A Journal of the Plague Year Week 5

Sunday 12th April 2020

Okay, something slightly jarring to offer today.

Away from my little wanderings in the immediate locale, I came across some map porn via my daily armchair travels, showing the true size of places you see on an atlas, but that you don’t compare or gets willfully distorted by political projection.

Oh my wibbley god. For a geographer it’s pure wet dream territory.

For example, Peru. Just look at it! Phwoar…

Transposed onto Europe, which Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg can fit into. Literally am dying about this.





So yes folks! It’s time again for geography lesson number 132.8c. Please turn to page 37.





Saudi Arabia:


South Africa






Chile. This is geography jizz right here.


Thus started making my own. I will, as ambassador’s wife, politely introduce each country with delightful quips and talking points so you can all get acquainted:

OK, I’ll use Germany as the size queen. Handy as arguably the most important, most central country in Europe, and deceptively large or small dependent on how you look at it. For us it’s large, but for much of the rest of the world, nah. My mum could beat it up innit.

First off, Ghana, the rising star of West Africa this ‘small’ (well on the map it looks tiny of course), gold and petrol-rich kingdom, already diversifying into tech and biotech, is estimated to climb from a population of 30 million today to 80 million by the turn of the century. I’ll add a map of the continent each time, see if you can spot the following, nestled among other teensy states:


Uganda -another supposedly small country on the banks of Lake Victoria. However it will become the nexus of one of the world’s great population centres alongside eastern China, northern India and West Africa. A state that features little in many minds but by 2100 its nondescript capital, Kampala (present population 3.3 million) will hold 40 million, more than twice NYC. Further along the lakeshores will be Malawi, a thin thread of a country, but which will also transmogrify its sleepy towns of Lilongwe and Blantyre to similar sizes each.


From a glance at an atlas the Central African Republic looks like a small nondescript territory in the middle of the continent. It is literally the heart of darkness to many mindsets -the world’s poorest, unhealthiest nation, and worst place to be young, largely thanks to its civil war. Despite its true size shown below, only 5 million call it home, though typical of Africa they consist of 80 ethnic groups each speaking their own language. Fun fact the country is the best place in the world to view stars with the least light pollution, as well being bounded by the Bangui Magnetic Anomaly. So named after its capital that stands at the heart of this displacement in the Earth’s magnetic field, possibly caused by a meteor impact.


The world’s newest country South Sudan broke from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war (Sudan has been under 6 continuous conflicts since independence in the 1960s), but has recently entered its own civil wars now. In the south the country holds what may be the biggest movement of large animals on Earth, in the annual migration of savannah grazers that rivals the Serengeti, only recently spotted by naturalists as a cloud on the horizon 50km (30 miles) wide and ongoing for 80km (50 miles).


So now, onto Asia and the rest of the world. Welcome to Afghanistan, one of the world’s most mineral-rich (and suffering for it), mountainous and beautiful countries, and a former jewel of the Silk Route, whose populace is a sensual mix of the Middle Eastern, East Asian, Central Asian, Caucasoid and Indian peoples. A place remarked by invaders as a totally epic place to stage a war, with beauty in every direction, and crosshair.


This ancient version of Arabia, Yemen is redolent of a medieval world where ancient mud-brick skyscrapers and exotic oases now share airspace with the current whizz of Saudi bombs and insurgent missiles.  One of the poorest, most indentured, and most beautiful nations on the planet, like Afghanistan paying the price for its isolation.

Rights Managed

Sulawesi, the fourth largest of Indonesia‘s islands is a range of peninsulars isolated from each other by a mountainous centre. A full 60% of its species are endemic (found nowhere else), and its range of ethnic groups, tribes and religions, each with their own cultures, architecture, languages and cuisines -like errant arms on a starfish -also owe their existence to the varying levels of geographical isolation. Indonesia at large holds 388 ethnic groups, whose national motto is ‘unity through diversity’.


The Philippines is made up of 100 million people, 175 ethnolinguistic groups and nearly 8,000 islands (of which 5,000 haven’t even been officially named yet), spanning the equivalent distance from Norway to the Sahara. That’s a lot of ferries and a lot of timetables. Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire it is perhaps the world’s most disaster prone country (including the bi-annual typhoons and flooding), but also benefits from the vast natural resources that location endows, alongside one of the world’s greatest hotspots for biodiversity.


The world’s sparsest populated country, or territory outside the poles Mongolia counts 2 people per sq km. Imagine a rolling grassland from London to Russia and you’ll get the idea of the empty expanses that have made it even hard to invade, though helped the other way round, whose inhabitants were used to trekking across vast territories. In the past nomads would keep track by building cairns just before the last one went out of sight in the distance.



Australia needs no introduction -it’s also a continent in all but name




This is not Argentina – it is the southernmost tip of Argentina. Patagonia was once populated by the world’s tallest people, many of whom were taken into human zoos and circuses round the world -now extinct. The men were said to average 6.5ft -7ft.

ss (2)

As mentioned before, Russia’s population is 145 million, Bangladesh 165 million:


Chile is not a thin country, just a neverending one.


The Moon displayed below is actually just splayed out. As a three dimensional ball it would look about the size of Australia.

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My aim tonight has been to expand one’s horizons. Thankyou, thankyou kind guests (curtsy, bow).

Yes, I am that bored.



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