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January 2002 - Over the Page

My goodness, I've had some absolute flops since I started writing Comment, but that last one really takes the biscuit! You really aren't a very festive lot out there are you? Or were you all being SO festive that you didn't find any to time to read my December words of wisdom?

Not so much as a private e-mail expressing an itsy-bitsy, teeney-weeney bit of interest in December's epic. I think the only course of action is to change the subject immediately. We obviously need some highly dramatic subject for this month's edition, with which to return all you wayward readers to the fold and get you full of excitement and just itching to read right to the end.

I DID notice, you see, that quite a number of you read only the first few paragraphs last time round, but never got to the end. I have ways of finding these things out!

I'm also getting a tiny bit worried about the clothes some of you have started wearing whilst reading these wonderful words of wisdom; or in the case of one particular individual, and it obviously wouldn't be correct of me to mention names, the LACK of clothes.

I'm told that a towel was covering the lower regions, but I cannot be certain of the accuracy of that. All I know for certain is that the area of upper torso immediately in front of the screen was stark naked.

Now, I could go into lots more detail about this incident at this point; but having got your attention by the cheap trick of mentioning partial, if not complete, nudity, I think I'll leave the rest of the story till right at the end in order to keep you here this time!

So, what is it that I feel the need to discuss with you in all the intervening space this time round? It doesn't really matter now, does it? I could drone on about just about any old nonsense, but I know you'll be staying in order to catch up with the end of the other story.

I heard you then madam! You're not supposed to mutter "But he always drones on" under your breath.

I had to go up to Lincolnshire the other week; Skegness and Cleethorpes to be precise. Now, if you come from round there you'll just have to excuse me, but what a horrible part of the world it is. If Britain needed an enema, I reckon Lincolnshire is where they'd shove it!

Miles and miles of boring flatness, then you fall off the end into the filthy, black, North Sea.

The roads go on and on for miles across this totally flat landscape, but the dimwits on the local highway authority haven't had the sense to make any of them straight.

You keep launching yourself at these ninety degree bends, with no warning whatsoever, because it seems to be the one place where all the power and telephone lines have been put underground, so there are no telegraph poles to guide you.

And how on earth does the sea GET to be that colour? After all, it's joined on to the rest of the ocean isn't it? If it can be a beautiful pale blue along the south coast, how the heck is another bit of the SAME sea pitch black?

I can only assume it's because that particular bit is pointing towards all those Europeans, and the results of all THEIR enemas.

Anyway, believe it or not, I seem to be digressing a little bit at the moment. "Nick Harvey digressing, surely not?" I hear you all cry.

No, I never intended to go on at any length about the nastiness of said county; what I intended to do, was to discuss the problems of actually getting there. That's the subject for my in-depth analysis in this particular edition.

Actually, I was having the self same problem the other year when I was in France. That's when I first realised that there could be some sort of difficulty. But the other week, when trying to get across country from Grantham to Skegness, the total enormity of the problem finally came to light.

If you want to get from Grantham to Skegness there are two main routes.

You either have to go along the A52 through Boston, or via Sleaford and Coningsby; but exactly the same problem applies to both of those options.

The problem actually starts with the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales, but its effects carry right the way over to the east coast of Lincolnshire. It's all to do with the fact that the Lleyn Peninsula sticks out!

Now, I suppose it's really a fairly reliable geographical fact that a peninsula is going to stick out, otherwise they wouldn't call it a peninsula; but whoever the idiot was who designed Wales in the first place can never have realised the impact he was going to have on the travellers of eastern England.

The Lleyn Peninsula really ought not to start quite so far to the left.

If it started about three inches farther to the right, then the page edges in the map books would all be much more logical, and Grantham and Skegness would end up on the same page.

But the fact is, it doesn't! Which means that Grantham's on page 59 and Skegness is on 71. Even if you change map books, the page numbers might change, but the problem's still there.

If you're driving anywhere but in south west France or Lincolnshire, the problem isn't too bad; but these two locations have particular road designs which make it impossible to follow from one map page to another.

All the roads seem to run parallel to one another, so when you flip over from 59 to 71, it's impossible to tell which one you're on on the new page.

And, because of the width of this island of ours, from Lleyn to Skegness, both page 59 and page 71 are odd numbered, so it's impossible to fold one page over to match up against the edge of the next one you need to look at.

That's why, by the time we got back from France, half the pages of our Michelin map had been ripped out, so we could work out where we were.

Actually, the Michelin map book was borrowed for the trip, and I really must remember to buy the chap a replacement eventually. There was the odd caustic comment about the new, loose-leaf format when I gave it back to him.

Anyway, enough of France, as I don't have a solution to that bit of the problem at present.

I do, however, wish to propose a rather nifty solution to the problem of Lincolnshire. This will solve the difficulties of all our map readers at a stroke. All that's needed is a pencil, a sharp hacksaw and a motor boat.

First, we draw a straight line from Caernarfon to Porthmadog with the pencil. Then, with the hacksaw, we cut along the line we've drawn.

We then attach the Lleyn Peninsula to the back of the motor boat with a rope and tow it south, then east, and then shove it, pointed end first, up the Bristol Channel out of the way.

All the maps I've ever seen just show a huge expanse of water between Bristol and Cardiff, so this will better utilise that particular map page as there'll now be land there.

Because the map of north Wales will now start further to the right, both Grantham and Skegness will now appear on page 59, leaving page 71 spare for you to doodle on. This will considerably ease travelling between those two places and speed up the journey by removing the three quarters of an hour previously spend recovering from getting lost.

Whilst we're at it, it might be an idea to also tidy up some of the islands.

Much better map utilisation could be achieved if we were to take the Isle of Wight, move it a bit to the east, then a bit to the north and then shove it up the Thames estuary. We could also bung the Isle of Man up the Solway Firth to make it tidier.

In fact, thinking about it, if we were to cut off all the untidy pointed bits of our coastline and move them into the concave areas, we'd end up with much tidier map books all round.

I think I'll have a word with my MP about the idea and see if he'll bring it up with the relevant government department. It has to be the sort of scheme which will bring me in lots and lots of money.

The map makers will need far less paper, so what they could do is charge the same amount for the maps, but pay me the difference as a sort of commission.

I'll let you know how I get on in a future edition; that's except for my readers on the Lleyn Peninsula, who might just notice for themselves when they pass under the Severn Bridge!

Right then, I was going to tell you the rest of the story about my near-naked Comment reader wasn't I? I don't really know whether I ought to cause any more embarrassment to them, actually.

No, perhaps I'd better not, or I might end up with a load of hate mail. Still, it kept you with me to the end this time didn't it? Sneaky eh?

I'll be back with another Comment at the beginning of February and I might just tell you more then; or, on the other hand, I might not! Till then, I'll leave you to wonder who on earth it could be. Right, I'm off, where's me 'acksaw?

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