Geography: Our place in this world

I recently published a post about History. I was lamenting what I perceived to be a lack of interest in, and knowledge of, a subject I consider to have great relevance and importance. The response was very satisfying, and the debate in the comments was a heartening example of what ‘good blogging’ is all about. Talking about the exam syllabus, and good and bad teachers, got me thinking about Geography.

As a child, I always loved to look at Atlases, maps, and my metal globe. I also had an encyclopedia that listed all the countries in the back, with pictures of their flags, the names of the capital cities, size of populations, their main industries and exports too. I would look up a certain country, find it on a map or on the globe, and imagine life there across an ocean, or on the other side of the world. Once I started to study the subject at school, I soon discovered that it was as much about geology, natural formations, mighty rivers and ice-caps, as it was about the countries that claimed their national borders. I also found out that most of my fellow school students had little or no knowledge or interest in the outside world, and dropped the subject as soon as they were allowed to.

Later on, I had some first-hand examples of this lack of knowledge. Some of it shocked me, especially when it concerned our own country, Britain. I met people who thought they had to travel south to reach Scotland. Others who thought Ireland was next to Wales, and not separated by any water. Even one man I met as a teenager who assured me that if I went to Australia, the people would be walking upside down. I presume now that this was him teasing me, but I didn’t think so then. Although this was at a time when many people had not travelled far from home, we did have a huge amount of men living nearby who had served in WW2, and had travelled extensively. That included my own father, who had been to India, Burma, South Africa, and Egypt. Their tales of distant lands inspired me to discover more, and to get better maps, and adult encyclopedias.

Much later, I was playing a game of Trivial Pursuit at work, during some down-time. My own crew-mate at the time was asked to name a country that bordered Pakistan. After some thought, he answered, “Spain”. I was smiling, and thought he was being silly, as he didn’t know a correct answer. But after some discussion, he told me that he really didn’t think Spain was that far from Pakistan. And this from a man who had been to Spain, and also worked in Australia for a year at one time. Years after that, I was on holiday in Turkey, with my wife and two of her children. One of the girls (14 at the time) asked me if we were anywhere near Ibiza. I remarked that she should have known how far we were (over 2,500 miles) from that island, and she replied “It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to know where somewhere is, to go there”.

That got me thinking. Was it just me? Does it matter if someone knows that Scotland is north of London, when their Satnav will tell them what road to take? Why should anyone care that Abuja is now the capital of Nigeria, if they have no intention of ever going there, or being remotely interested in that country? And if you think that Pakistan is close to Spain, unless you suddenly decide to drive from one to the other, it is perhaps of little consequence. In our lives, we are unlikely to ever find ourselves blindfolded, abducted, and left alone in some remote place, needing to discover how to get home, or where we might be. For everyday use, the majority of people can ask their phone or tablet anything they need to know about a travel destination, or holiday resort. If a family is going to holiday in a beach resort in Cuba, does it matter a jot if they know that they are only 90 miles south of the mainland of America?

I wonder if anyone still looks at maps, or has a globe? Is the electronic equivalent enough now? Does that interest in the world now only come in chunks the size of a phone screen, that you can scroll down? My own opinion is that History and Geography are inseparable, both linked to politics, and the world we live in today. Lines drawn on maps by colonial powers, the proximity of warring nations, the lust for natural resources, living space, and fertile land and water. Geography impacts on our daily lives more importantly every year, just as those resources diminish with use. It would be a shame if it became yet another ‘forgotten’ subject, dominated by the map-makers at Google.

What do you think?

Advertisements

If I was in Star Trek

This popped up as a suggestion from You Tube today. I wasn’t a huge fan of the series, but did watch many of the early episodes, those with Bill Shatner, and Leonard Nimoy. Whoever put this together may have intended it as mockery of Londoners, their accent, and expressions, but it really worked for me.

If I had written the script, and starred in Star Trek, this is just what it would have been like.
If anyone needs a translation, please say so in the comments. 🙂
And if you ever wondered what my voice sounded like…

History

A lot of people these days have scant regard for history. Whether local, national, or world history, they think it has little or no relevance to their lives. It was something that happened at a time that didn’t concern them. A time when there was no Internet, video games, or fast-food outlets. Not even a phone, let alone a mobile phone. History is falling out of favour. Less people are studying it, and fewer people than ever before have an active interest in it. An unscientific random poll of younger people I know shows an alarming lack of knowledge about it, allied to an active and vocally expressed disinterest in anything to do with it.

Personally speaking, I cannot imagine any subject more interesting. How we got to where we are today, what caused the international issues and problems we experience on a daily basis, and how the iconic buildings we admire came to be built. The origins of language, our genetic make-up, and everything we are. It’s all history. Once you have read this post, it will become part of history. Everything we touch, make, discuss, or admire. All of that is tomorrow’s history. It is inescapable, yet hardly given a moment’s thought. Wars, religions, ruling dynasties, lines drawn on maps, and empires built then fallen. The amazing story of the modern world, overlooked for a Facebook page, or a chat on Whatsapp. Send a tweet, a photo of what you are wearing, or what you had for lunch, and it becomes history, whether you appreciate it, or not.

The Internet has made history personal, in a way that could never have been imagined, when monks dutifully copied books, or women sewed the Bayeaux Tapestry, in 1067. We have memorial days for historical characters, remembrance days for those fallen in wars. But how long will all this last, if younger generations decide that it is no longer of interest, and does not need to be celebrated, or remembered? Wherever you live, you are surrounded by history. The history of indigenous peoples, ancient stones and monuments, churches, cathedrals, statues, and art. But if it no longer matters to you, then it will be lost, possibly forever.

People visit amazing countries like Egypt, then describe it as a ‘lot of old stones’. Some wander around iconic sites, with no comprehension of how old they really are, or their importance in the development of mankind. Just get that selfie, with it in the background, and job done. Others visit Mayan and Aztec remains, then complain about the heat, or the lack of facilities, somehow expecting history to be sanitized to their modern tastes. For many, the dates merge. One war seems much like another, until they are unable to separate WW1 from WW2 for example. Go back further, say to the English Civil War, and a blank expression comes over their faces. Every country suffers from this lack of interest, it seems. From British people who know little or nothing about the Romans, or Anglo Saxons, to Americans who think the world began in 1776.

Perhaps the school system is to blame? I recall much of my official history teaching centred around things like the Industrial Revolution; railways, and the invention of machinery. The Corn Laws, the electoral reform, and the progress during the Victorian Age. It needs to be more interesting, to adopt a wider scope, be relevant to localities, and things you can actually see, without having to make a trip to a dusty museum in London, or any capital city. When we watch things on the news, whether 9/11, the wars in the middle east, or terror attacks in cities, that is all about history. People ask, ‘Why’? But they have never been taught the background, those very reasons why. And even if they have been, they thought it was something that they didn’t need to know.

There is a very old adage, penned by George Santayana.
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
George got that right. Let’s all try our best to inspire younger people to get interested in history again. Stop them repeating all the mistakes that are there, for everyone to see.

Escaping ‘That Wedding’

I might be busy on this blog tomorrow. As well as that, Ollie will certainly be getting a longer than usual walk, I assure you. Unless you have been in a coma for a very long time, you cannot fail to be aware that there is to be a Royal Wedding in Windsor on Saturday. Prince Harry is to wed his American bride, with all the trappings of the traditional pomp and ceremony adored by the people of this land.

Not adored by me of course, as anyone who knows me will tell you. I am not a Royalist, and if you have ever glanced at my other blog, you will be aware that I have made that clear, in no uncertain terms.

The circus has well and truly come to town. Thousands of television network reporters from all over the globe have claimed their spots and vantage points. The usual gang of deluded Royal fans have established themselves alongside the railings on Windsor’s streets, with many being in place since last week. News coverage of the event started last week too, and has now reached constant fever pitch on the BBC here. They go over and over about the route, what the bride will wear, and who is invited, or not. Recent ‘Breaking News’ declared that The Duke of Edinburgh is well enough to attend, quickly glossing over the fact that the bride’s father will not be around to walk her down the aisle.

Drilling into the tiniest details, we hear that she may, or may not, wear a tiara, loaned to her by the Queen. The wedding cake is in the hands of an American cake-maker, flown in for the job. It is going to contain no less than 500 of the finest organic eggs, sourced from Suffolk. Flavour will be supplied by 10 bottles of Elderflower cordial from the Royal estate at Sandringham, and 200 lemons all the way from the Amalfi coast. Sweetness and softness will be covered, as 20 kilos of butter and the same of sugar will be added.

I am sure that this is heartening news for the women who will spend their time visiting local food banks, to get enough stuff to provide their children with a meal today.

Let’s not forget the young lady’s engagement ring. This features a huge central diamond, flanked by stones taken from the ring of the late Lady Diana, Harry’s mother. A ring of such quality would ordinarily cost anything up to £100,000, but as it includes stones from the ring of Lady Diana, it is described as ‘priceless’. So, a few million at least, I’m guessing.

Great consolation for the workers in Windsor, earning £320 a week, on a minimum-wage, no-hours contract, I’m sure.

Whatever I think, and this is just the tip of my thought iceberg, the world will be watching, (including my wife) with one notable exception. Me.

And before everyone gets too excited, have a think about what happened the last time a member of the Royal Family married an American Divorcee.
I feel sorry for the girl. Life as she knew it is over.

Random things that irritate

This is a small selection of things that irritate or annoy me. Please add your own in the comments.

Why is it that when you need to blow your nose, there is always only one tissue left in the box?

When you have just used the toilet in someone else’s house, why does the toilet roll always run out before you have finished? (And why do we never think to check before we start?)

When I go to the cinema, why does someone always sit next to me with the biggest bucket of popcorn to crunch, and a huge drink to slurp?

Why do people sit next to me on a bus, then engage me in mindless conversation?

Why does my doctor insist that I am on time for an appointment, then keep me waiting over an hour past that time?

Why do people pick up dog poo in a plastic bag, then just leave that bag on the ground?

Why do people fill up their cars at a petrol station, then leave them parked blocking the pumps while they shop for lots of items inside?

Why do people throw something into a litter bin, then walk away when it bounces out of the slot back onto the ground?

Why do people think it is acceptable to walk around with their mobile phone on speaker, playing their awful music for everyone to hear?

Why do people ask taxi drivers if they have ‘been busy’?

Why do people who have never voted complain about the government?

Just another ‘Day’

Today is the national day of England, and of our patron saint, St George. It is not a public holiday, and hardly gets noticed, or mentioned. Lost in a sea of days that are better celebrated, like ‘Stroke your cat day’, ‘Eat a doughnut day’, or ‘Arabic transgender literature day’, that’s understandable.

Think of something, and there’s a day for it. Social Media is awash with ‘Days’, but the national day of England avoids the limelight. Irish people everywhere anticipate St Patrick’s Day with relish, and in America, The Fourth of July is the biggest day of the year. However, in England, our ‘stiff upper lips’ prevent us from making a show, letting off fireworks, or dyeing our beer red and white.

So for those of you who didn’t know, and for the few that think it still has any traditional relevance.

HAPPY ST GEORGE’S DAY!

FLAG

In print, again!

I am very pleased to announce that I have once again had an article accepted for publication in the latest edition of Longshot Island magazine. It is a non-fiction piece about architecture, and is on page fifty. As well as that, the new edition features some outstanding short stories, and offers so much more, including great value classified advertising for your latest book, website, or services.

The magazine is available as a print copy, or a download. Anyone interested can also get a $1 discount on the price via this blog, using the code 1$FORYOU If you would like to know more about this magazine, perhaps even send one of your own submissions for consideration, please follow the links below.
http://www.longshotisland.com/
http://www.longshotisland.com/ecart/
http://www.longshotisland.com/submissions/

Best wishes to all, Pete.