I’m going to try to follow my daughter’s example with this blog, and post more regularly for the next few weeks. As a result, I thought I’d do some shortish posts where I write about things I love. Welcome to the first in the series!
So…the Shipping Forecast. Put simply, it’s a list of the weather conditions in 31 sea areas surrounding the British Isles. The names, rolling mellifluously off the tongues of the weather forecasters four times a day on BBC Radio 4 are both hypnotic and, strangely compelling. When I first heard it, I likened it to having the effect on me that me crooning to my dog might have on him; it sounds wonderful, but I have no idea what it’s all about. And, to be honest, for me, that’s the appeal.
I listen to it at 5.20am, and it’s my absolute moment of Zen in the morning. I don’t get up until gone seven, but it’s waking up to the sound of all of these wonderful, romantic sounding names that sets me up for the day. In fact, when the forecast moved from 5.30 to 5.20, I reset my radio alarm clock so I could keep listening to it! It inhabits that semi-somnolent domain between sleep and waking for me, as I often drift off while listening, and its gentle tones influence my semi-lucid dreams.
What I’ve noticed now I’ve been listening to it for a while, though, is the differences between the forecasters. Some take their time at the beginning, rolling their mouths gloriously around the words, then getting steadily faster, more urgent as the time ticks down to the five-thirty news briefing. It’s like meteorological foreplay, starting slow and then racing, gasping to the finish before the clock runs out. Listening to it injects a fever of tension, a mounting sense of building climax until the last, inevitable release of the final reference. We all draw breath and the earth, along with the sea, moves.
Other forecasters time things to the last second, keep a steady rhythm throughout. The metronomic precision of these broadcasts, rising and falling as the seconds tick down, keep us in a state of aural bliss, sending wave after steady wave of perfectly aligned pleasure through the airwaves until we fall back, fully satisfied as the final, heady pause signals the start of another day.
These contrasting approaches are a joy, and if they sounded a lot like metaphors for some other kind of pleasure, then that comparison is intentional. As a writer, I’m in love with language, and although it may seem ironic that, in the Shipping Forecast, I actually don’t understand a lot of what I’m being told, the impact of that language is still powerful, and in the hands of a skilled orator, even more effective. So this, if you like, is my love letter to the Shipping Forecast and those who deliver it. It’s totally worth the 5.20am wake up time!
Fancy a read this weekend? How about one of these? Click the pic to go to my Amazon page!