My name is Laurie, and Iâ€™m a cartaholic. Yes, cart as in cartography, maps, those foldy things you wrestle with in cars and end up jamming furiously into the glove box.
A couple years ago, Les Klinger and I were doing an event in Chicago, after which we planned on driving to the BoucherCon in Madison, Wisconsin. Les made the car reservations, since my mental state at the time rendered me barely competent to find the airport, and he asked them to include one of those GPS machines that tells you where it thinks you are and where you should be going. Les has one in his magic pod-car in LA as well, and although personally I think theyâ€™re far more dangerous than juggling with a cell phone (Theyâ€™re positioned on the dash, so the driver has a tendency to stare at them, watching the pink line instead of the yellow lines. Not Les, of course; Les is A Careful Man.) and highly irritating to boot, who am I to get between a boy and his toys?
Without going into details of how may times it had us circling around while it recalculated our position, I shall merely say that a foldy sheet of paper would have been far less work.
But my cartoholia doesnâ€™t really come into play with ordinary AAA maps, even those that make a stab at thematic rather than businesslikeâ€”the Four Corners map of the great Southwest has a flavor that comes through the most mundane of printing jobs. No, I save my great map passion for the United Kingdom. My heart belongs to OS.
Ordnance Survey: A shiver runs down my back at the mere thought. We just donâ€™t have these works of art here in the US of A, although occasionally you can hunt down geological survey maps of Yosemite and such. But in the UK, the high street stationersâ€™ or corner bookshop carries local OS maps, often in two sizes. There used to be a Blackwells Travel Shop on Broad Street in Oxford (now, alas, moved into Virtualland) where the drooling cartaholic could rub shoulders with the casual traveler and find not only 1:50,000 maps, which show an airplaneâ€™s-eye view of the land below, but (ah, the craving!) a 1:25,000 map of, say, Dartmoor or the Sussex Downs, in which individual houses appear as black squares, prehistoric monuments are precisely shown, and the all-important Public Footpaths are nailed down without fear of argument with the local farmer.
And now Iâ€™m assembling my OS maps for The Language of Bees. The other day a new one (1:50,000, but still a wealth of information and flavor) of the final site in the book dropped into my hands (and no, Iâ€™m not going to tell you the location) and I spent a solid hour in close examination of the dips and hollows, the monuments and towns. This one is not historical, but the land doesnâ€™t change. I hope, hope to get there in June, to transform the cartographerâ€™s marks into a landscape.
In the meantime, I live there on paper.