I love maps. Since the day I acquired my first Modern School Atlas in 1979, I’ve spent happy hours daydreaming over maps on any and every scale. If we are on a long car journey, my husband is the one who has memorised the route from his laptop while I’m the one sitting with the road atlas open in my lap, risking car-sickness to pore over the off-road details. (‘Ooh, apparently there’s a standing stone circle just over to the left!’ ‘We’ve just passed a village called Studley George, snort…’) If a friend is going abroad, or I befriend someone from a different country, you can be sure that I’ll get the atlas down from the bookshelf to find out more about that place. What is its coastline like? Where is it in relation to its neighbouring countries/ states? What is its topography/ annual rainfall/ chief export? And what was it called before renaming itself in the last people’s democratic revolution?
Old maps are fascinating for their illustration of our changing history. Clearing out some desk drawers here in the castle once, I came across a map of Perthshire that had belonged to my husband’s great-grandfather. It showed the little local roads with their gradients and contours, for the benefit of motorists in the earliest days of automobile travel. In a junk shop on another occasion, I fell for this papier-mâché globe, a reproduction of a French globe from the eighteenth century. It shows Australia as New Holland, a terra incognita whose boundaries were not yet determined.
These days you can find all the information you want on the internet, of course. It doesn’t have the same tactile appeal, but it has an almost infinite amount of data to satisfy the most obsessive map-geek. So, one of my biggest excitements in the blogosphere (I know, I really need to get out more) was discovering ClustrMaps. Since adding their little widget to the front page of Dancing Beastie, I’ve not only had the pleasure of seeing a tiny map of the world every time I log on, but have also been able to find out exactly how many visits my blog has had from exactly which countries. And more. Oh, the thrill of it! It’s blogging map-geek heaven! In my first couple of weeks with ClustrMaps, I was so obsessive about the statistics that I even irritated myself. ‘Hey, I’ve had two visits from Bangladesh! Why would anyone in Bangladesh want to read this?’ ‘Someone from Guam has just dropped in!’ (flips to Wikipedia to find out where the hell Guam is.) ‘Ooh, someone from the Vatican has been looking at DB! Now, which post could have lured them here…hmmm…’ It’s intriguing and, to be honest, flabbergasting to find out that people from all over the world have discovered this blog about a corner of Scotland.
Some of these visits, to be sure, will have been from people who stumbled across it when looking for something else, and who have never been back. (Bye, Guam guy; Pax vobiscum, Vatican man.) Others appear to have dropped in again for a second glance, but no more. (Greetings, Greenland; Namaste, Nepal.) There are many, however, who seem to have become faithful readers. One might expect a few followers from the English-speaking world: without this map gizmo, though, I would never have known about the silent readership from other parts of the globe. I don’t know what it is that brings you back to Dancing Beastie, readers in Malta, Argentina, Vietnam, for example; but I am pleased and honoured to welcome you here. Equally, it makes this wannabe-writer feel very warm and fuzzy to know that people stop by here repeatedly from as close as Dundee and Dunkeld, and as far afield as the Victorias of Australia and British Columbia. Thank you.
All of which leads me to sharing another small excitement. A couple of days ago, I discovered with a sense of astonishment and childish glee that, since signing up to ClustrMaps on 24th February this year, I have now had more than ten thousand visits. Ten thousand visits in seven and a half months! Now, I know statistics lie and numbers are irrelevant. Some blogs (Cute Overload springs to mind) probably get this number in a day, but I’m not in competition with anyone. What pleases me about this figure – apart from the fact that, hey, it just sounds good – is what it suggests about you and me. It encourages me to persevere here. And it suggests that, for all the scare stories we hear about the malign uses to which some people put the internet, the world wide web does serve to bring people together, and to feed our mutual curiosity about this wondrous, diverse world of ours.