Woods in Ealing by the Grand Union Canal. The view from Alexandra Palace, looking south across #London.

Circumnavigation of Ealing

On the 28th and 29th of May I’m going to go an expedition to circumnavigate the London Borough of Ealing. I’m curious to discover what’s at the edge of the borough. Feel free to join me.

Science v Art & History v Geography

When it comes to exploring and making sense of the world there are some good old rivalries in many education systems. Science v Art is one, with science winning in the vast majority of schools. STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Maths) Education is all the rage, with some artists arguing that STEAM education would be more appropriate. I personally fear a society that neglects the arts and fails to recognise its importance… or the beauty in science itself.

History v Geography is another curious professional and educational face off. In the English education system the two subjects are often pitted against each other, fighting to recruit students at option time. As a geography educator I’ve had many challenging conversations with history teachers who argue their subject to be a superior lens for interpreting the world. In the United States geography is mainly taught through other subjects and mainly in history lessons. A situation that I feel is disgraceful and am so pleased that National Geographic Education is working on so hard to change.

In reality these cockfights are, in many ways, ridiculous.

Shakespeare’s Restless World, a new radio series by the BBC with The British Museum, begins with Neil MacGregor examining Drake’s Circumnavigation Medal.

In the first episode MacGregor explores how “England goes global” and “how one man’s voyage changed a nation’s horizons forever”. To the English in 1580 the world was just being discovered and maps created. These maps were not (just) scientific however, but artistic tools of propaganda that created (imaginary) histories and geographies of their own. A practice that continues to this day.

As the programme points out, the influence of privateering voyages not only influenced economic wealth but also the arts.

In The Comedy of Errors, written about 1592, Dromio, the quick-witted servant, outrageously compares a plump kitchen maid to a globe as he sets off on a raunchy geography lesson looking for treasure all over her:

Dromio: She is spherical, like a globe. I could find out countries in her.

Antipholus: In what part of her body stands Ireland?

Dromio: Marry, sir, in her buttocks. I found it out by the bogs.

Antipholus: Where Scotland?

Dromio: I found it by the barrenness, hard in the palm of the hand…”

Discovery and exploration is not just for pirates and conquers of the past. Nor is it just for a rich elite of exotic adventuring risk takers. And for that matter I would like Shakespeare to have reflected on how the female maid may have liked to have explored the landscapes of either of these men or the worlds in which they inhabited too. Exploration, like education, is for all of us as we grow, learn and experience the world and each other.. just like Dromio finding Scotland. Discovery and exploration is not just for scientists, artists, historians or geographers either. They are inevitably for us all. These subjects offer unexclusive tools and skills  that are useful for questioning, thinking and representing our world that can and should be shared.
In the next post I’ll be proposing a simple and universal curriculum for  explorers.


I’m recently back from a trip to Maui, Hawai’i. While there I was lucky enough to go underwater exploring with Emily Schell from National Geographic. I did not have my contact lenses and so my vision wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it was awesome to check out so many fish. By far I loved seeing the curious  Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the state fish of Hawai’i, the most. I didn’t snap a picture of the triggerfish on our snorkeling trip, but I spotted this one swimming through Honolulu a few days later. Cool fish, aye?

If you’re wondering how to pronounce Humuhumunukunukuapua’a then this culturally enlightening (?) article from the Daily Mail (!?) will give you a decent lesson.


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