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Letter to America: Mensura Imperii On:2022-09-23 04:52:54

My Dear Americans,
    when I left England for my long sojourn in the States it was staunchly imperial, and that's in spite of the glimmerings of metrification that were looming in the gloaming (and that's only if glimmerings can loom in the gloam.)

Coinage had gone ten-fingered at the beginning of '71 and we had, grudgingly or not, accepted the loss of such beauties as 240 pennies, 20 shillings or 8 half-crowns to the pound1 and the concomitant opportunities to confuse or cheat ten-figured tourists, and we used metric in science, but that hardly mattered. I mean when was the last time you added 50g of Iodine crystals to 750ml of a .880 solution of NH32 ? It's ages since I did and I never did get caught. For the rest we almost exclusively used the old accustomed Imperial units: pounds and yards and pints so when I came to America my only real difficulty was that you seemed to have the ridiculous notion that there were only 16 fluid ounces to the pint instead of the correct 203, thus at a stroke destroying your fame for having everything bigger! Oh, yes! that and your inability to recognise that the first floor of a building was the one immediately above the ground floor and not the ground floor itself.
Of course once I started to drive I noticed that you also seemed to have confused right and left, but all in all three things out of all that could have been wrong was not bad, and certainly survivable (with the possible exception of that last one).
So there was I, happy and insulated for the next 42 years whilst change was afoot back in the UK.
People embraced the metric system! They internalised it, apparently loved it.
Well they did apart from miles and pints (at least pints of beer, "I'll have another pint" being the watchword of the Great British Male: you could bet that there would have been beer-I mean blood in the streets if they had tried to decimalise THAT bit of imperial pride). And I missed all those metamorphoses.
Then deserts of vast eternity passed, and now I've returned at last.
Now I must admit that all I've said so far was just an ambling preamble to my actual subject which is the Great British weather of late4. It seems as though we dragged the (putting it in the politest terms) the sunny clime of Texas screaming and kicking across the Atlantic!
It has been damnably hot for weeks and what made it worse apart from the absence of air-conditioning and, indeed, what made it even worse was the temperature, I don't mean the heat I mean the numbers! When I see a temperature of 37 or 38 degrees I expect it to be BLOODY cold and I want to dress for it. I don't expect it to FEEL like 100! It was in the thirties for weeks! How could the Great British Meteorological Office set me up like that? I could have died from hypERthermia when expecting to depart this mortal coil from hypOthermia. Luckily I realised in time that they were being viciously metric, and then only just in time.
Think about it...
If they were going to be scientifically metric about it why on earth didn't they go the whole hog and use degrees Kelvin (you know starting from absolute zero, -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit) I mean saying that there will be high today of 311 degrees K would have warned me that England was somewhat boiling-hotter than I remembered.
And it was as dry as dry as... as... well something really dry.
The plants were all gasping, and I mean just about audibly gasping, for rain. Words seldom heard in these parts were bandied about. Words like "drought" and "conditions" and "hose-pipe" and "ban", often in that order. And I'm forgetting "record" and "heat", ditto.
Our lawn turned a nasty colour of brown, but since I turned a quite nice colour of brown that one balanced out.
Of course as soon as I started writing this all down, the weather turned traditional with actual rain and clouds and cold wafting winds, and to complete my sense of being what the locals might call "a furriner" tourist just today I was shopping with Georgia in Norwich and I nearly went to the second floor of Jarrolds5 when I meant to go to the third. Thank goodness the British didn't go back to the old pounds, shillings and pence when they Brexited, or I'm sure I would be confused or quite possibly cheated!
Kindest regards,
Richard Howland-Bolton
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
from me!


The Title: "Mensura Imperii" as distinct from Imperium Mensura

1   As you might guess it's much worse that that:

2 See this article (especially the video clip)

3 And of course it's even worse than I told you (in fact worse than I knew, not that I'd admitt that). The highlighted areas in this table tell the sad story,

4 UK Heat Waves

5 Jarrold's

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