ONE of the 4275 things that fascinate me is the world of maps.
Almost every time something major happens in the world, I find myself calling up online maps and trying to work out the lay of the land.
But they are intriguing for more reasons than that.
They are frozen moments of time.
I recently came across a splendid old edition of the 1886 Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, published at enormous expense, the equivalent of $50 million in today’s money.
The massive map of Victoria has no Mildura.
The entire Wimmera Mallee is just a vast emptiness, while some places that just cling to modern existence, such as Tarnagulla, seem to be thriving metropolisis es … places.
Because of this passion, I found myself looking at maps of Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula this week, and found myself wondering why some spots on the planet have such blood-soaked soil, while others, like Bendigo, just seem to toddle along, having their history daily at a comfortable pace.
The Crimea has been the setting for thousands of years of conquering, looting, killing and sundry other un-pleasantries.
It’s been overrun by the Scythians, the Cimmereans, the Romans, the Sarmatians, the Goths, the Huns, the Bulgars, the Kazars, the Rus, the Byzantines, the Kipchaks, the Mongol Golden Horde, the Venetians, the Genoans, the Turkiks, the Tartars, the Rus (again), the Soviets, the Nazis, and perhaps now the Rus are back for a third whack.
It’s been the setting for Florence Nightingale, the Charge of the Light Brigade, and you’ll find its names on our road and place signs all round Australia: Sebastopol, Balaklava, Crimea (Queensland), Cardigan, and Yea to name a few.
That’s enough history for a whole continent.
And it is clear that cartographers are going to have to remake their maps of that part
of the world this year, no matter what happens.
But the possible map change this year that is quietly intriguing me isn’t Russia, Ukraine and the Crimea.
I note that actor Sean Connery has urged his fellow Scots to vote for an independent Scotland, to peel away from the United Kingdom.
Yes, you might think: so what?
Apart from the maps, it’ll change stuff here.
The St Andrew’s Cross will have to come off the Union Jack.
That’s all the blue bits, leaving just red and white.
It’s on our current flag too, don’t forget.
We’ll have huge arguments, because that’s what we do.
And someone will claim it’s the end of civilisation as we know it, which it isn’t, while others will count it as important as finding life on Mars, which it won’t be.
There will be 13.500 news articles.
But you know what’s nice about that?
Eventually, we’ll remake the maps and the flags and Bendigo people will go about Bendigo business in a Bendigonian fashion.
Our only fear of being over-run here is by Maccas, or cheap shoe shops.
Good here, isn’t it?