Saturday, October 10, 2009

Imperial or metric.

I received a letter yesterday from the taxman, who is actually a woman, by the name on the bottom of the letter, Erin Holland. Erin Holland or her representative has told me that I have failed to pay my full dues in the financial year ending June 2008.

I have just sent them evidence in the form of my BAS statement and cheque stub to confirm that I did pay this amount. I may yet need to pay it again, but it galls me because I am sure I have already paid. I am meticulous about my payments, obsessional even.

At the same time I must concede the possibility that I did not pay this amount after all. I sent the cheque in the mail, as the saying goes. My accountant suggests this is a mistake. I should have put it through the post office, that way I would have a receipt stamp. Or I should have used something like BPay, but I have not yet mastered on line or telephone banking. I still prefer to pay my bills with a cheque. I have been doing this for the last 35 years, ever since I began to pay my own bills.

I can see the writing is on the wall. Cheque books are on their way out. This saddens me for some strange reason. Another legacy of the past gone. As long as I can I hang on to my chequebook for those big payments, I will resist. EFTPOS and the like is fine for the daily shopping, the stuff I buy over the counter but for the bills that come in the mail, I will continue to pay by cheque.

There are times like this that I wish I were born as one of my children’s generation. My children are so adept at these things. They do not flinch when it comes to anything technical, anything on line, anything that requires a spring into cyberspace. Whereas I need to concretise it somehow first and this slows the process almost to the point where it does not happen.

I console myself with the thought that at least I have a contrast. I still remember that other world where things moved more slowly. When we still measured things via the imperial system, in feet and inches, stones and pounds. Even the language held more charm to my mind than the rhythmic simplicity of the metric system. Of course I can see the value of the metric system. It goes up in tens and hundreds. The imperial system travels in units of twelve.

The imperial system is so much more complicated. We had yards and furlongs, and tonnes and bushels. We had guineas and pounds, shillings and pence. We had some of the most wonderful words, words that now in my imagination carry such colour and weight that the metric system lacks. Though I can still see centipedes scribbling across the page whenever someone mentions centimetres, but for me that’s where it ends.

I suppose I am idealising the olden days. They were not golden days. They were grim days as far as I can remember, but they offered words then that are no longer available to me now, words that date me, and words that must be expunged because they are no longer useful. Though those raised under the metric system will no doubt see images in the words that come out of their childhood imaginations. I should not knock it. It is better today. It has to be better today. It is all we have, basically right here, right now. The future lies ahead uncertain, the past fades quickly.
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