Go west, life is peaceful there

Posted on October 19, 2011


Any way the wind blows...

I spent most of my high school years believing that Poland was located somewhere above France. Despite sitting through numerous history lessons about the world wars and German invasions, I still harboured the belief that Poland was an island somewhere north of the UK.

Thankfully, I have now learnt where it is (south-east Russia, right?). Perhaps my main error was looking to my history lessons rather than my geography ones to teach me the ways of the world.

I’ve never had a good sense of direction, but since living in London I have been forced into discovering an internal compass. Whenever I leave the house, I know (or have to find out pretty sharpish) which way I’m pointing.

The first rule is that everything is either north or south of the river. Diehard Londoners will fight to the death about which is the more superior (south wins every time – not that I care), but the main point is knowing which half of the capital you’re in in relation to the Thames.

You then have to figure out which way you’re looking. This is particularly important because of the tubes. If you descend into the underground without knowing which way you’re headed, you will find yourself staring at two signs: eastbound or westbound platform? North or south? To not know is to your peril, since you will be obliged to pause and look at a tube map whilst hoards of angry commuters shove past you and assume that a) you’re a tourist and b) you’re incredibly dim for trying to stand still in a tube station.

Just to make life even more fun, on some lines you will at some stations be asked whether you want to go north or south, and further down the line you must choose between east and west. A quick internal scan of where you are in relation to your destination is then required to assess which way is correct.

I still have a way to go – I still find myself entirely disorientated if I exit a tube station from one door when there are twelve others to choose from. Google maps usually places a tube station on a street, but it doesn’t warn you that you might actually emerge from the station half a mile down the road.

Despite my general revulsion towards geography, I have benefited from this new-found spatial wisdom and it has encouraged me to think in a wider context – hence my finding out (finally) where Poland is. Now everyone, after three: ‘Never Eat Shredded Wheat’.

Image from AntTree‘s photostream at Flickr.

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