OPINION - Imperial or metric? It’s quite simple ... I’ll have both

 (Daniel Hambury)
(Daniel Hambury)

Right. Who out there actually has a problem with going to a bar and asking for a pint of beer (the problem being with the pint rather than the beer)? Or in my case, a half pint, because I can only drink girly quantities. There are some units that just make sense. And if you were Winston Churchill, the pint was the perfect unit for champagne — a normal bottle was too much at lunch but a glass was for weeds.

It’s been interesting to witness the reaction to the PM’s suggestion that we should have a consultation about the wider use of imperial measurements. Or as the late Caroline Aherne used to cry: “Let’s have a heated debate!” Obviously it’s to divert attention from you know what, and it’s less interesting than the other diversionary gambit, talking about more grammar schools, but it’s still important. It’s because weights and measures are the currency of life.

The truth is, many of us use both imperial and metric, depending on the situation. Babies come in imperial units — pounds, with seven being standard and ten being big. Miles are in pretty widespread use, with a four minute mile being understandable to most of us. A six foot man is tall, more impressively so than a two metre one — and yes, I realise they’re not the same.

But nowadays people think about the price per litre of petrol, or a litre of water, gallons being old school. And when it comes to cooking, I switch from metric to imperial all the time, because I’ve got old cookbooks as well as new. Some obligingly have both. As for human weight, I am sorry to say that 11 and a half stone, which is where I’m at on a good day, is more crushing than the kilo equivalent.

One thing that might enable us to be more unit-fluid would be for imperial measurements to be taught in schools — not as standard, just as something to be aware of.  I’m pretty sure that having to add up pounds and ounces (16 ounces to one pound, since you’re asking) and stones (14 pounds) would help with mental agility.

There was a time when officialdom was on the hunt to ferret out market traders selling tomatoes by the pound, or bottles of milk labelled as pints. I think we’re over all that now, aren’t we? Let’s use whatever measurements seem right. And the pint of champagne does strike me as a most civilised unit.