Just make mine a little bit metric

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The Independent Online
In order to comply with the law, this is the last time you will see this column in its present format. Starting from Monday we shall have to obey the new European regulations and go metric. Yes, this being a packaged object and not sold loose, it will have to abandon the old imperial measures and go over to metrication, for fear of the proprietor of the column being put in prison, ie myself.

In a way, this is a pity, as imperial measures always seemed to me to be more flexible than metric ones. If you ever listen to the conversation in our shops such as butchers and fishmongers, you will realise that the basic units of imperial measure were never pounds and ounces, feet and inches, etc. The basic units were things like "just under" and "a bit over all right my love?".

The full conversation would go like this: "Pound of chips, please."

(Note to European readers: chips are not chips. Nor are they crisps, as they would be in France, where frites means chips and les chips means potato crisps. I do not think les crisps means anything. No, chip is short for chipolata sausage.)

"Pound of chips coming up. Let's see ... a bit over, all right my love?"

Never a pound. Always just over or just under. And now our craven Government has given in to Brussels and changed all that. Odd, by the way, how a British government which pretends to distrust Brussels should actually cave in first and implement Brussels' rulings long before any other European Union country does so. The next time a Tory politician stands up and says, "Do you really want to be governed from Brussels?", I shall be tempted to shout back, "Yes - they've got more guts than you lot!"

But I am nothing if not a respecter of the law and from Monday we go metric. Up to now this column has measured 31/2in by 103/4in, give or take (another good old imperial measure that "give or take"), but from now on it will measure, um, let's see, where are the centimetres on this ruler, here we are, 80mm x 170mm. No, as you were, 80mm x 270mm. Phew! Nearly had a big upset there ...

In fact, you may have noticed that we have already started to go metric. I have recently been getting letters from readers asking why it is that the right-hand edge of this column sometimes fades away, leaving the last two letters on the right-hand side either illegible or invisible. I have not liked to tell the truth, which was highly confidential, so I have put them off by replying with anodyne excuses, such as that we are trying to economise on ink, or that jealous elements in the office are trying to sabotage my pieces.

(I usually write these letters back in green ink, using capitals, and go on to say: "BUT I KNOW WHO THESE JEALOUS ELEMENTS IN THE OFFICE ARE AND I SHALL ELIMINATE THEM! THEY HAVE BEEN WARNED! I AM ON THEIR TRAIL!" It sounds a bit over the top, but columnists often get nutty letters in green-ink capitals from readers, so I want to be the first columnist to send back crazed answers in green ink to readers. I just hope that green ink has not been banned by Brussels.)

No, the fact is that the fading at the edge which some of you have noticed is the beginning of our new metric column which will be slightly narrower than before, though you will get exactly the same number of words, as I shall be using shorter words than heretofore.

There will be other changes. This column will be leaving the Net Book Agreement, which means you will be able to buy this column separately, dirt cheap, at Tesco, Asda and other fine bookshops.

From Monday onwards every 10th column in this space will contain a scratch card element which you only have to scratch to win a fortune. If you do not find a scratch card element, you have bought a dud copy. Sorry about that. But you only have to go out and buy another Independent ...

We shall also be going on the Internet, so this column can receive e-mail during printing. I think we have a letter coming through right now:

TO KINGTON INDEPENDENT, AM READING YOUR PIECE WITH INTEREST, BUT HAVE JUST LOOKED UP CHIPOLATA IN THE DICTIONARY AND APPARENTLY IT COMES FROM THE ITALIAN WORD CIPOLLA MEANING ONION. ANY IDEA WHY OUR WORD FOR SAUSAGE COMES FROM A WORD MEANING ONION? - A READER.

Yes. It was due to a regulation brought in by the Tory government after a hint from Brussels. See you Monday!

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