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Hello, World!

October 8, 2011

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 moreOh, 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.

You might enjoy Abroad thoughts from home and Dreaming of a colder country.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Stahura permalink
    October 8, 2011 9:44 pm

    Hi, DB

    With your love of maps, you might enjoy “A Mapmaker’s Dream,” by James Cowan. It’s a novel about a monk in the Middle Ages, I believe, who was a cartographer in the days when so much about the world’s geography. It’s a great read!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 9, 2011 12:09 am

      Thank you for that, Barbara. It sounds right up my street (as it were, eech, unintended bad pun!)

  2. hmunro permalink
    October 8, 2011 10:15 pm

    There are so many things I loved about your post that I don’t even know where to start. OK … maybe with the risking carsickness to pore over the off-road details. (I’m right there with you, snickering over places’ names. *Mousehole*? Really??!) And although I can imagine your astonishment and childish glee at discovering your 10,000-visitor milestone, I’m not the least bit surprised: You’re a wonderful, wonderful storyteller and one of my favorite bloggers anywhere on the great uncharted waters of the Internet. So please DO persevere. And please continue “to bring people together, and to feed our mutual curiosity about this wondrous, diverse world of ours.” Congratulations, DB. And pax vobiscum to you, too.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 9, 2011 12:19 am

      You are so generous in your comments, Heather. Thank you for your constant encouragement and support – it makes a great difference to me.

      Ah, English place-names. They are an endless delight. Upper Slaughter (a chocolate-box pretty Cotswold village); Lower Peover; Gotham… Mousehole is a delicious one I think. Talking of book recommendations (as Barbara kindly was, above), one of the best books I have ever come across is ‘The Mousehole Cat’ by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley. It was written for children but I don’t know anyone of any age who hasn’t read it and loved it. As full of poetry and muscular alliteration as Beowulf, and every page exquisitely illustrated. It will explain to you the reason that Mousehole in Cornwall is so named – and if you can read it aloud without having to stop to clear the lump in your throat, you’re a stronger woman than I am!

      • hmunro permalink
        October 9, 2011 1:50 am

        Thanks for the book recommendation, DB! My husband’s nickname for me is “Mouse,” so any book that explains the origin of “Mousehole” will be a big hit in our household. (All the better if it’s exquisitely illustrated—throat lump or no!)

        BTW: I hope you won’t mind, but I’ve just nominated you for the “Versatile Blogger Award.” It probably doesn’t amount to much, given your 10,000 hits, but you’ll find more details here:

        Regardless, *please* keep writing. Your posts never fail to brighten my day.


  3. October 9, 2011 2:30 am

    Congratulations on your well-earned 10,000 hits. Personally, I enjoy not only your writing, but a regular glimpse into that which I’ve left behind. Thanks for keeping me in the loop. Now then – perhaps you can provide a little tech support and tell me how you get thousands of friendly visits while I seem to have a steady stream of purveyors of penis enhancers and handbags.

    • October 9, 2011 9:36 am

      I am not sure about this, but would changing to a Mac computer make a difference? I have a Mac and do not get that sort of stuff by email; I don’t know about blogsites. My blogsite is with Google’s “Blogger”. They have a new thing in place called “An Automatic Spam Detector”. Perhaps your site might have something like that?

      • dancingbeastie permalink*
        October 9, 2011 12:03 pm

        Hmm, I’m not sure either, Jessica. All I know is that WordPress deal with all the spam for me, so it never troubles my little head. You need to get that techno-whizz husband of yours on the case, methinks!

        And thanks for stopping by, as always – I appreciate it, especially as you know me yet *still* want to drop in! 🙂

  4. October 9, 2011 9:23 am

    Some years ago I was in London and paid a visit to the British Library Map Room. You wouldn’t believe what they have in there! However if you were to go looking for a specific map they would need to be informed ahead of your visit as they are stored in another location.

    I was born and raised in British Columbia and to this day I cannot look at a world map without searching for all the pink bits! This is because our school map (?Dent) had the countries of the British Empire coloured in pink.

    I have a blog

    and recently added a gadget which told me the Topic Most Visited. (It’s down at the bottom right). Is it a subject of erudition or Great Art? No …week after week it is Location of a Fuse Box on (my) Skoda car!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 9, 2011 12:10 pm

      I used to do a lot of research in the British Museum Manuscripts Reading Room, and was always looking over my shoulder to see the beautiful illuminated manuscripts that other people were working on while I was trying to decipher tedious medieval account rolls. Had I ever had the excuse to visit the Map Room, I doubt I’d have got any work done at all. It sounds like heaven.

      Your Topic Most Visited widget sounds like the Top Posts thing here at WordPress. For about half the year, it seems like most people visit me only to find out how to cook a giant puffball! Still, it’s nice to be useful, isn’t it. 🙂

  5. October 9, 2011 11:47 am

    My favourite English place-name is Blubberhouses in Yorkshire. In Sussex my friend and I chuckled every time we passed signs for the charmingly names pair of villages Upper Dicker and Wannock! 🙂

    I have been to Ugley as well – it has a neighbouring village called Nasty and of course the local news loves it when they can print such headlines as ‘Ugley man marries Nasty woman’!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 9, 2011 12:14 pm

      Oh, joy! Thanks for the giggles. Scotland is full of mellifluous mouthfuls, but a map of England provides a history lesson and a comedy sketch show all at once. (Mind you, I suppose Auchtermuchty and Ecclefechan are not unamusing in their way…)

  6. Margaret Lambert permalink
    October 9, 2011 3:49 pm

    I’ve always said I have a National Geographic view of the world…as a child I’d spend long Sunday afternoons reading old issues and poring over maps of places I hoped to eventually see. When we took lengthy trips in the car (they all seemed lengthy, as we always seemed to live a few thousand miles from anywhere), the maps were always at hand. And one of my mother’s favorite quotes was, “The map is not the territory.”
    It never occurred to me to look for a puff ball recipe…

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 9, 2011 11:17 pm

      Well, I’m glad that *someone* comes here for more than mushrooms! 😉

      Your mother’s quote is wonderful. Maps can supply all sorts of fascinating information, but they can’t show what a place is like to see with your own eyes.

  7. October 9, 2011 5:17 pm

    Intriguing post! Makes me want to explore your blog further. I’m happy to give your map widget a few extra views from Paris. You can thank your super-fan hmunro for leading me here; frankly I couldn’t pass up a blog about life in a Scottish castle.

    As someone who has himself just reached 10k hits, congrats! And yes, you should be proud of the milestone because in the infinite distraction-filled abyss of the internet, getting that many folks to stop and read an article is kind of a special thing. Well done, and I look forward to reading more.

    P.S. I was never into cartography, but since moving to the the City of Light it thrills me to no end to look at old maps of it. Vive l’histoire!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 9, 2011 11:21 pm

      Thank you, Corey, for your kind comments. Trust Heather to lead you here! I should be paying her commission. 😉

      Old maps of Paris are delicious. I like the shape of the old city, and seeing how much it has grown and what remains unchanged through the upheavals of the centuries.

  8. October 9, 2011 9:59 pm

    Another map lover over here. I used to especially drool over Samarkand and Isfahan. Timbuktu and Inishmaan are some other places that sound irresistible to me. Although my husband and I did quite some traveling in our younger years ,we didn’t manage to go there (yet) 😉 But it doesn’t matter – traveling in the mind accounts for some wonderful daydreaming.
    My Scottish favorite is “Butt of Lewis”. I find that funny, but am well aware that this might make you question my sense of humour. They do weave wonderful tweeds over there.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 9, 2011 11:25 pm

      You have chosen some of the most evocative place-names. I almost feel it would be a disappointment to visit the real places and to discover that they are just places, not the dreams of our imagination. Zanzibar is another one for me, redolent of cloves and cinnamon.

      I like your sense of humour! I had never noticed that Butt of Lewis might seem funny to visitors – now it will always make me smile! 🙂

  9. October 10, 2011 10:02 pm

    Snap, except my school atlas dates from 1971. Only (bookish) child + growing up in small north of Scotland village + 1960s/70s childhood of minimal TV = National Geographic atlas of the world. As much as the wonderful children’s fiction of that time, it was atlases and maps that set me dreaming. I used to trace imaginary journeys, usually ending in Outer Mongolia via Tashkent and Samarkand. I’m heartened to discover a small club of other map readers here. Because you can spend hours reading a map just as you would a book. On car journeys I would read the maps in the AA book, also fighting off car sickness.
    A recent visit to France with SatNav Woman was quite a different experience. There I was, yellow Michelin map at the ready, usurped by that bossy woman and her little red triangle on a featureless screen.

    Interested to read about your WordPress features. Still weighing up making the change! I think my most visited post is about a traditional ‘blackening’. I’m sure a lot of visitors end up there by mistake. On our website at work we have a Google analytics thingy called a ‘bounce’ counter – visitors who ‘land’ on the site and then leave immediately because they realise they’ve arrived by mistake. I’d love to follow up some of my bounces and ask what they really thought they were getting.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 10, 2011 10:52 pm

      It’s great to be finding that I am one of a whole band of map lovers! I so agree that you can read them for hours, like a book. We have not yet succumbed to SatNav woman, although we are feeling increasingly Luddite in avoiding her. (Mind you, we’ve only just said goodbye to the car with the cassette player.)

      Maybe people visit your ‘blackening’ post because it’s just so unusual and intriguing? I certainly found it so, anyway – I remember it well. Can’t imagine what they thought they might be getting otherwise! A bounce counter sounds great although possibly a little dispiriting: what if 50% or more of one’s readers were really looking for (in Dancing Beastie’s case) zumba classes, or anti-nit shampoo…

  10. Val permalink
    October 11, 2011 1:49 am

    I live with a map-lover (I wonder if there’s a name for someone addicted to maps?) – my husband, and our house is filled with the things. Myself, I love looking at Google maps at their ‘street view’ via satellite, can’t get enough of that.

    There are certainly some curious place names around the UK. Upper Wallop and New Invention are the first two that spring to mind!

    I miss my old globe. Also, like one of your other commenters, I keep looking for the pink in atlases!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 17, 2011 7:38 pm

      Hmm, isn’t there a Nether Wallop too, or is that just my wishful thinking? English place names are wonderful.

      • Val permalink
        November 6, 2011 5:33 pm

        I just looked this up. Not only is there a Nether Wallop and an Over Wallop, but there’s a website about them called The Wallops. Mind boggling!

  11. October 11, 2011 7:03 am

    Yes, what do we do with all the Harry Potter tapes that were a permanent fixture in the car?

    As my children would say, ‘anti-nit shampoo – lol!’

  12. October 14, 2011 9:42 pm

    I have always been tickled by the “Sliddery via Ross” road sign on the Isle of Arran, just as you leave Lamlash… Congratulations on your 10,000 readers – it is very well deserved 🙂

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 17, 2011 7:41 pm

      Oh, thank you very much! I’ve not come across Sliddery before. I used to visit Arran a fair bit as a child, but perhaps we went off to a different bit of the island. Sliddery makes me think of slithery snakes: funnily enough, the only place I’ve ever seen an adder was on Arran.

      You’ve reminded me of the roadsigns that say ‘Road liable to icing’. I always think it sounds as if the road is *partial* to icing, and I start thinking of pink frosting, and cup cakes…but I guess that’s just the way my cake-addicted mind works. 😉

  13. October 23, 2011 7:17 pm

    Even in these days of the ubiquitous satnav, maps are such fun. Thank you for such an enjoyable glimpse of your map obsession. 🙂

    Thanks too for the tip about ClustrMaps. I use a couple of the numerical stat counter widgets, but a visual one will give a completely different view of my visitors….

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      October 24, 2011 11:46 pm

      Oh, yes, visual stats – with little flags – are addictive, so watch out!


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