Geography 101

0628/1st August 2022

Morning mist has become as much a daily phenomenon…

…as the daily groundhog.

Some days, there are other things to notice

Quite a feat of decoration, wouldn’t you say?

On what we laughingly call “the lawn”, I stooped to photograph a little wild flower that must be leftover from last summer’s attempts.

“Sweet Alyssum”.

That flowerbed wasn’t properly thought out and during the winter that followed, snow was piled high over it.

Grant had constructed it to use some leftover wood which began to rot, so this year Grant decided to use breeze blocks instead.

Which is how I came to have a cemetery plot in my front garden! And it is also not terribly well placed as there is a groundhog entrance in front of it.

Today I tasked Grant with bringing home carrots. He never does anything by half measures, so he dropped three bags on the counter.

Which was fine except half of them turned out to be on the verge of rotting, so we had to chop them up and distribute them promptly. I doubt we’ll get complaints.

“Oh yuh! Always pleased to help!”


Recently I decided I ought to have an up-to-date atlas and while I was about it, a map of the globe.

Ideally, the map would be on a table top where I could pour over it, but this being a cat house, I had to liberate a section of wall to hang it instead.

“Where are you going to hang the pictures?”

“Just shove them up there!”

There is never anything conventional about my decor. The walls of my previous homes were festooned.

Bits and pieces of my life, I suppose.

Packing up my walls was almost the hardest part of my last move. Some items were reluctantly discarded.

Most returned east but not all were re-hung. This house is positively restrained.

Not that it was easy deciding where to hang the map.

It had to be accessible, or why have it?

So my dad’s paintings went up, on top of the world.

Sikkim’s bed is underneath (no-one else sleeps there) and she sometimes appears to be studying it.

I told her there will be a sneak quiz one day.

Maps have always been a part of my life.

Place names fascinated me.

My father’s radio dial displayed names of places from which broadcasts could be heard.

Schenectady was one. I never imagined I would end up living not far from there.

Bratislava, Luxembourg, Tangier…

It was always exciting when Dad tuned in and for a moment you’d hear foreign voices behind a lot of static. Everyone seemed so far away!

Dad always had trouble tuning in and he liked to say “The Russians are jamming again!”

Dad had an atlas and I loved looking at it.

That atlas came into my possession when Dad died, but I have had access to it all my life. It was published the year I was born.

Much like myself, it is showing its age these days, coming slightly unraveled, disintegrating gently.

It was purchased from Foyle’s in London for the grand price of 45/- . Forty-five shillings which, if I recall correctly, was 2 pounds 5 shillings and quite a lot of money in those days.

Of course it has been out-of-date for decades.

Which makes it all the more precious.

Take the map of World Airways… not the airline that later came into being, but the actual airways of the world.

Surely there could never have been so few?

In 1948 they certainly were.

The map displayed a great deal of pink-rimmed countries. The Commonwealth. How did little old England manage to have such a long reach?

The purple stuff, that was France.

The United States was rimmed in pale green. And there were only 48 states.

The USSR was beige and everyone else was yellow.

Though if you looked at a more detailed map, some of the yellow bits became:

Pale green (Italian)

Orange (Belgium)

Dark green (Portuguese)

Egypt had re-gained independence from Britain in 1922.

Ifni was a protectorate of Morocco from 1934-52, then became a province of Spain before being returned to Morocco in 1969.

Learning geography was certainly simpler.

The French controlled Indo-China,

The Dutch governed the islands of Indonesia

Britain governed Malaya and Hong Kong

Thailand was called Siam

Myanmar was Burma

The Philippines had become independent of the USA in 1946.

By the time my father took employment with UNESCO in 1956, the world had already begun to change drastically.

Indo-China was a thing of the past although French remained the second language in South Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos.

The Dutch had withdrawn from Indonesia.

The British would soon leave Malaya.

So my dad’s old atlas was already a historic document.

Strangely, I seem not to have had an atlas of my own until I was given the National Geographic Atlas in 1986.

It certainly wasn’t because I knew where everything was!

In the back of my mind I seem to remember another atlas but it’s not something I would have thrown out, so…a mystery.

At any rate, National Geo. kept me informed for the years before the advent of the Internet.

Now it too is pretty dated.

What it amounts to is that in my lifetime, I have had 3 atlases. Certainly there could have been many more, if I had wanted always to be “au-courant.”

But I think, particularly having the Internet, that three is a respectable number. I attempted to discover what percentage of homes actually possess an atlas, but the search led me in all sorts of other directions having nothing to do with world geography. I suspect the number is not high, at least in the USA.

It should be compulsory.

What is intriguing is the fact that the map of South America has pretty much not changed since 1948.

At least to look at…



Well, this has taken you all over the map, pardon the pathetic pun.

It’s given me a headache.

I should have known it would.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how many address books I’ve worked my way through…how many have you had?

4 thoughts on “Geography 101

  1. Thank you, Carolyn, for the lesson on geography. I have a similar fascination with knowing everything about the world and have the Times Atlas and the globe too. I love your wonderful pictures!


  2. Really interesting Carolyn. When looking at atlases I am always taken aback by the size of some of the countries and, also, by the distribution of populated and wild areas. Google Earth is a magnificent tool!

  3. My Atlas was always my favourite thing as a child. It had the capital cities and currencies listed in the back , and I learned them all by heart. Sadly, many have changed now. I later treated myself to the Sunday Times Atlas of The World, in the late 1970s. That cost the princely sum of £25 then, almost a week’s wages for some people at the time. It came in a protective box, and was huge. When opened out, it covered our coffee table. I still have the Atlas, but the box got lost somewhere along the way.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. Well, when I think how much has changed in South Africa since 1948 (we started with only 4 provinces and now sit at 9)… then I’m not surprised how the rest of the world has changed! I have our old Atlas at home (it’s almost falling apart) but I remember how my brother and I ‘studied’ it – every 3 months my mother would held a quiz about a particular country… and the winner got a bag of sweets (which we anyway shared with each other) … I think it was 50-50 when we called it quits 😄.

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