Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Things scientists tell us. And projects that never came to fruition.

My husband has always claimed to have a good sense of direction. He is probably right. I know that I became very lazy in that respect, simply relying on him to know which way to go when we went places together. This was fine. We shared the labour. I drove the car and he worked out the route. Driving around on my own, I discovered I had a reasonably good sense of direction. Besides, I never went anywhere around Greater Manchester without my trusty A to Z. (I have yet to discover such a systemised map for cities in Europe, by the way.) This was before satnav came into everyone’s lives. 

Many people seem not to come equipped with any kind of sense of direction. Phil has often despaired of travelling companions on his way to chess events, travelling companions who get hopelessly lost and cannot understand how to read maps or work out which way is east or west. My good friend and Cuba-travelling companion proved to have no sense of direction whatsoever. She is the only person I know who could consistently turn the wrong way out of the hotel room. Every morning! She combined this with supreme confidence so that once out of the hotel she would stride off in what she erroneously believed to be the right direction. How I did not lose her in Havana remains a mystery to me.

Now scientists are telling us that we all actually have an innate connection with the earth’s magnetic field and can always work out which way is north. They may well have proved that with numerous experiments but I still have my doubts. Some people are just such ingrained city dwellers that they have lost that sense altogether. And with satnavs and mobile phones nobody develops map-reading skills any longer either.

The scientists have clearly not met or tested my eldest granddaughter who at 21 still has problems with left and right. She has to hold up her hands, thumbs our, palms facing away from her and see which hand forms a letter L. This system works. In almost all other respects she is a perfectly sensible and intelligent young woman. I suppose we all have our weaknesses. My brother, for example, never progressed from tying his shoelaces with two “bunny ears” instead of a more grown-up fashion of doing so. Nowadays, with velcro shoe fastenings for small people, he might not even have got as far as “bunny ears”!

Animals have no problems with sense of direction, or so I am told. After all, birds manage to migrate across continents and rarely seem to get lost. And I read that dogs line themselves up with the magnetic north to defecate. A kind of doggy feng shui?

According to this article, England will run short of water within twenty five years. It’s all to do with projected population growth and the utilities companies not dealing efficiently, if at all, with the numerous leaks in the system. All I can say is that they have clearly not seen the amount of water running down our main road! And maybe this is another reason for staying in Europe, so that we can all work together to deal with such environmental problems.

People have always liked to plan solutions to problems of life in cities and getting around from one place to another. Here is a link to a series of pictures of bridges that were never built, projects that never came to fruition. I think my favourite is Jean-Paul Viguier’s design for a part-bridge, part-tunnel that would have stretched from Calais to a mid-sea island, where it would have descended past shops and hotels into an undersea tunnel. The tunnel would then climb up to another island, off the coast of Dover, and back on to a continuation of the bridge.

What a beautiful project, somehow more elgant than the Channel Tunnel, but probably more difficult to police in our age of migration controls. And goodness knows what they would have done when the volume of traffic grew too big for the bridge.

If it had existed, no doubt some Brexiteers would be proposing blowing it up by now!

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