I have spent time looking closely at another of my Christmas acquisitions, the OS Great British Colouring Map this morning. Engrossing. It strikes me that, like any book, it is capable of a range of responses, from the “Meh” when a nephew or goddaughter receives it from a well-meaning adult because said young person is doing geography GCSE (the aunt or godfather possibly displaying the fact that they do not understand geography or GCSEs) to the more exacting interaction. In the latter, it would be possible to get out the colouring pencils in the precise colour range for A Roads, buildings, &c in the correct scale series, or, more iconoclastically, in purples and fluorescent oranges, to redraw OS Britain in some sort of “mindful colouring” activity. Either would take ages.

From OS Colouring Map
From OS Colouring Map

I don’t know if I will ever put pencil to the beautiful, thick pages. This quick snap cannot do justice to this detailed and thoughtful book production.

Did I say “detailed”?  What I love most is the lack of some details I might normally come to rely on: no words, no contour lines disturb the clinical outlines. Is that York Minster, so small? Where are the city walls? And in Conwy – which I have visited once, in 1976 – what do I make of this detail, or that? What is that structure just along from what I think must be the station, opposite the castle, across the estuary? Or what can I see in a flat, monochrome Wensleydale that I might miss on the coloured and labelled “full” map? I would never find huge Shining Tor if it had been included, much less the hidden Thursbitch or Ludchurch. I realise (at a deeper level than I had already understood) how much an OS map is an interpretation tool, an artefact that suggests and guides. Perhaps when I struggled with Digimaps in the summer that this was my basic problem: I was looking for answers when all I could hope for was signs.

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