Tuesday, 11 February 2014


That's me.  Confused, I mean.  Let me make two points to explain why.
  1. There are surely very few people in the Western world who are unaware that the most expensive winter Olympics ever staged are being held in Sochi right now.
  2. The BBC broadcast a couple of programmes and our weekend newspaper published a splurge to mark the fact that this coming Friday will be the 30th anniversary of Torvill and Dean's row of perfect sixes in the ice dance at the Sarajevo winter Olympics.
Now I had always thought that Olympic Games are held at four-year intervals.  And if my arithmetic is anything like as good as I believe it to be, 30 is not divisible by four.  So should the Olympics not have been held two years ago?  Not that I give a damn either way.

But in some ways, I live in confusing times.  Or maybe it's just that I live in a confused country.  For instance, go into a pub here in England (or Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) and you will order beer in the old imperial measurements, by the pint.  In the supermarkets, milk is sold by the pint.  Petrol, on the other hand, is sold by the litre, the new-fangled metric system of measurement.  Yet when we calculate the fuel consumption of our cars we talk of miles to the gallon, not litres per hundred kilometers as they do in other European countries.

When we (that is, the Old Bat and I) visit the butcher, all his meat is priced at so much a kilo.  The Old Bat asks for, for instance, a pound of sausages - and the butcher is happy to oblige.  Even though his scales measure only in metric kilograms.  Some years ago, it was decreed by Parliament that, in accordance with a directive from the European Union in Brussels, all goods such as vegetables should be sold in kilograms and the prices were to be so displayed.  A market trader somewhere up north continued to sell his bananas at so much a pound as he said that was what his customers wanted.  Nevertheless, he was prosecuted and found guilty, thereby becoming known as the Metric Martyr.  As an aside, it was only last year that the EU said it was never their intention that we should be forced to sell goods in kilograms rather than pounds.

Longer distances are still expressed in miles, such as the distance between two towns, but short lengths are often expressed in metric centimeters.  Sports confuse the two systems.  Horse racing still uses miles (and furlongs: a furlong is one eighth of a mile, 220 yards) but athletics has abandoned the old 100 yards (yes, 100 not 110), 220 yards, 440 yards and the mile and we now have 100 metres, 200 metres etc.  They are much the same as the old imperial distances, as, in the words of the old rhyme, "a metre measures three foot three.  It's longer than a yard, you see."

And if all that is not confusing enough, in horse racing they still refer to guineas.  A guinea is (or was) one pound, one shilling.  A shilling was one twentieth of a pound - now five pence - so 100 guineas is £105.

Perhaps it's no wonder they can't hold the Olympics in the right year!


Not so much a confusion but something of a puzzle.  This notice was in front of a tree in Stanmer Park, though it's no longer there.  But why did the Russian ambassador visit Brighton and Stanmer in particular?  And why was he asked to plant a tree?


The Broad said...

It probably has something to do with when the Olympic changed its schedule from having both the summer and winter Olympic games held the same year...

joeh said...

Love this! They tried to force metrics on us US years ago. The only thing that stuck was alcohol and soda are now sold in liters...milk and water is still sold by the quart or gallon.

No one seems to mind.

Brighton Pensioner said...

I hadn't realised the Olympic schedule had been changed, which just shows how much interest I have!