There was plenty of chat this week on the radio surrounding the great metric versus imperial debate. The Brexit brigade are keen to shimmy away as far as possible from any of those European influences and encourage the imperial approach.
We’ve been riding two horses the whole way through our time in the European Union but I have to admit I never really embraced the metric option.
I like to measure in feet and inches, I think in pounds and stones. I know what a hundred weight of spuds look like but I can’t visualise three kilos of apples. I don’t know whether it’s four apples or 14 apples without looking at a chart.
I don’t know whether I’m displaying laziness or number blindness but there is no doubting my ignorance.
It may all be linked to my experiences at school. I was almost a constant failure in maths. I say almost because to my shock and immense joy when it mattered most I passed my first ever maths exam. That was my O-Level. I shouldn’t have been shocked.
I was blessed in the lead up to be taught by the possibly the best numbers teachers in the business. Before I met Mick Farrell, every other teacher presumed I would enjoy doing fractions, logs, algebra and all the other mind bending tasks that they were into.
I saw the maths teacher as someone who displayed a great skill that I didn’t have. It was like watching the music teacher play the piano or the PE instructor shooting hoops from the middle of the basketball court. The mathematicians seemed to be showing off and while I was in awe of their knowledge I lost interest quite quickly.
Mr Farrell didn’t waste time being a show off. He taught from the minute he walked into the room until the lesson was over. He also presumed that we needed to have the theories explained to us. He was tall, loud, strict and at times very funny. The man was a genius communicator.
He made the complex seem so simple.
With my qualification banked I avoided all such challenges from then on. Yes, I did teach for a time in a primary school and I had to use the Alpha and Beta books for lessons.
Each morning in class I was just one page ahead of the nine year olds. I would spend the night before going over possible questions I might be asked by the cleverest child in the year who probably knew twice as much as me. No wonder I quickly traded teaching for a full time job in broadcasting.
A few nights ago at a quiz in the company of much younger radio staff we were asked how many thrupenny bits were in a guinea? Those around me froze. They had never counted pre decimal money.
I quickly explained this would involve working out how many sets of three there were in 12 and then how many 12s there were in 21 sets of twelve to calculate how many threes there were in all those 12s in the 21. They thought I was mad but I was right.
A thrupenny bit was three old pennies and there were 12 old pennies in a shilling and 21 shillings in a guinea.
Buzzer pressed I shouted “84!” Rapturous applause from all around.
I felt like a footballer who had just bent the ball into the net from the edge of the box. I waved to the crowd and saw the next few seconds in slow motion as young journalistic staff cheered my mathematical knowledge.
Mr Farrell would have been impressed.
Frank presents U105 Phone In Monday-Friday from 9am-noon