I’ve never been very good at history, but I do like maps. So, I was glad to hear of the Tabula Peutingeriana, a map of the late Roman Empire, which was unrolled for a rare viewing today.
The director of manuscripts at the Austrian National Library compares it to the diagrammatic map of the London Underground: more useful than accurate. And apart from junctions and inns, the main landmarks were the holy places — Christendom on a scroll.
I wonder how our public consciousness would be different if we still chose holy places as our landmarks instead of Little Chef’s or pubs.
And I began to think of how I do map territory.
In New England it goes something like this:
Home-coffee-blue onion- nasty junction- endless trees – pretty lake- toll booth- misplaced witches’ house- tacky mall- autumn leaves– Holly bridge– stop and ring- toll booth- river- bridges — wonder how Edward is — baseball — Charlene & John- nasty tunnel-Gracie- lawyers’ arch- winter lights- cannolies- ‘if it weren’t for this church, your donation would be in pounds sterling’ – Duckie – no parking- parking- at last.
In Britain, it tends to go–
cobbled street — West Port — Old Wing — patchwork fields — Mungee bridge — bendy road– forth bridge– bypass –Lady P– the sea, the sea — pine trees– coffee time — horrid Morrisons– the swans –hedge cutting– sand and dunes– bookshop– the bridges — car dealers & round abouts — bridal shop — turn– metro bridge — round about — church — crane and cat.
A real mix of public and private landmarks, recognizable routes, and things that would make sense only to me. Neither route is efficient (emotional tangents, you see)– neither is exactly how I would go. But quite fun to remember, nonetheless.
Gold stars await for the people on each side of the Atlantic who can accurately place the most landmarks. Something more dramatic for anyone who dares to compete in both categories (and makes a reasonably good show of each).