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Monday 14 February 2011

The Lifeless Hefferlump

Who remembers decimalisation? I can still recall what was called “D-Day”, 40 years ago in February 1971, when new coins began to circulate and far too many businesses used the changeover as cover for a raft of often swingeing price rises. At the time, inflation was starting to take off: it was a problem for the rest of the decade and well into the 80s.

That inflation meant that the old, pre-decimal coinage, with 240 old pennies making up a pound, weighed more heavily in the pocket. You only have to compare a “new” penny and its “old” equivalent to see that. Moreover, figuring it all out in base 10 was that much more straightforward than working in base 12 (pence in a shilling) and then base 20 (shillings in a pound).

But this mere practicality counts for nothing with the Maily Telegraph’s thundering pundit Simon “Enoch was right” Heffer. For the Hefferlump, decimalisation was nothing less than “mindless aggression”, and such is his distress in recalling the occasion that he tells us “it is an event that still dries my throat and threatens to stop my heart”.

There then follows a substantial homage to Phil Space, as Heffer rambles on about the wonders of numismatics: those who designed coins, their designs, and of course all those Kings and Queens that any self respecting Telegraph hack knows are the kind of knowledge that will serve us all well in life.

Must try harder

Finally, with a flourish no doubt meant to show that his intellectual grasp is undimmed forty years after the event, Heffer tells that “Children of my generation were taught at the age of five or six how to work out how many twopenny-ha’penny bars of chocolate one could buy for £1 5s 10d (134, of course) and it didn’t do us any harm”.

Sadly, the number of those bars this amount of money would buy is 124, not 134: for the latter number, you would have to pay £1 7s 11d. Poor Hefferlump, he can’t even get his pre-decimal sums right – perhaps he’d be better advised writing about something useful, like getting a life.

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