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Monday, 14 June 2010

Pounds, shillings and pence

Quite soon, someone will propose that they be restored.

It's remarkable that the UK is able to export anything at all, since it no longer has a coherent system of weights and measures.

The education system flunked the challenge of Going Metric, market traders were bloody-minded, and eventually the EU gave up demanding that the UK join the modern world. Result? Chaos and confusion. Milk in pints, petrol in litres, cheese in kilos, dieting in stones and pounds, road distances in miles and fractions of miles (not even decimals!), marathons - take your pick; shirts, shoes, dress sizes, bras, hats, trouser waists: learn as many different systems as you can get your head around. Basically, ask an assistant to assist.

My favourites are the road signs counting you down to the Channel Tunnel. Ready-made entertainment for every European family driving back to sanity: 2/3 mile, 1/3 mile. Yes, I know that someone realised that if we Went Metric they could be cheaply changed to 1 Km and 0.5 Km. But we didn't. And so at the Gateway to Europe we are stuck with fractions of a mile ...

It's not quaint or romantic. It's not functional. It defines the British (or the English or the United Kingdomish or whatever they call themselves - they can't even make up their minds about that) as a bunch of losers.

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