Since 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.