Thursday, 6 October 2011

Why men don't listen and no-one reads maps

A map of England!!

A typical guy, I don't boast about my listening skills. But I do read and understand maps. Unfortunately my forte is rapidly going the way of the manual typewriter and the dinosaur.

I learned this to my chagrin when Amber and I piled our stuff into the car and pointed its nose South --- destination Dorset. But we had no map of England! All the Scottish petrol stations, service areas and supermarkets, somewhat chauvenist, only have Scottish maps. Or glossy, expensive atlases of the entire UK. No problem. I'll pick one up after we cross the English border.


England has other map issues. There are none. We checked several petrol stations, supermarkets, WH Smith etc and found maps of Carlisle, the Lake District --- Ordinance Survey Maps, maps of postage stamps, but no map of England. My initial disbelief finally gave way to a glimmer of understanding. Of course, these days everyone has Satnav / GPS in their cars--- except for luddites like me who insist on using maps. If you must have one, you print it off Google-map, then crumple it up on arrival. There's not much demand for a published map of England. Perhaps the Scots still hang onto maps because they're a bit behind the times.

I suspect I'll get some sarcastic comments, referring to me as a curmudgeon who resits the inexorable march of modern technology. Yet I feel that something is lost in losing the map and relying on technology to get you from A to B. A bird's eye view of the country, the way that an Eagle sees it, or a satellite. The broad perspective. Call it also the grand picture where we and our problems are small, less significant than specks, rather than the perspective of a mouse that sees everything close up. Impossibly large but limited in scope.

A map can take us in imagination to farther off places, away from the small vehicle where we happen to find ourselves, creeping along some manufactired highway. They're magical. You can use them to locate buried treasure, dowse for water, prospect for oil or minerals. Psychics even use them to find lost objects.

If your only purpose of travel is to get from A to B, then Satnav is all you need. But your journey will likely be one-dimensional, with only fences, houses, hedges and other angry motorists whizzing by. You'll have no idea of where you actually are, because you won't know where you are in relation to. Neither will you know what is out of sight, just over the hill. For that greater perspective you'll still need a map.

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