Before we get any new dumping of snow, could we please have a standard of measurement for it everyone understands?
As we exist at the moment, no-one under 50 has a glimmer about feet and inches and no-one over 60 a clue what centimetres are.
Telling me there could be 15 centimetres of the stuff on the way makes me stare blankly at the radio, unsure whether I’m in for a foot or a couple of inches.
I blame the French and the BBC. It was the French Academy of Sciences of 1795 that invented the kilometre.
It sent an expedition to discover the exact distance from the North Pole to the Equator.
They then went ahead and based their absurd kilometre on a quarter of the total distance they supposed was around the world.
Excusez moi, m’sieur, but if you’re inventing a measuring system totally devoted to the thousandth, hundredth and tenth, why start out by dividing the world by FOUR?
What’s FOUR got to do with anything?
But that is by-the-way, no more than a distant mutter on a sea of unresolved little grievances.
More pointedly, BBC weather forecasters, existing in their own little eco-system, exude the kind of arrogance towards us commoners that would make a perfect soundbite for Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat centimetres.”
Now I’m prepared to abandon my measurements if those milli, centi and kilo people will do the same. Perhaps we can unite behind a more rough-and-ready graph everyone knows. I call it the ‘Hancock Scale’.
Tony Hancock, of course, was far from being a scientist but we knew precisely what he meant in The Blood Donor when he said: “But that’s an armful.”
Why don’t weathermen say: “And the Grampians are in for an armful of snow today”? We’d feel under our armpit, look down at our wrist and instantly know how deep.
And I don’t mind it when they say the south-west is in for a ‘dusting’ of snow because we can all imagine dust. It’s the in-between where the Hancock Scale could help us all.
An inch (2.5cm) is about the distance of the top digit of our thumbs, so how about a ‘knuckle’ of snow; three inches (7.5cm) is roughly the whole of it, so why not a ‘thumb’ of snow? Four inches (10cm) could be a ‘palm’ of it, and what’s wrong with ‘ankle-deep’ for five inches?
And then there is what I had on my garden this December, eight inches, or 20cm, a full hand ‘span’ of it.
Engineers and bankers might find these terms abhorrent, but we ordinary human beings prefer to generalise and simplify. How descriptive to hear a forecaster announce that we’re in for a ‘welly-full’.
Above that we can grasp knee-high, waist-high and chest-high. But what do we call snow that’s just above, say, five feet?
Hold on. I’ve just heard the forecast. Good Lord, they say there’s a Sarkozy of snow on the way.