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Monday, February 06, 2006

Mainly good

The Shipping Forecast is quite a cultural phenomenon here. It provides information for sailors on sea conditions in the Atlantic and the North Sea, basically the areas surrounding the United Kingdom. It airs at 00.48 every morning, and apparently many people, with absolutely no connection to shipping or the sea, are in the habit of drifting off to sleep by this broadcast -- so much so that when there was a proposal to change the time, there was a popular uproar. Reports include such tidbits as:

THERE ARE WARNINGS OF GALES IN VIKING NORTH UTSIRE SOUTH UTSIRE FISHER ROCKALL HEBRIDES AND FAIR ISLE

THE GENERAL SYNOPSIS AT MIDDAY DEVELOPING LOW MOVING STEADILY NORTHEAST, EXPECTED FAIR ISLE 994 BY MIDDAY TOMORROW. HIGH NORTH BISCAY 1035 MOVING SLOWLY SOUTH WITH LITTLE CHANGE

DOVER WIGHT PORTLAND NORTHWEST 3 OR 4 BACKING SOUTHWEST 4 OR 5. FAIR. MODERATE

PLYMOUTH NORTH BISCAY VARIABLE 3 OR 4 BECOMING SOUTHWEST 4 OR 5. FAIR. MODERATE OR GOOD

SOUTH BISCAY FITZROY EAST OR SOUTHEAST 4 OR 5, BUT 6 OR 7 AT FIRST IN SOUTHEAST FITZROY, BECOMING VARIABLE 3 OR 4 IN NORTHWEST FITZROY. FAIR. MAINLY GOOD

ROCKALL MALIN HEBRIDES SOUTH BAILEY SOUTHWEST VEERING NORTHWEST 5 TO 7 INCREASING GALE 8 FOR A TIME IN ROCKALL AND HEBRIDES, PERHAPS GALE 8 LATER IN MALIN AND SOUTH BAILEY. RAIN THEN SHOWERS. MODERATE OR GOOD

I am rarely up at 00.48, but you can listen to the most recent shipping news on the BBC4 website. I can understand the effect it has on people. There is something reassuring to the tone of the radio presenter surveying the conditions of the sea running round about this lovely little island, and I don't need to have a firm idea of where South Utsire, Dogger, German Bight, or Humber are to feel that things are gently set in place and I can drift off, knowing that at least in one part of the world, things are mainly fair, mainly good.

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