Enthusiast is a bit of an understatement,
My friend Claire could tell you that;
As we hiked from the West coast to the East coast of Scotland
At night she read "normal things" - while I read maps.
Of course I needed to be sure of the route,
But after 25 miles of walking that wasnt all-
I'd spend at least 3 hours staring and staring
The roads, the woods, the rivers, hostels, churches, pubs and schools....
In fact night after night I spent,
So long engrossed,
That after five nights,
I had one of the strangest dreams ever experienced.
I was "in" an OS map -
Walking a yellow road, past big red triangles,
And heading straight for the strangest of all -
Just across the red road, the enormous half filled pint glass
- the public house of course!
Surreal dream that was,
But also great fun,
I was in an OS map...
One without people - I was the only one
I did ease up on the map reading after,
Thought I might start hallucinating otherwise,
Claire already thought I was slightly mad,
If I told her we needed to shelter from the rain in the giant pint glass - well, as I said, she already knew I was mad!
But my obsession is not limited to OS maps,
Oh no, its the entire World Atlas;
Continents, Countries, Oceans and territories,
Nothing escapes my attention in the World Atlas.
I have so so many maps,
Because people keep changing things,
From the names of Countries and places
To minor details...bridges...silly little things.
I have a map that says USSR,
The Soviet Union so large,
Now I have another with Russia,
Belarus, Estonia, Ukraine, and others that re-emerged.
Even isolated places like Greenland
People cant make up their mind,
Is it Nuuk or Godthaab?
They are both still there to confuse the mind.
I had a map with Zaire,
Once the biggest country in Africa,
Its now the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Needed to amend my map of Africa.
Ok, all maps up to date;
Just when I can rest my map brain...
Sudan is then split in two!!
Get out the map Emma - quick - draw a line!!
I dont know what I think would happen
If my maps were not up to date;
But I just cant take the risk,.
I have to change them before its too late.
Most recent of course was Swaziland,
How? Why? When?!
Its ok, i've read about it now,
And I understand...let me get my pen.
But Swaziland is so tiny
Now I need to write eSwatini (!)
My map is now such a mess
Time for a new one? No not yet - Swaziland has not yet changed like the rest!
I have to wait for cartographers
To catch up and make all the changes,
Or otherwise i'll only trust my own map
The one with scribbles all over the pages.
Its not just on a Country scale
Such changes do confuse us,
For even in South Africa alone -
New names replaces the oldies.
Now Nelson Mandela Bay;
I think its wonderful,
But its not what my map says!
Umtata became Mthata;
Another very welcome change,
But that one letter is on my mind...
Quick - cross out the "u"...in case we go insane!
Nothing is more messed up in my guide books,
Which consist almost exclusively of maps
Than the city of Durban....
Street names have changed...but "not quite yet"
I picked up a local map,
And not shown in the one I carried
- Its still in process of "changing",
So two names there are for almost every road!
Pretoria became Tshwane,
Again I agree with the name change,
But by now the maps in my book
Make so little sense - it could be mistaken for Adelaide!
I wont go into Rhodesia,
There have been so many changes across Africa,
But if they were before I was born,
It somehow doesnt seem so much to matter...
I only get frustrated with
Things that I know,
Before 1980 -
I had no maps to know.
I'd be talking about the Transkei, the Ciskei,
The Orange Free State and all,
More recent but left in the past -
I have none of those on my walls.
I focus more on Africa,
as most will know i'm a bit obsessed,
Being from a British Island on the African Plate,
...with Ascension drifting away with America...albeit very slow.
The Mid Atlantic Ridge runs between them,
From Iceland to the South Pole,
Dividing the Continental plates,
St Helena and Ascension came out of a hole...
My mind drifts a little to Asia,
Although I dont know it as well,
But...is it Burma or Myanmar now?
And is Palestine shrinking still?
Islands cause much fascination,
Being an Islander myself,
But mine is just the tip of a volcano,
The map doesnt show anything else.
As far as Islands go - the Atlantic is easy,
Try staring at the Pacific,
Such a vast and empty ocean,
Hides many secrets...more than the Atlantic.
You may think St Helena isolated,
But only till your eyes enter the Pacific,
It might be a huge mostly empty ocean,
But the vast Island chains are prolific.
There are fracture zone after fracture zone,
Creating Island chains and coral atolls;
From the Coral sea of Australia,
To the Galapagos of South America.
There's Polynesia, there's Melanesia,
And within these - hundreds of Islands...
And yes - I've tried to count them too..
We look for other British Islands,
Pitcairn - the most isolated of all;
And what a sorry story to tell..
About 60 people and half of them in jail...
Sometimes im desperately trying to find an Island
To replace my British non-British Island;
Those who think im mad loving South Africa-
Wont even begin to understand.
But this poem is not about emotion,
So i'll mention that no more,
Its more about Geography
- too many Islands to explore.
Staring at the Pacific
Can occupy at least three sleepless nights,
Remembering the names of the islands -
Is a much more difficult plight.
Most heart breaking about this Ocean,
Is the Islands being lost;
Populations having to leave,
As sea levels rise and coral islands are lost...
I think I have found my location,
or a few i'd give a try,
On a large map they simply appear as "bumps"
Surrounded by bigger Islands, and the ocean wide
Sleepless nights have drawn me to Tokelau;
A tiny territory of New Zealand;
Three beautiful coral atolls...
But oh so far from New Zealand.
Less than one thousand people,
Yet with their own language,
The closest Island is Samoa,
That boat journey for me would be a privilege...
The Island has 100% clean energy,
With so few people to sustain,
It's setting an example for the World,
Tokelau looks like "paradise" on my map....if I had to give it a new name...
Indigenous people full of colour,
Flowers round their necks and some clothes a recent thing,
They even have their own musical culture,
Its only mass worry is rising tides - and the flat atolls eventually submerging....
There is another island I look at,
With its tribal peoples far more "untouched",
It really is like a land time forgot,
Although it does have an airport..
It is the Island of "Mog-Mog"...
Yes...I didnt make that up..
It really does exist,
Although I admit it took me years to discover on my map...
I wont mention where it is,
I dont want to give it away;
My maps are full of secrets,
And that is how some should stay.
You can visit from Tahiti,
Which is more like France than its surrounds;
But Mog-Mog is a totally different world,
Dont be fooled by Tahiti - Mog-Mog is part of the "untouched surrounds"
I could talk about these Islands forever,
As even I have not discovered them all,
But I have to finish with the Indian Ocean,
The Chagos Islands are British afterall...
What happened to the Chagossians
was a cruel sin of humankind,
Not just ST Helena suffers at the hands of the British
- Chagossians were forced to leave their Isle behind...
To make way for an American Air base,
Ascension - how familiar does that sound?!
The story of the Chagossian tragedy
Must touch every Islander to be found...
The Chagossians also inspire us however,
For fifty years on they are still fighting,
Fighting to return to their homeland,
Now a heavily guarded secret is their homeland...
My people however dont seem to care,
And that does make me sad;
This is another British Island
Not in the Atlantic, or Caribbean - but that does not make it bad...
The powers at be are so evil
That even after the fifty year lease was up..
The British just signed yet another...
As for the Islanders - they just want forgot...
I support the Chagossian people,
In their desperate fight to go home,
Even after deportation-
Their British Citizenship rights are next to none...
I am not proud of my motherland either,
And im not the only one;
I dont consider myself even British,
I dont "worship" my motherland like some...
I see what is really happening,
In St Helena and other "Crown Territories",
Just take a moment to look at them all....
and let me know if you find any that are totally "free"...
....oppression comes in many forms....
This isnt my usual style; it was heavily influenced by a huge amount of Diazepam. But hey - its less depressing than usual....