Attention All Shipping: A Journey Around the Shipping Forecast – Charlie Connelly

12 Oct

Chaz_CoSince its first broadcast in the 1920s, the shipping forecast on BBC radio has inspired poems, songs, and novels in addition to its intended objective of warning generations of seafarers of impending storms and gales. In Attention All Shipping, Charlie Connelly wittily explores the places behind the voice, those mysterious regions whose names seem often to bear no relation to conventional geography.

The shipping Forecast is another great British institution, it is mysterious and magical, yet at the same time totally impenetrable. although it is on four times a day the best time to listen is the late night reading.

To be tucked up in bed, first the theme tune comes on, sounding enigmatic and lilting, then listening to the talk of storms in strange sounding places and thinking of the people out at sea.  It is a very cosy feeling on the cold nights, it somehow feels more profound to listen to it this way, to be safe whilst marveling at nature’s rage.

The zones of the Forecast surround Britain and Ireland as well as reaching to various other countries, giving a varied sense of history and culture. The author gives an engaging look at not only the evolving face of our maritime fortunes but also the pace of change.

The information can be fascinating, Connelly visits some pleasingly obscure places and reveals some surprising history in the process – Sealand is a particular favourite of mine – it’s all very pleasant and the snippets keep the book sail along.  There are some bits that drag though and this uneven nature did lessen the enjoyment of the book a little for me.

The humour is hit and miss also, some of it I enjoyed immensely, whilst at other points I saw the comedy cues but failed to take the bait.  I suspect there is something amusing for everybody somewhere in the pages though because it is so light hearted and delights in a bit of banter.

Overall, I feel that the book doesn’t quite work, it failed to hold my attention and did feel like a drawn out reading experience.  Part of that would be down to the formulaic structure of the book and the feel that each area visited was a separate entity with no real link other than the quest to visit each zone.

It a bit better than average, it certainly had its good parts but was let down with some weaker aspects.  That said, one good thing about the travel genre is that it does give me the bug for once again venturing into territories unknown, to discover new facts and embarrass myself in new and interesting ways.

For those of you interested this video will give you an insight into the wondrous world that has beguiled thousands of Brits over the years.  The theme tune goes on for two and a half minutes so if you wish to get into the actual forecast I suggest skipping to 3:18.



Posted by on 12/10/2014 in Travel


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13 responses to “Attention All Shipping: A Journey Around the Shipping Forecast – Charlie Connelly

  1. Lyn

    12/10/2014 at 21:21

    “Winds light to variable.” Oh my, every time I hear someone say shipping news, I’m reminded of the Goons. LOL or As Time Goes By where Mrs Bail gives the shipping news when Jean and Lionel are leaving the parental manor 🙂


    • Ste J

      12/10/2014 at 21:25

      Alas I am clueless about both of those things, although perhaps i did watch an episode of As Time Goes By years ago. I need to crank up the old TV, I say crank it up but really it runs on steam!


      • Lyn

        13/10/2014 at 01:51

        LOL. A bit like my wireless–which isn’t really wireless at all.


  2. shadowoperator

    12/10/2014 at 22:06

    With your old tv talk, you remind me of the bluegrass artist John Hartford’s “Old-fashioned authentic steam-powered aereoplane.” You must watch “As Time Goes By.” Mrs. Bail is an eccentric to end all eccentrics, though she doesn’t appear that often, and the story gets funnier (you guessed it) “as time goes by.” About the shipping forecast, it’s the sort of thing that tends to inspire other authors to write, in Britain as you have noted, and here in the U. S. and Canada, “The Shipping News” (which was in the story a newspaper, not a broadcast) by author Annie Proulx. You may have seen the movie, as (in a one-degree of separation move I’m going to reveal) its biggest star is Dame Judi Dench (who was of course Jean in “As Time Goes By!”) And here I thought this literary quirk which leads me to make connections was a fluke–but there’s something in reality that makes it happen, don’t you see? Do you see? You do see, don’t you? Please tell me I’m not just having hallucinations after too much news of shipping!


    • Ste J

      14/10/2014 at 19:01

      I will give As Time Goes By a go, I am not sure what impression it will make on me as I like my comedy more whimsical but I never discount anything, unless I have the relevant coupon. I have heard of The Shipping News but never picked it up, any author who I see on the best seller list I usually tend to avoid just from habit. If you are having hallucinations then perhaps it is a shared one as I do see, especially when i wipe the rain from my glasses. One degree of separation must be a record somewhere.


  3. Rachel Titley

    13/10/2014 at 00:10

    I got so excited yesterday, because my mum has a new car with a radio that receives long wave. The shipping forecast was a massive part of my childhood, coming as it did at crucial moments of Test Match Special. Every time they tell us that longwave listeners are going to the shipping forecast, I pine a little. It doesn’t coincide with as many wickets as it seemed to when I was little.


    • Ste J

      14/10/2014 at 18:51

      Ah the fortunes of the England Cricket team! It is great to find somebody else who wondered at its magic as I did. I think it is testament to our imaginations that we could make a forecast so intriguing, if only we could do that with the efforts of the met Office.


  4. Bumba

    13/10/2014 at 00:23

    Very interesting, you Brits.


    • Ste J

      14/10/2014 at 18:47

      We do our best in our understated, almost apologetic way.


  5. writersideup

    13/10/2014 at 02:37

    This is pretty cool stuff, Ste J. I consider it fascinating, and it you want to do something that is almost certain to calm and possibly put to sleep, this may very well do it. The average person, not concerned with the information she’s imparting, would find her voice and the accompanying video relaxing, I’d think. At least that’s how it affects me! 🙂


    • Ste J

      14/10/2014 at 18:53

      That’s exactly how it is for me. Tucked up in bed relishing a storm in a far off part of the world whilst I am warm and safe and being lulled to sleep, it is a perfect end to a day!


  6. gargoylebruce

    13/10/2014 at 03:11

    There’s a picture book called Rain Later, Good that is a transcript of the shipping forecast. I’ve been meaning to get my hands on it.


    • Ste J

      14/10/2014 at 18:53

      I would love to know more about it if you get your claws on it.



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