Where am I?

Maps are fascinating, but these World Maps on Francesco Mugnai’s blog are really fascinating.  This is the kind of visual stimulation which should be obligatory in every government office the world over. Such things would also be useful in public health clinics of every description. In fact, anywhere a queue is likely to form or where you may need to wait for longer than five minutes could benefit from uplifting visuals such as these.

I live in a place whose territory I thought was fairly unchartered until I came across this spectacular find in the local council offices (Junta de Freguesia de Boliqueime):

And it was free!  Despite the unsettling title of “military map”, it was important for me to use the good old “three points of reference” trick to be able to say to myself “you are here”, and “X marks the spot”.

At the end of 2009 I purchased a new fridge in another town. The large scale of the map above does not show it. I had to tell the large chain store where to deliver the fridge.  Very funny. The street I live in has no name; the apartment I live in has no number. The chain store was not interested in the GPS coordinates, since its employees did not have sophisticated telecommunications equipment issued to them as a matter of course. So, I drew a map by hand.

Since I had actually walked the distance several times between the Fonte de Boliqueime at the bottom of the map and the little red X where I live, I figured I had a fairly good idea of all the bends in the roads.  The funny thing is that without inbuilt aerial vision, we make any deviation from straight much more exaggerated than it actually is. My road was very wiggly indeed.  My map had lots of non-cartographic detail too. Such as a marking for the carob factory, the name of the café you would reach if you missed the turning into “my” road, the name of the orange orchard diagonally across the road from the apartment, a specification of the colour of the house in which our apartment is situated, the grey aluminium door to which can be found at the foot of the stairs and, of course, my cellphone number, just in case things went awry.

I was sure that my map had every detail any fridge delivery van could want to a tiny little place near quite a small village.

So much for that.

On the appointed day I received a call to confirm that I would be at home to receive the item in question. It is then that I learnt that my piece of semi-cartographic artistry had not been given to the delivery men – although every other piece of paper, or copy of every other piece of paper, had.

Plan B sprung into action. I told the delivery men to find the main Church in Boliqueime, and I would meet them there in my funny little white car. This will be easy, I thought. So did they.

How was I to know that on that particular Wednesday morning that a funeral was being held? The deceased must have been very well-known. This is the conclusion one has to reach when one cannot move on the pavement or in the square in front of the Church for people, and there is not a parking space to be had for a two-kilometre radius. I found out later that the President of the Republic of Portugal was related to the deceased and was in attendance, but this did not help the traffic jam in the narrow streets of the village from my perspective.

Also, everyone in the village now knew that I was taking delivery of something big from this particular chain store. I could feel the tongues wagging! What was supposed to be a quick 5-minute drive on a direct route became a navigational nightmare over one of the most circuitous routes I have ever taken home. How the delivery van squeezed through some of those narrow spaces, I do not know.

The van finally arrived at the door at the foot of the stairs in a street with no name. I have since become adept at getting people to our doorstep. But it will come as no surprise that I far prefer World maps as representational art than convolutions on crinkled pieces of paper.


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