Imperial measurements were bonkers. Nothing made sense, not even the money - Susan Morrison

She was fair screaming into that phone on the Number 14 bus. Someone had taken her measurements for the new curtains, misread them, then placed the order in centimetres, not inches. One assumes that they now had a lovely set of curtains for a dolls house.

By Susan Morrison
Friday, 17th June 2022, 4:55 am

Well, Boris Johnson must have heard that gal’s distress because he has leapt to her aid. He’s Imperial Measurement Man, and he’s bringing the inches back, baby.

Mind you, I never went metric in the first place. Never got the hang of kilos and such, unlike Leith’s more chemically enhanced population, who trade almost exclusively in grams and half grams, which makes them a lot smarter than me. I’ve not a clue how many sausages are in a kilo.

I’m still a feet and inches gal when it comes to height. A lovely young lady recently told me she was 1.7 metres tall. I’ve no idea what that is in proper measurements, but it means she can get things down from Tescos top shelf. I resolutely remained 5 foot, until the NHS told me I was actually 5’ 2” which thrilled me no end because it changed my BMI at a stroke and made me less fat.

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Speaking of flab, I will admit I changed the read-out on the bathroom scale to kilograms, because I’ve not a Scoobie what that means and so it doesn’t upset me. That’s one thing the old metrics are useful for.

Most of us fogeys still rattle about in pounds, ounces and pints. It’s one of those dotty things old people like us do, like wear watches that only tell the time and read books by turning pages. I assumed that when we’d all shuffled off this mortal coil this arcane knowledge of yards and inches would go with us. Our crazy old system would linger on in pub quiz answers and odd little quirks, like ordering beer in pints. Ever heard anyone order a litre of lager at a Scottish bar? Me neither.

Imperial measurements are still used by some fruit and vegetable sellers - but beware of a return to the bonkers system, writes Susan Morrison. PIC: PA.

Imperial measurements were bonkers. Nothing made sense, not even the money. There were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings made a pound. You had a shilling if you had four clunky big thrupenny bits or two dainty silver sixpences, both of which were liberally laced through grannies Christmas clootie dumplin’, presumably because they had the potential to choke the unwary over the Festive table. Well, we needed something to entertain us before Morecambe and Wise.

We measured drink in gallons, quarts and gills. We knew this because we had wee tables on the back of our school jotters, which we could briefly read before our mum’s covered them over with wallpaper.

None of it made any sense and all of it made school arithmetic an absolute nightmare. They were units of arcane measurement born of the English wool trade, medieval wine shipping and the length of a king's arm.

The metric system was thought out by scientific types, so there’s little of the romance of those imperial measures, but it is practical. This is what you want in a world where a measuring tape can be wrapped around a bride-to-be in Sighthill to order a dress from China.

Please, whatever you do, keep those particular inches and centimetres well apart.