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back to article Middle England's allotments become metric battlefield

Imperial traditionalists have expressed dismay that allotments will henceforth be measured in metres, thereby ending a 600-year-old system of staking out municipal veg patches in poles. According to the Daily Mail, shocked gardeners have received rent renewal notices from their town halls reclassifying the standard "10 pole" …

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So the allotment owners are horrified...

...at being forced to accept an extra 0.1 sq m?

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Re: So the allotment owners are horrified...

Forced to pay for an 'extra'* 0.1 sq m.

* the allotment size won't have changed in reality, but become bigger on paper, which is where bills are calculated.

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Black Helicopters

Lost Acres

by Robert Graves ...

I wanted to post this poem here, but it seems absent on the interwebs ....

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Re: Lost Acres

Lost Acres, by Robert Graves.

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Re: Lost Acres@VinceH

Thank you indeed. Saved me digging out my "A Choice of Poets" from schooldays (where, ironically, I was the only pupil in 1982 to *fail* Eng Lit. My teacher would be proud of me !)

However the obscurity of the location is intriguing .... is Graves still in copyright ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the allotment owners are horrified...

Today the allotments, tomorrow the colonies....And our road signs...

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Re: Lost Acres@VinceH

Graves died in 1985, and English copyright extends an eye-watering 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died. So yes, he's still very much in copyright until 2056.

After all, it's the only way we can make sure he gets rewarded for his creativity, right? Anyone remember what a cultural wasteland England was before we had these copyright terms?

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Re: Lost Acres@VinceH

"where, ironically, I was the only pupil in 1982 to *fail* Eng Lit"

Maybe you should have spent less time learning to play the guitar. :)

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How would anybody know the difference?

Since the size of the allotment remains fixed, it seems to me that both units and measuring instrument would be irrelevant. Who cares what you use to measure it with. You could use a spoon if you knew the multiplier.

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Headmaster

Re: How would anybody know the difference?

Burn the heretic! Burn him in Fahrenheit!

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Re: How would anybody know the difference?

Yes I have a model 212 safe here. Why 212? Because it can stand the heat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How would anybody know the difference?

"Yes I have a model 212 safe here. Why 212? Because it can stand the heat."

So your safe can resist being boiled?

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Anonymous Coward

Imperial traditionalists

Congrats for not using the incorrect "metric martyr" nomenclature ... though to my mind the correct (and catchily alliterative) term is "imperial imbecile"

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I would be more likely to consider those who need numbers to be based on their finger count as imbeciles than those who can count in a variety of bases in their heads.

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Ooooh, downvotes for you I see. Some people don't like being told they do it the easy way.

Oddly, everyone I know who grew up with Imperial weights and measures is considerably better at mental arithmetic than those who grew up with metric but the affordability of the pocket calculator may also be implicated in this situation.

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I don't know what effect it has on mental arithmetic. I would say that people who grew up with the Imperial system also grew up in an age where schools drummed more mental arithmetic skills into people, so it could be mere correlation. What I would say is that pre-Decimalization coinage was much more flexible. Twelve, and obviously 240 (pennies in a pound) have many more factors than ten (and one-hundred pennies in the pound).

This makes the calculations much easier and the results much more often easy numbers.

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Measurements

The issue is that the council made an arbitrary change for no real reason, as bureaucracies are wont to do. If we define this mistake as 1 deciBasinstoke, then a single Basingstoke would be quite a big snafu, and--

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Measurements

Is your Basingstoke scale base 10 logarithmic? Because if we're in an anti-SI mode, we should really be using base 2 (or 12, 14, 16 or even 5.5).

Incidentally, here in the semi rural south west, there are still streets where the houses are 1 rod, pole or perch wide. I expect there are plenty of other places like that.

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Re: Measurements

Its not really anti-SI - its just a silly change that will make life harder. Allotments are often divided. They are generally laid out in poles. To have a half allotment you normally divide it in two along its length. Now you will need a whole army of idiots with theodolites trying to calculate a fraction of a square root of 325 or something - and bandages for all the nosebleeds this will cause the tablet waving council officials.

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Re: Measurements

> To have a half allotment you normally divide it in two along its length. Now you will need a whole army of idiots with theodolites trying to calculate a fraction of a square root of 325

Or you could just divide it in two along its length.

Also, and somewhat surprisingly, it's also so practically arranged that one pole can be rounded to five meters (five meters two centimeters).

Yes, this does strike me as something of a first world problem.

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Measuring area in rods is as stupid as measuring the speed of light in furlongs per fortnight. And nobody would want to go back to pre-decimalisation money. It just used such stupid units. Quick, how much is 10 donuts at 1 pound, 3 shillings and 6 pence? Complete bollocks the lot of them and best left in the stone age, where they came from.

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Imperial imbecile?

Wasn't that the nickname given to the guy who designed that tiny, 2 metre wide flaw in the Death Star?

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It was decimal currency that really destroyed mental arithmetic, you know. In real life you rarely have to convert between inches, feet, yards and so on - I'm 6'3", not [thinks] 75". But you very much had to convert between L, s, and d all the time.

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10 pounds 30 shillings and 60 pence. Obviously. Or £11.15/-, which makes them bloody expensive doughnuts.

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"10 donuts (sic) at 1 pound, 3 shillings and 6 pence" is... £1/3/6d.

Now - if you'd asked about doughnuts at £1/3/6d EACH... I'd say you're definitely shopping in the wrong places. But you'd pay £11/15/0d (10x £1 = £10. 10 x 3s = 30s = £1/10/0. 10 x 6p = 5s. Utterly trivial when you're used to actually doing mental arithmetic - even after 42 years.)

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Trollface

count on their fingers

Twelve?

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Holmes

Now that's proper mental mental arithmetic... a counting system with multiple fields and different bases in each field. Who on earth would invent a system like that? Oh, hang on... I seem to recall spending several years of my life practicing that stuff.

FWIW I also recall we had a computer* made out of relays when I was at school that could do arithmetic in yards, feet and inches and suchlike. I think it could calculate pi as well, but rather slowly.

* IT angle.

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Re: Measurements

I would hazard a guess that with the computerisation of records, it's making less and less sense to build into new software, routines to back-convert records which someone had just been paid a lot of money to normalise under one consistent measurement system.

These people sound like that old woman who famously back in the day, suggested that the government wait for all the old people to die before introducing the metric system.

The smart money should have been on duo-decimalization with the introduction of Arabic numerals and positional notation, however Roman numerals, and abacuses, fairly conclusively demonstrate that even back then, ordinary people and bean counters calculated by looking at their fingers. It was basically only merchants and people divvying up land who found 12 and it's greater number of factors useful enough to bother with.

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So what is the correct unit in the Register's System

It's area should be in nanoWales, but the linear size might be in double-decker buses. Or will the humble linguine (unboiled, sea level) suffice?

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Re: So what is the correct unit in the Register's System

Thank you for writing 'nanoWales' and not 'NanoWales'.

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Trollface

Re: So what is the correct unit in the Register's System

But what is the area in Jimmy Wales?

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Boffin

Re: So what is the correct unit in the Register's System

The Jimmy Wales is not an unvarying unit* since he might adopt, or give up, the 5:2 diet or suffer an injury that prevents him exercising.

*Yes, I know Wales is not invariant either but the percent change is minimal compared to the potential % change in the J Wales.

Yours a Physiologist

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Joke

Re: So what is the correct unit in the Register's System

I suppose next you'll be yammering about the average airspeed velocity and lifting capacity of the European swallow vs. the African swallow....

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And...

How many parsecs is that ?

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Happy

Re: And...

How many parsecs is that ?

I'd say you've got your units confused there. Parsecs is dependent on soil quality, weather, the skill of the allotment holder, etc.

Oh sorry, you didn't mean parsnips per second...

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Enter the metric pole?

The timber industry works in "metric feet" i.e. units of 30cm.

There's clearly a "metric pole" waiting to be invented, namely 5m. The ~1% difference between a square pole and 25 square meters is surely too small for anyone involved in small-plot agriculture to notice. in any case there's no way to change the allotment boundaries for existing allotments in order sto squeeze in one extra one at the nd of a row of 100. (Are there ever as many as 100 in a row? )

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

There's clearly a "metric pole" waiting to be invented,

Poles are already metric, although those now working in Britain may have needed to convert.

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

Very sensible.

Metric is easy to do calculations in.

Imperial tends to correspond well to the size of everyday natural objects.

So metric feet, metric ton, metric pound, metric pole, metric firkin, metric mile all seem to be a sensible and practical compromise.

I remember being in a French market and people were asking for a livre of whatevers, and they've been metric for a couple of centuries.

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Pint

Re: Enter the metric pole?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't most UK measures really metric 'under the bonnet' so when they check you're not shorting people on a pint they compare it to 568ml?

So what measures in the UK are still truly Imperial and not just an alias to a given number measured in metric?

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

I remember being in a French market and people were asking for a livre of whatevers, and they've been metric for a couple of centuries.

It's common in Germany and the Netherlands to ask for fruit and veg in multiples of Pfund/Pond rather than fractions of a kilo. Everyone knows it's 500g so there's no problem. But somehow I just can't see it working in Tunbridge Wells…

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

"Metric is easy to do calculations in."

Not really, unless you avoid all division and round everything nicely. The imperial system evolved to be easy for people to do calculations in. Specifically, it was used by people otherwise unschooled in maths let alone geometry.

There are some decimal relations in the imperial system. For example, 1 cubic foot of water was 1000oz (50 pints) and a gallon is 10lbs of water (160oz) but the underlying non-decimal sub-devisions tend to make up for the shortcomings of the decimal system in these cases.

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

I've always thought there should be a metric ounce and pound

1 oz = 25g

20 oz = 500g = 1lb

Unlike g and kg, which are useful for nought but salt and potatoes respectively, at least the imperial units were the right sort of magnitude for cooking.

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Re: Enter the metric pole? @ john H Woods

Actually in Dutch the ounce ("ons") is 100 grams, and the usual measure for cooking in the Old Books.

Funnily enough it's not defined as a 10th of a kilo, but rather by it's original as 1/5th of a pound.

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

So what measures in the UK are still truly Imperial and not just an alias to a given number measured in metric?

Horse racing: Furlongs are used extensively which are 220 yards as everyone knows. The weights, penalties and allowances are all done in stones and pounds.

Cricket. The length of a pitch is 22 yards. Or one chain.

Which brings us onto an acre - one furlong by one chain. The size of a footie pitch. Dead easy and I didn't have to faff around with hectometres which to me is a complely random measure.

What's wrong with a pole being five and a half yards? Take five yards and for the decimal purists add on ten percent and there you have it. It's actually about four strides, so it's easy to measure.

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Trollface

Re: Enter the metric pole?

"But somehow I just can't see it working in Tunbridge Wells…"

I can. The sort of people who make a big fuss about Imperial units tend not to be terribly technically minded, so if you change the size of their "pint" or "pound" then they probably won't notice. You could probably swap their miles for kilometres and they'd be pleased about getting better mpg.

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

And here, in Switzerland, one sees, sometimes, a Pfund (pound) of bread. But it is 500 grammes today, so a generous pound.

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

> I remember being in a French market and people were asking for a livre of whatevers

Well, they may have switched to metric, but occasionally they still do read books.

:-P

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Re: Metric is easy to do calculations in.

If it's so easy to do calculations, why is the length of a car specified in mm for manufacturing? Because ordinary workers can't do conversions from mm to cm to m to km.

Stupid metric/imperial measurement failures that you read about are the result of errors in conversion between metric and imperial measures, which points to the only actual real advantage of a single common measurement system: it makes trade and manufacturing easier, cheaper, and less error prone. For this reason, both France and the UK had to give up thousands of traditional measure, to create imperial measurement systems.

Then the French and the English had to further agree to consolidate to only ONE common measurement system. As you no doubt know, the English agreed to use the French mesurement system and the French agreed to use the English navigation system.

Removal of conversions BETWEEN multiple national, local, and trade measurments has been a benefit. Don't confuse that with thinking that "decimal point" conversions WITHIN the metric system are easy. On an absolute scale, conversions within the metric system are approximately just as difficult and error prone as converson between systems.

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Alert

Re: Metric is easy to do calculations in.

"conversions within the metric system are approximately just as difficult and error prone as converson between systems."

How many decimetres in a dekametre? :-)

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Re: Enter the metric pole?

Which brings us onto an acre - one furlong by one chain. The size of a footie pitch.

That's some weird footie pitch!

The size used to be 50 to 100 yards wide and 100 to 130 (150?) yards long, and it had to be longer than it was wide. (Pitches for international matches were more constrained). (It's now defined in metric, I think).

A 22 by 220 yard pitch would be the result of sticking two pitches together along the goal-line and only using up to the side-edge of the penalty area.

And even the minimum size pitch would be > 1 acre. A "normal" professional league one is around 1.8 acres.

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