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October 20, 2005
I have a confession. I am in love with the Shipping Forecast.
No, not The Shipping News the book, as would make sense for a literature student, but the real shipping forecast, the actual full fifteen minutes of it at quarter to one every night on BBC Radio 4. My day is not complete without hearing the soft tones of one or other of the nice men tell me about the weather at all the offshore stations of which I don't even know the locations and will probably never visit, and then to wish me a good night's rest, and play me the national anthem as the station signs off for the night.
Sometimes, if Mr Shipping Forecast has pronounced 'patchy drizzle' with just the right burr and I'm feeling particularly affectionate towards him, I will even wish him a good night back. He deserves the respect. After all, he does a sterling job, does Mr SF, upholding one of the last bastions of Englishiosity. I picture him, sitting close to his microphone in the deserted Radio 4 studio, calmly reciting the forecast for the grizzled seafarers in their sou'westers, ensconced in their lighthouses in howling gales, and also the girl lying in her bedroom in the most landlocked town in the country.
Then he turns off his mic, removes his headphones, and strides from the studio into the dark night as the national anthem booms out behind him. He may even, if the evening's weather so demands, have a black handled umbrella and a caped raincoat. He's a mysterious one. Nobody knows where he goes, or what he does when he's not reaching out to the hearts of the millions of people who sit awake after midnight. Yet he is always there in time to do his duty by the lonely contingent of the British populace.
Come, let us raise our glasses and toast to the marvel that is the Shipping Forecast Man.