Thursday, May 10, 2007

Simon Heffer's got issues

The pompous uber-Tory boy on the "metric martyrs" and their pounds and ounces banana victory:

Many of us, too, are scarred by an earlier experience in these matters. People under the age of 40 cannot imagine how we coped with a monetary system in which there were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound.

Well, for a start (and this was in the age before calculators) we were all trained to be rather good at mental arithmetic, a skill largely unknown these days. How often did 6s 4d go into £123 9s 9d? No problem.

But it was more than that. We loved our coinage, for they were pieces of history in our pockets. It was not unusual, even in the 1960s, to have in your change a bun penny of Queen Victoria's, or a beautiful half-crown of George V with an opulent royal coat of arms bursting out of the garter that framed it. History, pageantry and substance seemed to be on every coin, and seemed to help root us in our past.

And then, at a stroke, it was cast away in the interests of "modernisation": and we were left instead with charmless little coins, insubstantial like the ones for which we derided other nations when we went abroad, devoid of history and oblivious to our culture: how very effectively they symbolised, and still do, the vacuity and ghastliness of the 1970s in which they were born.

I am sure it was the searing national experience of the infliction of a decimal coinage that made us hate, with the hate of hell in some cases, the imposition of metrication. Loathing of the EU, which has, ironically, stepped in to save this part of our culture, presumably also has something to do with it.

"...with the hate of hell..."

Quite, quite mad.

His whole argument - that we should go back to the good ol' days of pounds, shillings and pence - is roundly rebutted in the comments under his own article, but I will add one thing:

If using the old system made everyone so good at mental arithmetic, surely it would be easiest for those people to convert to metric units. What the hell are they complaining about? A pint, that's about half a litre; a metre, that's about 3 feet; 10 km, 6 miles etc.

I was born long after the conversion, brought up on metric and have no problem with using both (at home I'm 5'6", here I'm 1.85m). Come on, Heffer, man, get a grip!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

1.85m? Come off it, that's 6'2"! Must be the generous servings in Portuguese restaurants.

Stephen said...

He's talking about his expanding waistline of course...