Some old words do not willingly move over to make way for new ones. Despite all the metrication we’ve undergone in Australia since the 1970s, “mile” still holds good. Think of the sayings so casually aired like, “Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” and translate that into metric terminology. It doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as it should. Another example: “Trying to get a quart into a pint pot” which is equally unwieldy in metric terms.
The above musings have come about as the Romance Writers of Australia “Riding the Waves” Conference in August draws near. The distance from The New England region of NSW to Fremantle is huge, equating I believe, to the distance between London and Rome. I’m nothing if not optimistic that there may be some satisfaction to be gained by covering all those miles. I mean really seeing the scenery and gathering up those miles. I’m also quite keen to prove wrong those fellows on the WA station where I worked all those years ago, who assured me if I went “over east” I’d never return to WA. “Over east”, I may add, was usually uttered in a way that suggested a certain inferiority, despite the owner’s male offspring being packed off there to receive the finest possible education.
So it is that I anticipate driving across, in the manner of an ancient pioneer. Not so much with a team of oxen or camels, but rather sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned mechanical device whose pulling power is measured in (metric) litres rather than horse-power. Nevertheless, the pioneering spirit will still be with me unless – or until – I lose my nerve and take a seat in a great silver bird, in which case the speed will be a mach number and the distance measured in hours/minutes elapsed. That will be a huge waste of opportunity and I’ll kick myself for ever after. So, if there’s anyone out there daft enough to join me…?