It is forty three years today since Great Britain 'went decimal'. I remember it well - but of course you have to be of a certain age to recall the day when you walked into a shop and all the prices looked as though you were in a foreign country. I remember going into Marks and Spencer after my day in school and finding Golden Delicious apples were seventeen pence a pound (about three and fourpence in old money) - somehow the price is ingrained on my memory. (G D apples must have tasted better in those days too, because now I wouldn't think of buying them, they are absolutely tasteless).
There is a photograph in yesterday's Times of Lord Fiske (Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board) standing behind the counter at Woolworths in the Strand. All the shops were expecting a day of crisis - the article says that Harrods had trained 75 'decimal pennies', girls dressed in boaters and wearing blue sashes, but that they weren't needed.
Why, oh why, didn't we go completely metric at the same time. We still seem to have a mixture of both and I find it so confusing. My little aid, which I keep on the shelf above the Aga - and woebetide anyone who removes it - is my British History Ruler. On one side it lists (starting at Roman times) the kings of England, starting with William I in 1066 and ending with Elizabeth II in 1952. You can't imagine how useful that can be - my rhyme, starting with Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste,Henry, Dick, John, Henry 3 - stops there so I do often refer to my little ruler. One the other side it has thirty centimetres - and by golly that comes in useful too. How many of you can estimate the length of your kitchen in metres? I certainly can't. And those thirty centimetres are near enough a foot.
Apparently Lenin said of the English that there was a plank in everyone's head beyond which no new idea could penetrate. Well he was certainly proved wrong with our decimalisation. How quickly could you translate 137pence into the old system? And how quickly could you do an addition, subtraction, multiplication or division sum in pounds, shillings and pence? Don't bother to even try - it is just a waste of time. (the farmer and I tried over breakfast and got it hopelessly wrong in our heads. We were about to get a piece of paper and a pen when we decided it was a pointless activity!)
Something strange is happening outside today - the sun is shining. Long may it continue.