The beginning! Or, how this thing is going to work.

So, greetings all; I would appear to have a blog now. Behold, O readers, as I tell you of my plans for this same blog, and the reasons for its existence!

For a good few years I have had a weird ambition to visit every one of the Ordnance Survey Explorer map areas [1] in Great Britain. [2] There are, I believe, 403 of these, covering Great Britain and a variety of its surrounding islands. I would like to go to all of them eventually, and thereby eventually see all the corners of our lovely little island.

Me and some maps!

As well as having weird things about which I get very enthusiastic such as maps, I am also something of an obsessive archivist of my own life – I save many many things wherever possible, whether digitally or physically (or preferably both). My room at home prominently features five large filing cabinets (to the eternal despair of Mother Dearest) containing such delights as all my schoolwork from year 6 onwards, all the rough paper on which I did calculations during my physics degree, a door handle that Father Dearest broke off my door several years ago, and various chocolate wrappers from College dinners. I am very proud of my text message database that goes back to 2010, and my computer informs me that I have 49,185 photos in my photos folder, tagged by person, place, and, for a period in 2010–13, which shirt I was wearing. I do find it rather fun to pick a date in my past and, looking at things like photos, text messages, Facebook messages, emails, Google search history, reconstruct what I was doing. My friends have been known to jest about my future biographer, as I do like to think that were I to have such a person, I would have made life easy for them.

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An example one of those 49,185 pictures, some stationery being used in an unconventional way on 10th June 2011 [3]
So this blog will, hopefully for the many years that it will take me to complete my ambition, serve to record and share the places that I visit. It will also, though, be a pleasant record of my past to supplement my other kinds of archiving; one of a different kind for being created solely to be a record, rather than preserving evidence created as a byproduct of my living my life – I’ve never kept a diary [4] other than the mundane kind in which one writes one’s appointments, so here I am creating something just to look back on, rather than keeping to look back on things that I make anyway. Since I only have to update it when I travel, it shouldn’t be too taxing, and so I hope I’ll stick with it!

I intend, therefore, to, every time that I visit a map area that I have not previously featured on this blog, write a post about the place that I went, why, what I did there, and so on, as well as explain things about my past life and interests that are relevant to understand what I’m writing about. There will very probably be pictures rather often, and I expect that my friends and family will feature (I intend to give each such person who features a nickname, witty or otherwise, by which to refer to them on the blog.) [5]  Every post will end with a map of Great Britain showing all the OS Explorer maps, with colours to indicate where I have and haven’t visited. (See below for the first such one!)

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A realistic depiction of map-reading

Now, I have not lived until nearly 23 years of age in this country by never going to any of it. In fact, I have before starting this blog been to 143 of the 403 Explorer map areas; that is 36% of them. [6]  I intend, however, to post every time I go to an area that I haven’t posted before, that is, every area I visit that I haven’t been to since starting this blog (on the 11th of December 2017). When I post about an area that I went to pre-blog, I will also try to write something about the previous time(s) that I went there, preferably supplemented by some of my archive material!

And, just to be clear about what this blog is not, it is not a blog reviewing maps, nor will it have much content actually about maps – the maps are more a reason to visit far-flung corners of these islands, and an excuse for cataloguing my life, than actually an interest of mine themselves.

I’ll do my first proper post soon, about this very day, in the very town in which I have lived during term-time for the past two and a bit years, namely Cambridge, in map area 209. Until then, farewell, and I leave you with my first map of maps: this shows the OS Explorer map areas that I’ve visited already before starting this blog.

The first map of maps visited: 10th December 2017


[1] OS Explorer maps are a series of maps covering Britain at a scale of 1:25000, used often by walkers and other kinds of outdoor activitypeople; there are much better places to read about them than here, for example on the Ordnance Survey’s website.

[2] This map-visiting thing is only one of my many weird ambitions; I have a list of them – I have a lot of lists – that currently has about fifty other things on, with some examples being to drive all the way around the M25, to get a cat again, to host a white-tie function, and to get my good friend Cabbage to buy an air conditioner. (Unlike most of the nicknames that I will use, which will be made up either by me or by their referent for use on this blog, Cabbage’s nickname is one from our schooldays, which is a good eleven years old now, I think.)

[3] In my first year in Oxford, so 2012–13, on a late night in No Longer Hairy’s room he tried to come up with things that I would probably not have a photo of in my collection. “Stationery being used in unconventional ways” was one of his challenges, and behold, I met it!

[4] I’ve never kept a diary of the Dear Diary kind, no. The diary I do keep has in it appointments and so on, descending from the homework diaries I had in school (I have a continuous collection of my diaries since 2005), but in practice nowadays I don’t really use it as a means of remembering what to do so much as a record – I usually end up writing “Meet Bob, 7pm for dinner” in only after the fact. There have also been a couple of things more like proper diaries I have kept before:

  • In the summer of 2012, when Cabbage and I travelled around Europe for two months, we kept a travel blog. Well, we kept up the fiction of keeping a travel blog when, in reality, I wrote it (although I did so attempting to adopt Cabbage’s style and incorporate comments he made). The blog was followed by our friends and family back home and, although I took it off the internet, I have it saved and do enjoy reading it! Cabbage and I also kept private paper diaries on the trip, however here there was a little bit of a misunderstanding – Cabbage used his rather as we used the blog, writing a complete record of the trip from his perspective. I, however, thought that my diary was intended only to record my private grievances about Cabbage, to keep us happy during the trip itself and share only afterwards. While Cabbage incorporated such things into his diary, mostly it was a travel journal, unlike my page after page of vindictive drivel, meaning that I come off rather badly in mine… We have the diaries still, of course, and I have scanned significant sections of them.
  • In the summers of 2016 and 17, I went away with my Cambridge friends Millicent, Erithacus, Vesper, Queenie, and Cheremy. In 2016 we travelled from Lindisfarne to Iona on a mostly-walking trip (we walked a little less than half the distance and were away for three and a half weeks) that we called the “Holy Island Trek”. We kept on this trip a little leather-bound diary that we named our annal – it is titled on its first page “Annales Itineris Insularum Sanctarum, or, There and Hopefully Back Again, the Journey of Five ASNaCs” – updated daily by one of us. (An ASNaC is the name for someone studying Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Cambridge University, which we all do, and is how we met.) The next year, we travelled to Paris, staying there two weeks, and similarly kept the annal going (“Annales Itineris ad Urbem Parisiorum, Or, The Tragically Tragic Tale of Despairing Frenchman”). The annals live with one of us six, and I have scanned them into the computer too; we intend fully to keep them going next time we go somewhere!

[5] This practice of nicknaming friends is inspired by / shamelessly copied from The English Student (thank you, English Student!) whom I used to see a lot but haven’t in a while. She blogs about books over at the blog of the same name, and gives nicknames to her acquaintances – my nickname over on that blog is The Circumlocutor.

[6] Well, when I say I’ve been to 143 of the maps already, those are all the ones I could remember a few years ago when I started on this ambition, and the ones I’ve visited since then. I’m sure there are some omissions, but I’ve “locked in” this set now, so it won’t be changing.

4 thoughts on “The beginning! Or, how this thing is going to work.

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