Friday, 17 July 2015


The Shipping Forecast is the final item broadcast at 0048 hours on BBC Radio before it signs off for the day.  I have always like its 9 minute monologue  starting "Attention All Shipping" for (1) its regularity; to me it's a ritual that let's me know all is right with the world no especially when I am listening to it outside the UK, and (2) its theme tune 'Sailing By' composed by Ronald Binge.

Seol-na-mara in the late 80s having a close inspection of Fastnet Rock. That is me in the red jacket on the foredeck.

This poem was mentioned on a radio programme today.  It is by Carol Ann Duffy, the nation's Poet Laureate.  In the last stanza she has articulated the very thing I always felt about the Shipping Forecast!


Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

  Seol-na-mara a few years ago in Lerwick harbour.

From BBC archives it mentions that she was once asked if she thinks poetry 'to some extent takes the place of religion' in a secular society. She replied, 'It does for me: I don't believe in God.' Her sonnet 'Prayer' is the voice of that secular spirituality.

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