Posts Tagged ‘england’

Roughly Halfway Between England And France

As a race and as a society we just love our boundaries and our borders; go here, don’t go here, this is yours, this is ours. We put up border controls, we tax dependent on what side of the street you live on, you need the right visa stamp in your passport to pass onto this piece of land, which looks identical to the one you’re currently standing on but because of a line drawn on a map its … different.

While lots of the animal kingdom are equally territorial, no one species has managed to invent a whole series of rules and regulations and to employe an entire bureaucracy to ensure the rules and regulations are correctly implemented and patrolled.

But most of these lines of meaning are ignored by the fellow denizens of our planet and our technology ignores them too these days. On mainland Europe, each country has its own set of cellular networks, whose signals overlap with those of neighbouring countries along the myriad of borders that make up the European Union.┬áThis happens to me around twice a week as I shuttle back and forth between London and Berlin, but because I’m at around 33,000 feet, on a plane, with my mobile either switched off or in flight safe mode, it passed unnoticed.

But put a big mass of water in the way, like the English Channel (or La Manche as our French neighbours say) and travel much more slowly, say on a ferry and something much more interesting happens.

Halfway Between England and France

Roughly half way across the Channel and the French mobile signals weaken and signal strength starts to drop off. At the same time, the first faint signals from their UK counterparts start to gain in strength and, if you’re watching carefully, your mobile gets confused for about 5 minutes, swapping back and forth between UK and French networks until, as you get closer to Dover, the UK signal strength overwhelms the French ones. If you’re watching carefully, you can see it happen, right before your eyes. If it helps, it’s like another, technological border and your mobile phone is the passport, allowing you passage from a French roaming network back to your UK home network.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Is it Great Britain, the United Kingdom, the British Isles or what exactly?

In February 2009 I wrote a post for the Yahoo! Geo Technologies blog about how people outside of the United Kingdom are sometimes confused by the vagaries of how to correctly write street addresses in the UK and if the United Kingdom is a country and if England is a country then how can England be part of the United Kingdom. Some pointed comments to the original post ensued from the likes of Ed Parsons from Google and Andrew Larcombe from the British Computer Society’s Geospatial Specialist Group.

And so almost a year later I went back and started to research exactly how the United Kingdom, Great Britain and the British Isles are actually put together. It was an educational journey because, even with being born and bred in London, it turned out that even I didn’t fully understand this subject. So I tried to codify it with a variation on The Great British Venn Diagram, which looks something like this:

United Kingdom Venn Diagram

Let’s start with the easy bit. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are constituent countries at an administrative level; they’re shown in yellow on the diagram above.

Great Britain, so named as to distinguish itself from Brittany, is a geographic island which comprises the countries of England, Scotland and Wales.

The United Kingdom is a sovereign state, shown in red, which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ireland, also a geographic island, contains the administrative country of Northern Ireland and the sovereign state of the Republic of Ireland or Eire.

So far so good, but what about the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands? Both of these are not part of the United Kingdom, instead they are both Crown Dependencies, shown in purple, and are part of a federacy with the United Kingdom. And a federacy? That’s a type of government where one or more of the member administrative units have more independence than the majority of the member administrative units.

Finally, there’s everything else; those remnants of the British Empire scattered across the globe which enjoy the slightly nondescript appellation of British Overseas Territories (or British Dependent Territories prior to 2002 or Crown Colonies prior to 1981).

To be more precise, these are parts of the British Empire that did not gain independence and that the United Kingdom asserts sovereignty over. They take in Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekalia and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Of course not everyone agrees with these definitions

Britain Venn Diagram

Image Credits: Nanci.
Written and posted from the Kempinski Hotel Bristol in Berlin (52.5052405, 13.3280218)