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One Vision - a Map Restoration and a Personal Project

Kevan James.

Part One, January 17, 2022.

My Father, the late Terry James, was a broadcaster with the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS). A producer and presenter of radio programmes, in his day BFBS was based at King's Buildings, Westminster, just down the road from the Houses of Parliament and as some might say the very beating heart of London (It is in Chalfont, near Gerrard's Cross today, a move that happened long after he retired). Dad however spent most of his career in foreign fields, keeping the serving members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces entertained and informed. Cyprus (where I came along and quite late in his life, courtesy of the British Military Hospital, Nicosia), Germany and Libya being three. Throughout the late 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, BFBS could be found wherever there was a permanent station of UK Forces, like Belize, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Dad retired early, at just 50, in 1978 and spent most of the the remainder of his days with his feet up. He did work again however, perhaps surprisingly as Night Manager at two hotels - he left the first when it closed and was quickly snapped up by the second. Obviously he had more to him than spinning records and he further demonstrated this with a minor interest in maps.

He wasn't a huge collector of them, but would spend time poring over those he did have and whenever I went anywhere he had not, I always got a map of it for him. Places like Dallas and Washington DC in the USA for example. He was also a huge fan of the French capital Paris and would spend a weekend there at the drop of a hat. Curiously and despite being something of a Francophile, he never went anywhere else unless passing through and never learnt to speak French either. But he did like Paris.

Maps however did capture him somewhat and in 1986 he decided to draw one. Not of anywhere in particular but from his own imagination. Using only a ruler, pencils and some narrow felt tip pens for a little colour, he bought A3 drawing pads and let his mind run free.

He had no set plan or idea for what would be on his map and drew just as he felt like, starting with a big city and extending well into the countryside. And he didn't stop until he had drawn some 220 individual A3 sheets - to view it all means an extremely large, flat surface or room and only twice has his map ever been laid out to look at at completely because of its size - it is huge!

What dad was not however, was a cartographer. He was no maths expert (neither am I...) and he had no training or experience of cartography. He was just an enthusiast but he did have some some artistic talent. That manifested itself primarily with his broadcasting but although I wouldn't describe his map as a work of genius, it does go some way towards it.

Alright I'm biased - but consider again that all he used was pencil, ruler and pad, this map is a remarkable piece of work. One has to wonder how his drawing might have developed had the bug really bitten.

Another of his limitations was not being able to work out scale properly - as I said, Dad was no mathematician and as a consequence, there is no set scale to his map and some details are dramatically under-sized, athletics stadiums and racecourses being good examples. Even so, given the limits with what he knew and worked with, his map is a work of art.

Something else Dad did not have was the internet, google maps and other modern methods of finding out things, which is an advantage I do have. At least I do now - dad of course died well before the rise of the 'net, in June 1999, at only 73.

Dad was also no aviation expert so asked me to draw airports for him. I added a number of these; some older, more traditionally designed air fields as well as an up-to-date mega-airport to serve the big city. The other airports drawn represented older facilities that had been expanded to accommodate the rapid rise of air transport, with big jets like the Boeing 747 meaning (as in real life) airports became cramped and overcrowded. At least until the revolution in airport design and reconstruction that heralded the modern day era.

Dad never added to his map after 1990 so for thirty-two years (at the time of writing), it has remained untouched. I kept it in its packaging, occasionally having a look at certain sheets, including those airports and wondered how they might look now, over three decades on.

Maps of course play an integral part of my work as an aviation writer and in the course of this, I have visited and taken advantage of various museums. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London for example, has a significant collection of maps including fictional versions. Some of these have been featured in books and films (Lord of the Rings being a good example) so it set me wondering...

Remembering that dad did have some limits, could I restore his map, put right some of the scale imperfections and use a 'bendy ruler' - something else dad did not have - to present the curves found in railway lines and other aspects better?

So I set to it. My aim here is firstly to bring dad's work to the next level as they say - to do what I think dad himself would have done, had he the tools and the know-how to do so. Some of the sheets are a little worn now so need some TLC to restore them to their former glory - it isn't going to be quick with all those sheets to work through though. It took dad over four years to do what he did.

My second aim, once I'm done with restoration, is to see if I can find a museum to accept it and, from time to time, display it. Whether that is do-able remains to be seen, but dad's map seems worthy of a greater audience, if at all possible.

Six A3 sheets that include the Southern Airport


Dad set his map on fictional islands, giving some places equally fictional names, and the islands are located on the Mid-Atlantic ridge, a little way north of the Azores, which sit on the same ridge. The map is in two sections; the larger north section, which includes the big capital city, and a smaller south section.

With dad's work starting in 1986 and ending in 1990, the map is dated by splitting the difference at 1988.

Restoration began with the south, and starting with the airport.

Colourisation Step One

Colourisation Step Two and first removal of join lines between sheets

To Be Continued...

As I progress through the sheets, I will update how things are going and present more images of dad's map.

All images copyright Terry James 1986-1990 / Kevan James 2022

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