I find it surprising how often I refer to Google Maps. This device to keep track of my movements, send advertisers to my laptop and keep the FBI aware of my activities has been a boon in so many other ways. It is not just the local police who can follow me around if they so choose. These maps enable me to find my way around and I use them daily these days.
During recent months I recall searching out the many places wherein I was once employed, you note I do not use the word 'worked,' this took me back to 1966, too far back for any of you to remember, where I noticed the dim dark fire hazard dwelling that housed my first employment remained dim and dark but in an amended and hopefully less hazardous condition. Almost all others since then have disappeared and were now housing blocks of flats or small housing estates, the one in North Finchley asking around half a million for a house where I once lugged 15,000 bricks of the back of a lorry by hand, not by myself I may add. Whether anyone realises or cares that under their feet once stood a tank containing petrol for the council vans possibly does not really matter. The only time that mattered was when the delivery man put diesel in the petrol or was it petrol in the diesel tanks, that mattered a lot to the stream of small vans that died before they left the depot.
Google maps allows me a remarkably close view on how the world has changed since those days where managers would cheerfully smile while slapping something down on the desk muttering “These are for you.” The days of those insurance cards have thankfully ended.
Google maps are great if you wish to visit somewhere new. A glance tells you transport links, items of interest and places to avoid. In the days before such marvels the tourist could wander around a town missing all the good bits and find themselves wallowing in the midst of dank depressing lower-class Britain from where they originated and wish to escape from, at least in my case. Google saves you that. With hand held expensive phones in direct contact with both the US and Chinese security systems this makes wandering around much easier than in the days of aper maps. This system allows you to pick the spots worth visiting, allowing for the Google cameraman only visiting places when the sun shone, and hoping he choose to wander down all the streets you fancy.
Those house buying would find the maps a great boon also. Do you remember the lovely cottage on sale by the sea near Dymchurch a couple of years ago? The pebble beach, the small flowers, the sea, the distance from everyone else, the condition of the house, large rooms, well maintained, all one could possibly wish in such an area. It was therefore unfortunate that the photographer forgot to include the nearby Nuclear Power Station situated about a mile behind the house. This may have influenced buyers. Google maps helped in such circumstances, power stations, roads, railways, scrap yards, petrol stations, schools and other unwelcome happenings are often missed by estate agents for reasons unclear, the maps aid the unwary here.
I found the maps particularly useful when reading about ancient Eridu, the oldest settlement in Sumer. The map of Iraq, if you work hard at it, shows all those old settlements along with more recent ones such as Nineveh or Babylon. Fantastic to see such sites from the desk here, especially when rain hits the window and temperatures drop, at that moment watching a dry hot desert under 120 degrees of sunshine can be enthralling.
Those who take time to study such maps can find themselves lost as I often am staring at out of the way places such as St Helena and wonder why on earth people live there? There again the world is full of strange and inhospitable places often teeming with life, how do folks end up there and why do they stay? Why indeed do they fight savagely to keep it to themselves I wonder?
The way the maps attempt to display the land at the bottom of the sea is also quite extraordinary. Lines run across the bottom indicating the clash of plates below and the huge number of volcanoes and potential earthquakes especially in the Pacific region.
Similarly watching rivers run down mountains catches the eye. Mountainous Costa Rico looks high and lush but there was a man in a wheelchair, surrounded by dogs and sheep, bossing people around at one area I noticed. The USA was a wonder, it intrigues how people could cross such a landmass, plains, hills, deserts and survive yet alone create what some call ‘civilisation’ on that vast acreage. Nice of the civilisers to keep ‘reservations for the Indians’ even yet. Apart from those Trump has run oil pipes over of course. Tucson, Arizona, offers an aircraft boneyard. Here military aircraft are laid out for observation from above and to lie ready for use sometime in the future. B52’s and the like sit there burning in the sun’s dry heat.
Early man trekked vast distances, sometimes through the need for food or shelter sometimes just to see what was over the hill. When you study the size of the world it is amazing how he moved so far in a relatively short time. Of course so little evidence has been found and many conclusions jumped to that we really don’t know much about how he spread, nor how he managed to change colour to so many different hues. We were informed at primary school this was because we were black but lost the colour as we moved north into cold regions. Hmmm I wondered then how Indians were brown and Chinese yellow? The equator runs across many of them also.
A TV programme offered a trip on a train into the north of Siberia, the furthest north you can travel that way. Some of the workers when challenged about the cold just shrugged their shoulders and laughed that anyone would query working there. They were used to it. Siberian troops were brought by Stalin from the Japanese border to defend Moscow in 1942 and they thought fighting in minus 8 degrees was warm! They had experienced minus 40 regularly. Excuse me while I huddle the heater.
You might be surprised to note that I have made use of Google while searching for Great War sites. To view Ypres or Mons from the air and to compare with old maps or photographs is an interesting waste of time. I especially like looking for remnants of old trench lines which have not yet been obliterated by the plough. It is amazing what remains as well as what is now no longer visible.
This adventure can take a lot of my busy time sadly.