabinets, pictures, etc).

This turns out not to be the case at all. What we do is make sure the place where the glasscutter is going to go is immaculately clean, and run a brush full of paraffin (kerosene) along the cutting line. We then run an ordinary cheap glasscutter in good orderalong the line.

Lay the glass on an old blanket or something to stop any grits and things on the bench from breaking or scratching it, and having cleaned and paraffined it firmly run the glasscutter along the cutting line against the edge of a piece of wood. Now put a match or something under the very end of the scratch mark the cutter has made, and apply gentle pressure either side.

The glass should break straight along the cut line. If it doesn`t, there must have been a place where the cutter didn`t bite, and that means either the cutter was not sharp or the glass was not clean at that point.

DO NOT go over the same cut twice, as running the cutter (unless it is a diamond) over an old cut tends to blunt it.


I have thousands of articles on PCW disks that I want to gradually feed onto The Other News. To do this I need a means of converting from 3" disks to 3.5" disks. Has anyone in South East england got either a 3.5" drive for PCW or another means of converting?

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

Wanted pc/Acorn monitor, 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

(Will take LETS currencies): Industrial quality roofrack about 7 feet X 3.5 feet, made to measure for ford Sierra estate. I used it for woodwork contracting. It is the best I`ve ever seen. Contact

Same again, about 48" by 96", but lesser quality, for Ford Granada estate or Volvo 7 series -almost free owing to poor condition - but it works.


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

stop press

notes re publication.

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