I’m a reluctant and easily sea-sick sailor. Yet a backdrop to my life has been the hypnotic daily rhythms of the shipping forecast on Radio 4. I love to listen to those poetic names of the areas round the British coast where seamen find themselves as they tune in to hear what the weather will bring.
Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland, Plymouth, Biscay, Trafalgar, FitzRoy, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea, Shannon, Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes and Southeast Iceland.
Yesterday, the Shipping Forecast was 150 years old.
A public service since 1867, it’s been broadcast since the 1920s, with a break during World War II. Never more than 380 words long, it always follows the same strict format. The late night broadcast, preceded by ‘Sailing by’ is a bedtime story, a soporific sleeping pill to many land-based listeners. We couldn’t do without it.
Look! We even have a cushion, and a breakfast mug dedicated to our beloved shipping forecast.