Posted by: billpurdue | July 4, 2012

There are warnings of gales… – a history of the shipping forecast

Do you ever listen to the shipping forecast on the BBC? Though my sea voyages can probably be counted on the fingers of two hands, I still find it compelling and it gives an idea of the kind of weather we might expect in the days ahead. Also many people find it one of the few things that has hardly changed at all in the past few decades, whilst all around us things seem to be changing ever more rapidly.

For fans of the shipping forecast, I can now recommend (if you haven’t found out about this already) a recent book And Now the Shipping Forecast by Peter Jefferson. Mr Jefferson was until very recently one of the readers of the forecast, so he is well qualified to write about it and its history.

First of all I now know where all the shipping areas are – I’ve always wondered where North Utsire and South Utsire are (they are named after an island off the Norwegian coast) and why we no longer hear the name “Finisterre”. Since 1984 a number of changes have been made, including an extension of the forecast to the waters off southern Spain (Trafalgar) and a withdrawal from northern and north eastern Icelandic waters. There’s a surprising amount to say about each of the shipping areas, with the exception of one or two : Sole for example is dealt with in one third of a page. Jefferson writes about the history of the forecast and how technology has changed the accuracy of it and the way it is presented on the radio. The forecast must be read exactly as it is written, but must also fit in to its scheduled time slot. The author also extended his research to a few naval terms and how they have entered our everyday language . On one or two occasions he goes off at a tangent and talks about something which is not really relevant, but soon gets back to the point.

On the whole Peter Jefferson has done a thorough job of this book, which contains all the landlubber needs to know about the shipping forecast. It’s an entertaining read , too

[UIT Cambridge, £10.99pbk 9781906860158, maps, glossary, list of useful websites, index]

More non fic

Keeping up with the Germans by Philip Olterman is a sort of story of Anglo German relations using as examples eight historical encounters between English and German people over the last 200 years. One chapter relates the time when a German comedian in search of new ideas came over to Blackpool to sample the entertainment on offer and saw the hilarious Freddie Frinton sketch “Dinner for One”. The chapter is called “Freddie Frinton teaches the Germans to laugh”. I haven’t read the whole book, but someone, who has, recommended it to me.

[Faber £12.99 pbk 9780571240173 list of sources, index]

If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley. I’ve mentioned this book before, but I’ve now read it from cover to cover and enjoyed it all. I wondered if it might duplicate parts of Bill Bryson’s At Home, but I would say that it compliments it. Whilst Bryson concentrates on the different rooms in the house, Worsley takes a detailed look at how our habits have evolved – food, clothing, sleeping, bathing and just about anything else we do at home – and she doesn’t leave anything out. If you enjoy seeing her in her TV history documentaries as I do, you’ll enjoy this.

[Faber £9.99pbk 9780571259540: colour plates and other illus., bibliography, index]

You’re Coming With Me, Lad by Mike Pannett. The author tells of his experiences as a Yorkshire beat bobby after returning to his native Yorkshire from London, where he was involved with tracking down drug gangs and dealing with knife crime . It has been passed on to me by a friend who said she hated the self congratulatory comments throughout the book. However if you enjoy reading about what one policeman got up to in rural Yorkshire (not a dull moment , it seems), then you’ll probably enjoy this . The next one in the series is Not on my Patch,Lad.

[Hodder £7.99 978-0340918777 includes an extract from Not on my Patch, Lad]

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