The Shipping Forecast: Another Quirky British National Treasure

What puts the “Great” in “Great Britain”?  (Tell me, who is the “You” in “United Kingdom”?)

Is it:

  • English breakfast (eggs, bacon, black pudding, baked beans, fried bread, cholesterol-packed belly-buster)?
  • The British bobby, armed with nothing but his notebook and native wit?
  • Queuing as a national sport?
  • Elf-Meter-Verschiessen as a national sport?
  • Royal Winken as a national sport?
  • Drinking tea?
  • Having red hair and freckles?

No.  None of the above.  It’s The Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4.

To quote Wikipedia:

The Shipping Forecast is immensely popular with the British public; it daily attracts listeners in the hundreds of thousands – far more than actually require it. A public outcry greeted the Met Office’s decision to rename ‘Finisterre’ ‘FitzRoy’, but in that case, the decision was carried through.  Peter Jefferson, who read the Forecast for 40 years until 2009, says that he received letters from across the UK saying that the 0048 broadcast helped them get to sleep after a long day.

‘It scans poetically. It’s got a rhythm of its own. It’s eccentric, it’s unique, it’s English. It’s slightly mysterious because nobody really knows where these places are. It takes you into a faraway place that you can’t really comprehend unless you’re one of these people bobbing up and down in the Channel.’

Zeb Soanes, a regular Shipping Forecast reader, described it thus: ‘To the non-nautical, it is a nightly litany of the sea. It reinforces a sense of being islanders with a proud seafaring past.  Whilst the listener is safely tucked-up in their bed, they can imagine small fishing-boats bobbing about at Plymouth or 170ft waves crashing against Rockall.’  Another regular reader of the Forecast, Kathy Clugston, described it as, ‘Like a lullaby, almost.’

Ach, these Inselaffen…  All together now.  “North Utsire, South Utsire…”

Now, I  forecast a smile on your face if you listen to this clip.  (Can anyone tell me why did Heligoland become German Bight?)

Rule Britannia!


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