Today’s Morning Edition
had a brief feature
about the BBC Shipping Forecast, one of those quaint and goofy Anglicisms Americans are fascinated by. I must say, I find the shipping forecast pretty damned fascinating myself. How can something so meaningless (to all but a few mariners, who surely have other ways of getting the information more efficiently these days) be so soothing?
(Funnily enough, NPR did what sounds like a very similar story
four years ago. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Although you can find old NPR stories online, I think listeners are glad to get a second chance to hear about interesting topics, and I guess
the met report counts as “interesting.”)
Two cool literary appearances of the shipping forecast:
In Barry Hines’ A Kestrel for a Knave, when a teacher taking attendance calls the protagonist’s name, “Fisher,” a wag calls out, “German Bight,” (the sea area that comes after Fisher).
Seamus Heaney’s sonnet on the subject:
Dogger. Rockall. Malin, Irish Sea
Green swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice.
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown. Sirens of the tundra,
Off eel-road, seal road, keel road, whale road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L'Etoile, Le Guiliemot, La Belle Helene
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar. It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, 'A haven,'
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes
The shipping forecast is one of the world’s most efficient sleep aids. These days I often drift to sleep listening to the radio (with an earplug; I’m a considerate sort), but my choices are usually either sports radio or KUOW
’s late-night offerings. I’ve noticed that shows I’m actually interested in (Sunday night’s Alternative Radio
or The Diane Rehm Show
on Friday nights) put me to sleep quicker than programs that I’m using as mere background noise. If I start on a Diane Rehm Show
I want to stick with it to the finish so I can hear my pal Karen, who’s one of the show’s board ops, get a shout-out, but I can hardly remember managing that.