If there’s one complaint I must raise about Cambridge, it’s the dearth of fish and chip shops anywhere near the town centre. This is a problem we’ve had to deal with since the first year, and wasn’t even alleviated when we lived out for a year in the north of the city – the nearest shop there was of dubious quality at best. Well, good news! As I walked down the the train station to come home for Easter, what should I spot but a shiny new shopfront on Regent Street, looking incredibly like a chippy. It’s still being renovated, far too soon for Google Street View to catch up, but there is hope at least.
However, the promise of some possibly decent chips in a few months isn’t quite good enough, and so I’ve decided to take things into my own hands. This friday, Mark and I will be cycling by tandem to Southwold for some fish, chips, and possibly a beer. Mark’s going to be the powerhouse, but due to extenuating circumstances we’ll let him off the steering (most of the time at least). Mark is blind, but sometimes you’d be hard-pressed to realise. He is currently studying for an MSci at Hatfield College, Durham, rows in the college First VIII, is a member of the MCR committee and lived out in a house with friends for a year, looking after himself. When you see both the range of activities that could have been problematic for him, and the number of techniques he has developed to get around them, it’s inspirational.
I’ve planned a route on the GPS, about 48 miles all told wihich should be nicely manageable with the two of us. Mapping services for GPS devices generally consist of you buying a £150 handheld gizmo, then £100+ for each country’s roads. This is somewhat expensive, so I’ve been involved with the OpenStreetMap project, which is an attempt to make a copyright-free map of the UK. The method is is quite cunning. Tracing maps from other sources is legally dubious, so what happens instead is that people track themselves as they walk/run/cycle/drive around their local roads, and then upload these GPS tracks to a central server. They, or someone else, can then trace over the route they took and draw in the roads. Thus the location of the roads in the new map isn’t dependent on any other datasource. Whilst this generates a map which is at times is at least as good as Google Maps and can be edited instantly when things change, in places where people haven’t done the groundwork the coverage is poor. Thus out in the sticks here there was a whole one road going through Loddon, I’ve been busily cycling around fixing that. The bonus of free data is that you can transfer it, in my case downloading a version formatted for my Garmin GPS. The whole world is available, in varying states of completeness, the only price is a little tinkering time copying them to the GPS unit.