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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A flat earth and a racing land 1

I started school when I was four. I don't mean pre-school because that didn't exist. I don't mean kindergarten because there was none in Calliope either. None of that wimpy stuff. I mean full on Grade 1. The big league.

   At the front of the classroom, there was a map of The World. It was called that, and when I went to school, that was world enough, but of course it was a map of the Earth. It was a Mercator’s Projection, which means that the Earth was flattened like the skin of an orange which had been carefully removed and opened out.

   Now, I'll be honest with you. At the age of four, the flat map of the world made a good deal more sense to me than a round one. I couldn't conceive of how the earth could possibly be as round as that. In the early 1950s, we didn't have the benefit of images from space, and rocket ships coming back into the atmosphere from space orbit, with the earth's features getting larger and larger and finally becoming the sort of flat that I comprehended at the age of four.

   I was definitely more comfortable with a flat Earth. I could look out the window into the distance and there was no doubt at all in my mind that it was kind of flat – well, as flat as it gets, if you know what I mean. We can allow for hills and valleys and the odd mountain or two.

   Even when we went the fifteen miles into Gladstone, and looked out to sea at any point where the clear blue sky met an even deeper blue ocean, it seemed to confirm my views on the flatness of the earth. Ain’t nuthin seen from a distance as flat as the ocean, although I knew from experience that it's surprisingly un-flat when you get into it, not to mention salty. Those bloody waves just keep rolling in and knocking you down if you give them half a chance. But... the land where we stood was below us, and the beautiful sea right up to the horizon line was below as well, and the sky was clearly above us. QED. No more proof required. Earth = flat.

   No-one told me about the Mercator's Projection being a flattened out view of a spherical world. As a result, it had one tremendously puzzling feature. On this map of The World, Australia was at the centreline, which is exactly as it should be given that it's always been the centre of the Known World, but – and I know you're going to find this just as amazing as I did – there was an England on the right end of the map and another England on the left-hand side. It was clear as a bell. Right there, plain to see.

   No wonder that tiny little Britain had managed to put all those pink bits representing the Commonwealth on the map. Gor Blimey. There were two Britains, and I guessed that would have made the work of conquering so much of the world a lot easier. Pincer movement like.

   I admit I didn't know quite how it worked, but it was on the map, and it was a nice map, with beautiful printing, so that must've been how it was. Anyway that was not my problem. Somehow, they'd got it together and between them created a mighty empire.

   I must also say that there was a globe on the teacher's table, and we could always spin it around, if she was out of the room or was writing sums on the blackboard to make us miserable later.

   I liked the globe very much and it made a sort of sense to me, even if they never could make it straight up and down, but always on that silly 23.5 degree angle. You'd think quality control would have stepped in long before and made them fix it. But, you got kinda used to it, and I have to admit now that straight up-and-down somehow wouldn't feel right.

   Children have a wonderful capacity to doublethink, so I didn't try to put the two of these representations together. The flat map of the Earth and the globe existed as separate worlds in my four-year-old world, and that was okay.

   As a matter of fact, many adults still have this same ability to doublethink. You only have to look at their views on politics. But, let me not get off the track.

   What was the track, do I hear you ask? Ain’t it bleedin obvious?

   Possibly not. OK.

   It's just that several days ago, I had the thought that I might write a blog piece on a certain subject, and I'd even prepared some maps for it. But the ABC, in its infinite wisdom, has a programme on this very night, called Rise of the Continents, and I'm afraid it might pre-empt my little lecture. 

   So, just to prove to you that I didn't get the idea from the programme, I'll put this map below, and I want you to look at it. This is about what a runaway landmass did, and how it created two very different societies.

   No, in fact, I want you to study it deeply. This is your homework. Questions, as they say, will be asked.

   All will be revealed tomorrow. Tomorrow-ish well. Don't be so pushy. I've only got one pair of hands you know.

   Umm, I've really only got one hand that works, so lay off. You just stop being cruel to the disabled.


  1. Eek, no wonder it's quiet and lonely down here in the comments department. They're all staring at this blimmin map trying to 'study' whatever it is we have to answer questions on, tomorrow-ish....always did find teachers scary :)

    1. Just keep looking, Trish. You are getting sleepy.... Focus on the map.... Do not take your eyes from the map....

  2. And now we know, after last night's program, that Australia is going to muscle in on this cosy arrangement and become part of China. Perhaps that's why I'm currently learning Chinese. In preparation.

    1. And the good thing is, you've got plenty of time to learn it. The Japanese are going to get squashed, but the Chinese will be pleased at the reduced shipping costs for coal and iron.

      When did he say that was going to happen? I need to make a reminder entry.

    2. Not tomorrow, so don't worry. I think Japan will be at the bottom of the sea by that time, if current ructions continue. All those beautiful zen gardens and fabulous architecture - gone. I just hope they take their paintings, ceramics, and calligraphy with them when they get into their boats and head for Australia. Tony A. might be gone by then, too.

  3. Testing. Testing. Trying to get a comment on Denis's blog Take 666.

    1. I'd make it easier if I could - honestly! Try 667.

  4. Bloody hell, it may have worked the first time not the second because blog whatever wants me to have a new blog. I'm having enough trouble with the old one thank you. And no I'm not a robot even though I can't quite make out the different alpha-numerics. And now I forgot what witty comment I was going to make so I'll wait until Part II....still waiting. J. xxx

    1. I hate these Capcha type things, and even worse if you re-edit and have to do it again.

      As I've warned, kiddies, COPY your words of wisdom before attempting to post.

      At least you have a record of it. I can post for you if necessary. If using a Google a/c like gmail, make sure you have a tab or window open with it as well, before you try posting.

      My email address is located here:
      under my mugshot.

  5. I remember our one-teacher school - Mr Kelly used to come to school drunk) - at Kameruka near Bega/Candello in southern NSW. My Dad was the Assistant Manager of the Kameruka Estate. I was 10 years old and in Grade 4. There were only 2 of us in that Grade. I used to come top-of-the-class and 2nd last all at the same time!

    And the whole school - 20 of us? - had to sweep the class room, clean out the wood fire place and set the fire for the next day, and disinfect the pit toilets. I didn't learn till many years later that the teachers in these one-teacher schools used to be PAID extra by the Dept of Ed to do the cleaning. But guess who did it all? Us KIDS!

    Anyway, the thing is, my favourite thing about school was the vast, it seemed to me, numbers of canvas rolls of MAPS rolled up and stored away in a special, tall cupboard. Out would come such and such a map, unscrolled and hung from a nail over the blackboard for a geography or history lesson.

    The thing I loved most, and gained great comfort from, was the huge number of PINK countries on these maps. The British Commonwealth will always be PINK in my mind. Pink is such a comforting...and safe colour.
    Thanks again, and again, for activating such vivid memories, Den.

  6. Take a bow yourself Ros, for reactivating almost identical memories of my final year of primary school in a one teacher 25 pupil school at Pyree near Nowra just up the coast from you.

    Mr Henderson was I had in my school daze, for the reasons you give, and the effect upon my performance in later schooling. They must have been a special sort of teacher to hold the interest of six different grades of kids all at once, and to make you come willing to school for another dose.


  7. You evoke so vividly the four-year-old-Denis-world.

  8. I've always loved maps! Especially great big world maps. Though when I was a kid it pleased me greatly to know that there were still mysterious parts unknown to all except the most adventurous (and of course those who lived there). Nowadays most such places are invaded by the tourist hordes and as the popular opinion is that the hordes benefit the local economy this will continue. I used to sit with my head on my hand in class, dreaming of faraway places with strange-sounding names - Pago Pago and the Brahmaputra and the Irrawaddy. How I longed to go there! It never occurred to me that I actually LIVED in an exotic place - that my classroom was set in a school on a small coral island on the East African coastline of the Indian Ocean with a view of the dhows sailing into harbour on the monsoon! Oh well, now I learn from Prof. Iain Stewart that we in Australia are all heading northwards and will crash into Indonesia and take a lot of other places with us when we eventually sideswipe Japan and crash into southern China. All my favourite exotic places will thus be lumped in together - though, alas, I shall not be around to see it!


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