Map Addict

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Map AddictQuite the funniest – and surprisingly funniest – travel book I’ve read this year. The review line on the cover – ‘Excellent Book’ Daily Telegraph – makes it sound utterly bland and boring, but the byline that it’s about the ‘Ordnance Survey’ is 100% correct, if the title had been Ordnance Survey Map Addict it would have been more accurate, other maps only appear in passing.

That it’s ‘A Tale of Obsession’ is also 100% correct although the truth is Mike Parker is obsessed about Ordnance Survey maps the way porn addicts are obsessed with pornography. If there’s ‘food porn’ or ‘real estate porn’ then this book is ‘map porn,’ a wonderful tale about somebody who positively wets himself thinking about maps. His pre-teen map-stealing exploits are repeated regularly throughout the book and yes there is a Carto Erotica chapter, complete with Australian references to ‘her Map of Tasmania.’ That he can spend 11 pages describing his five favourite and then five least favourite Ordnance Survey maps tells you something about the level of his addiction. There’s also, hardly surprisingly, a chapter-long rant about how much he hates Satnav – Pratnav as he refers to it.

• The Ordnance Survey is the British national mapping agency and the military sounding name reflects its original military purpose. The Ordnance Survey has always been extremely protective of its copyright on UK mapping although that was, finally, relaxed in April 2010 with a new OpenData policy. The increased availability of sources like Google Earth has made the Ordnance Survey look very out of touch.
• One of the many little information gems in Map Addict: what do these four countries have in common: Brunei, Burma/Myanmar, Yemen and the USA? They’re the only countries which still officially use imperial weights and measures. Even the UK, original home of pounds, feet, inches and miles, has taken a halfway step towards metrication.