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February 2007 - Snow Difference

What is it they say about the English?  If in doubt, talk about the weather.  What a terrible stereotype to lay at the door of an entire nation!

But, I am forced to enquire, should this stereotype actually be laid at the door of the nation at all?  Perhaps it ought to be pitched at the door instead; or even, possibly, settled at the door?

Good day to you all; and a very chilly welcome to the February edition of Nick Harvey's Comment.  Well, it would have been a very warm welcome, but with the nasty north wind whistling around my poor little toes as I write this, warmth seems to be an ingredient in slightly short supply just for the moment.

Due to all those jolly foreigners, most of them, it has to be said, under the control of that President Dublya of Americaland, pumping far too many of their gasses out of their greenhouses and into the sky just above Harvey Towers, I'd forgotten how to turn the central heating up until last week.

You see, we've just been on the minimum temperature setting for a couple of hours in the early mornings and three or four in the evenings ever since we started up the Acme furnace for this winter.  And the grand start-up wasn't till the middle of November in any case, a good month-and-a-half later than normal years.

You see, we're doing our bit to stave off the impending global catastrophe here; we've had the heat turned right down; and I've instructed 'er indoors to only wash my underwear once a quarter, instead of every month.

Nobody will realise where the smell's coming from, anyway.  After all, you can't even see who's in the room from the light of the three watt, energy saving bulbs.

But anyway, the fact that it's suddenly turned cold at last was where I was at, wasn't it?  Yes, so after getting used to being turned right down, the dear old furnace has suddenly had to be switched to being on all through the day and the temperature control's obeyed what that man always says on the wireless, "turn it up and rip the knob off".

We were also promised a liberal sprinkling of snow round this neck of the woods last week, but that bit of information ended up turning out to be somewhere on a level with last summer's drought when it came to the department of accurate forecasting and prediction.

The nearest we got to any significant drifts was when one snowflake landed on top of an already white lawn, from the heavy frost the other morning.  It almost looked like a tolerable snowfall, but, in fact, it wasn't.

It was all the talk of snowflakes gently descending from the heavens that prompted me to choose the subject for in-depth analysis in this month's epistle, however.

Those observant members of my regular audience, probably those ladies in the third row, will have possibly noticed that I was about to talk of snow, from the not-so-veiled hint up there in the title.

I was chatting of snow to some people, including the infamous Miss H of Kent, the other evening, when I realised that our fine, English, frozen precipitation was, like most things in this part of the world of late, being taken over by the damned Eurocrats.

Two inches of snow used to be a reasonable covering in my day.  A foot was pretty dramatic and three feet constituted a drift.

Now all our bloomin' snow seems to have been converted into metric.  So, who asked my permission to do that?  I thought we'd agreed exemption for such traditional English things.

I mean, a pint's still a pint, isn't it?  Whether it's beer in a glass or milk in a bottle, I thought those twits at Westminster had had it agreed that we didn't have to bother with all these flamin' Euromeasures.

But no, we've now got all these people talking about the snow being at some stupid depth in millimetres, or centimetres, or some such equally silly measurement.  They don't even seem to be able to agree amongst themselves which of the two they're using.  Surely ten of one is worth one of the other, but no, they just keep on going till the drift gets nine hundred something-or-others high.

If they're going to insist on doing metric, then surely they ought to do metric properly.  According to my metric measurements, a yard is just over nine decimetres long, but who the heck uses decimetres in their so-called correct metric system?

And as for the dear old decametre, or even dekametre if you're a real traditionalist, that being the correct term for ten metres, or presumably the height of a bus, that's gone the same way as the hectometre, into somewhere adjacent to oblivion.

No, as my dear old Dad taught me, many, many years ago, if you're going to do the job, do the job properly.

The proper metric system consists of units including, but not restricted to, millimetres, of which ten make a centimetre, of which ten make a decimetre, of which ten make a metre, of which ten make a decametre, or dekametre, of which ten make a hectometre, of which ten make a kilometre.

Easy isn't it?  So why the heck don't we use it?  No, if we're not going to use metric properly, then Nick Harvey's sticking to Imperial, thank you very much.  Give me ring when the snow's one rod, pole or perch deep, please.

Hey, just as a quick digression, for no edition of Comment would be complete without one, did you like the way I crept "including, but not restricted to" into that sentence up there?

It's another one of those lovely new phrases which seem to have sprung up and suddenly become used in practically everything, isn't it?  I think it must be a posh, and probably terribly legal, way of saying "I expect I've forgotten something, but you're not allowed to complain".

So, anyway, let's return to where we started, shall we?  For my research survey this month, I urgently need to know whether your local snow lays, settles or pitches.  Or have you got your own word for a covering of snow building up on a roughly horizontal surface, around your part of the world?

Quite why there are so many variants, I'm none too sure; but I'm going to form a collection of all the words, then when I've got ten, I will proudly announce that I've got a dekaword.

Answers, written in best copperplate, on the back of the ten pound note, to the usual address please.  I will announce the results at a time and date, including, but not restricted to, "eventually".

Right then, I really must remember that it's February and you've only got twenty-eight days in which to read this one, so I'd better put my dear little typing fingers away for another month and let you get on.

More of this perfect prose will appear on March 1st for your absolute delight and total enjoyment, so please make sure you join me then.  Right, I'm off, where's me ruler?

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