Shoppers make light work of metrication

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The Independent Online
A rallying call for a national anti-metric hero to step forth and save our Anglo-Saxon heritage was issued yesterday - but it failed to spark a popular rebellion.

Sir George Gardiner, senior Conservative right-winger, stood up for Little Englanders everywhere when he condemned the metrication of Britain's weights and measures as "a day of shame for all past governments who have pawned our heritage, knowing they can never buy it back".

So much had been eroded but now was time to rise up, in defence of pounds and feet. "All power to traders who refuse to bow to this diktat, and give their customers the choice," he encouraged. "And just wait for the public outcry if one of them is hauled before the courts."

But a small demonstration by a dozen members of the UK Independence Party outside a west London branch of Sainsbury's was the height of mass resistance. At the store's branch in Camden, where metric measurement has been phased in over three months, shoppers were largely unfazed by Day One of the new order. "Luvvie its easy," soothed an elderly lady at the meat fridge running her finger down one of store's large conversion posters. "No need for a fuss. Schoolchildren have been doing it for ages and I taught myself last week. You have to move with the times."

Others were not even aware of this latest assault on the nation's pride. "Metri-what love," asked the trader in the market down the road. "Exciting, innit?"

All over Britain news agencies tried to ferret out the disgruntled. Bristol anglers were furious to discover that the traditional pint of maggots might soon come in litres. For some bizarre reason, seaworms were given a reprieve until the year 2000.

Ian Macaulay, host at the Bell pub near Newbury, Berkshire, pledged that in his public house a pint of shandy would remain just that - despite the EC ruling that it was a soft drink and should therefore be measured in litres. The Bell, where money is still stored in a drawer, not a till, and the bar is no more than a hatch in the wall, is a shrine to those who would resist the march of time.

Grocer David Wood, the only supplier of petrol in the village of Little Marsham, Kent, sadly drew his last gallon from his 1946 pump, complaining that the EC directive was yet another nail in the small businesses' coffin. "It seems to me they just don't want the little people any more - it's all being set up for the big shops."

For Bob Brown, on the vegetable stall at Camden market, the only relief was that he was unaffected for another five years. He would resist till the end - the only hope was a referendum.