I Can’t Handle The Metric System


The Metric system began it’s life in 18th century France (made compulsory in 1837)

Britain adopted the Metric system in 1965 – coincidentally the year I was born – so why then, do I still measure ale in pints, fabric in yards and my height in feet and inches?!

I’m not even going to go near America with this one! They still use Fahrenheit. Even their brainiest scholars struggle with the Metric system – look at Sheldon Cooper!



My husband was born the same year as me. He always uses the Metric system; crucially when working on art – being precise about measurements is crucial when creating sundials, and you can’t do that in inches!

I’m always saying “Well, what is that in feet?” And he replies “Forget the feet, think in centimetres and metres.” I can’t imagine the size of some creature when described in metres – I need feet dammit!

I just can’t, my brain seems stuck in Imperial Britain!

Anyone remember that scene in This is Spinal Tap, when someone got their inches and feet symbols confused? (Just to be clear, this is 6 inches = 6″. This is 6 feet = 6′). Hilarious – because it’s true.




Years ago, my mother found an article in a British newspaper, it was a little rhyme to help Brits convert in their heads, goes like this –

‘A litre of water’s a pint and three quarters’

‘A metre measures three foot three, it’s longer than a yard you see’

There was more, but I forget it. She kept it taped up on the inside of the kitchen cupboard for years; some of it sank into my skull.

The reason this is an issue now – well, it’s always an issue, but relating to my writing, is because if I (or you) want to self publish, you better know how many inches make 16.84 x 26.01 cm, (that’s the standard size of a graphic novel in case you’re interested). There are many publishing sites online, mostly American, so you know already the measurements will be in inches! But if you are familiar with Metric, then this is a bind. If you are more comfortable with Imperial system,then some companies are going to fry your mind, as they work in millimetres!

 Book (trim) size Height x width
  A6 148 x 105mm
  A Format 178 x 111mm
  B Format (UK) 198 x 129mm
  B Format (US) 203 x 127mm
  A5 210 x 148mm
  Demy 216 x 138mm
  American Royal 229 x 152mm
  Royal 234 x 156mm
  Pinched Crown Quarto up to 248 x 171mm
  Crown Quarto 246 x 189
  A4 297 x 210mm

Standard book sizes from Biddles

You would think in 53 years, we Brits would have a handle on this system of weights and measures, wouldn’t you? But get this –

We are still teaching both systems in our schools now! The mind boggles!

See if you can work out the conversions on this sheet (from 2014!)



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Writer of fiction, sci-fi, horror and more. Painter of magic realism. Grower of cabbages and currants.

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