Tales From... The Archive

Metric or not…?

I have an unfortunate disability in that I have no spatial awareness.

 I just don’t have a clue about distances or weight, or indeed any other unit of measurement. I’m just clueless. This isn’t helped by the fact that as British people we haven’t quite figured out if we use metric or imperial units. Are we pounds and ounces or kilos and grams? We drive miles per hour but we fill our tank with litres of petrol, on top of that we measure the efficiency of our engine by the gallon. What the hell is a gallon? Is it more or less than a litre? I’ll be honest with you, for me a gallon is just a lot of fluid. As a kid I would use the word ‘gallon’ all the time, “Oh yeah I drank about a gallon of coke yesterday!” I was showing off, I did not drink a gallon of coke. Where the hell would I have got a gallon of coke from? When you buy bottles from the supermarket they’re in litres anyway! Chances are that I actually drank 330ml of coke. A can. That’s all. I had a conversation with a comic about my car. “How many miles to the gallon does that do then?” “I dunno” “What are you a 1.4 litre engine?” “Errr…yeah?” “ So it goes about 60 miles to the gallon?” He might as well have asked me the theory of quantum physics. I was clueless. Now, If he had asked me the same question in bottles of coke I might have had a better chance of guessing.” I’d say my car goes about 60 miles per 10 bottles of coke.” A lot of you are thinking that doesn’t make any sense. Of course it doesn’t make any sense I have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s the point!

We also measure distances in both miles and kilometres. Which one are we? Let’s commit to one and be done with it for heaven’s sake. My problem is I know roughly how far a mile is but I have no idea how long a yard is. When my sat nav tells me I have to turn left in 200 yards I start to panic. What does that mean? It doesn’t sound far, is it further than 200 metres, does anyone know? And if so, how long is 200 meters? Ironically whenever anyone asks me for directions my standard response is that it’s 100 yards away. Mainly because I have no idea how far a yard is and 100 yards sounds generic enough in terms of distance. “If you go down here it’s about 100 yards on your left” “Great and the swimming pool” Oh yeah that’s also 100 yards… “And Liverpool?” “Liverpool I suppose that’s about 100 yards?” “And from here to a black hole floating in a space time continuum?” “About 100 yards” “You have no idea what you’re saying do you?” “No…”

The thing about us Brits is that we hate the idea of being European, despite the fact that we ARE. There I’ve said it, we are EUROPEAN. Why can’t we just embrace it? I blame Nigel Farage, it’s idiots like him who think driving on the left hand side of the road represents a sign of ‘genius’ in a nation. No Nigel, it just means when we leave this country we’re more likely to go round a roundabout the wrong way and yes I am talking from experience. I want to be like my Mum, she’s Spanish and she understands metric perfectly. Kilometres, metres, litres, grammes…she knows what the hell she’s doing. Unlike myself, who still equates a metre ruler as being the same size it was when I was 5, which makes it taller than me. I’m guessing I’m wrong about that too.

So, the next time you’re at the supermarket buying 3 fluid ounces of butter, 6 grammes of carrots and a kilo of orange juice. Think of me… (that is right isn’t it?)

Posted on 27th July 2010


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