The Shipping Forecast
The shipping forecast - an English eccentricity
Did you watch the opening of the Olympics back in 2012? It was a fantastic show. When it started, all over England people smiled.
We did - we looked at each other and grinned and both said 'awww'. Why? Because it showed a sequence of British scenes - the camera showed the 'green and pleasant land' - and, possibly unknown to people in other counties, part of the soundtrack featured the famous Shipping Forecast.
If you're British, you know what I mean. If you're not, then you're probably baffled.
It is one of those bizarre English institutions. It's simple really. BBC Radio transmits the program to relay weather information information to ships - as the name suggests - who are traveling the waters around Britain. It's valuable service - if you're aboard ship.
Even though we live now in the States, we listen to BBC Radio 4 which is available via the internet. Twice a day, we hear the familiar music and the rhythmical broadcast and there's just something so cozy about it. It makes me think of sitting in front of the fire at my old granny's house, sipping hot tea and eating buttered toast - it's just comforting.So why do English landlubbers feel such a fondness for this?
Poetry and restful sleep
The information is broadcast four times a day by the BBC and many people regard it almost as poetry. It is completely informational but has its own rhythm and style.
Before and after it is read, the music Sailing By is played. This waltz is instantly recognized by many people in Britain. They wouldn't necessarily know it's name though - 'oh listen, the Shipping Forecast music' is what many people would say.
Many people love the soothing sounds of Sailing By. But it's not just that. To the (admittedly eccentric) British, the sound of the word pattern itself is soothing and familiar. The BBC strongly regulate the wording and it has a rhythm to it that's unique. Many people say that it's like a lullaby and it helps them sleep.
SAFE AND SOUND
Part of the appeal of the broadcast is knowing that you're safe and sound and yet at out there at sea, fishermen and sailors are facing gales, blizzards and rough seas. Snuggling down in bed and listening to the late-night broadcast is wonderfully cozy!
DOGGER, FISHER, GERMAN BIGHT
These are three of the shipping areas that feature in the broadcast. These sea areas are as familiar to many Britons as their own names. 'Cromarty, Forties, northeast 5 to 6, occasional rain, moderate to good.'IT'S NOT JUST ME! People of all ages are fond of this bizarre program. Books have been written about it - see below. It's been featured in poems, music and films. Bizarre maybe.
Listen to the broadcast
Get an idea of what I mean...
This is the lovely theme from the program.
Dogger, Fisher, German Bight
The movie Kes was made in Barnsley - my hometown - when I was in my teens. Yes, that's the same strange accent I have - although I've had to tone it down quite a lot since I moved to the United States - people didn't understand a single word if I spoke naturally. I'm almost respectable now :)
Spoof by Stephen Fry
Now you've got a flavour of the broadcast, see what Stephen Fry does to it!
2012 Olympic opening ceremony
This was all very goose-pimply stuff for most British people. Until I saw this, I truly didn't realize that I was patriotic. After all I haven't lived in the UK for twenty years. But nevertheless...
Yes, books have been written about it! Of course they have, remember that we English have some weird obsessions.
What bass players think
I know, that's a bit bizarre, but I heard a program on the radio the other day about the Shipping Forecast. (Yes, a radio program about a radio program). And evidently bass players cringe when they hear the theme music.You see, about three quarters of the way through, the bass player on Sailing By plays a bum note. I've been listening to this piece of music all my life and never noticed!
© 2013 Jackie Jackson