Friday, 7 September 2012

The Shipping Forecast - expanding the Mariner's Theme

My father, aged 14, ran away to sea at the beginning of World War II.   Lying about his age he spent the war serving as galley boy, cabin boy, cook's assistant in the Merchant Navy travelling from England to Australia, Canada and as many far flung places as a romantic boy's heart could wish.

Growing up in Ireland in the 60s and 70s when radio was much more a part of family and day to day life then television, the Shipping Forecast from BBC was a background noise, soothing and lulling despite the warnings of gale force winds and even today if I lie in my bed listening to the torrential rain of a Singapore monsoon, I feel protected and safe knowing that things indeed might be much worse off Viking.

Around the time of the block round robin, I listened to an audio book of Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly about the history of the Shipping Forecast and his travels around the coastal regions.   I listened to it 3 times in a row while walking the dog and doing my runs.

I wanted to incorporate this old childhood friend in my Compass quilt and decided to use embroidery extension of my sewing machine to do so.

With a little finageling - there are 31 regions and I had with 4 smaller Compasses room for 32 names - and using the old name of Finisterre as well as Fitzroy, I used the four smaller blocks for the region names.   I choose the block and regions based on a link between the maker and the regions.

This proved a bit of a stretch as I wanted to keep the names of the region in the order given by the Shipping Forecast.

I chose the selection with Viking for Ju as her father was from Finland so kinda sorta part of Scandinavia, although given Jo was born in South Shields, Tyne should have been hers.

Ju's Compass:  Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne and Dogger

Then I choose for C part of the group that included Thames as she lives in North London.

C's Compass:  Fisher, German Bight, Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland and Plymouth.

My compass choice was fairly easy, born and growing up in Ireland, I got the section that included Irish Sea.

My Compass:  Biscay, Trafalgar, FitzRoy, Finisterre, Sole, Lundy, Fastnet and Irish Sea

Jo's groupings were based on the fact she was living in Aberdeen so got the grouping with the Scottish coast, although this also meant she got a bit of Ireland as well.

Jo's Compass:  Shannon, Rockhall, Malin, Herbrides, Bailey, Fair Isle, Faeroes and Southeast Iceland.

For the large 47" centre Compass, I decided to use some of the most spectacular forecast warnings and quotes from poems.

Seamus Heaney's poem The Shipping Forecast

Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea:
Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warming voice,

Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown.  Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal-road, keel-road, whale-road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L'Etoile, Le Guillemot, La Belle Hélène
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar.  It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, 'A haven,'
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes.

Carol Ann Duffy's poem Prayer

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.

Stephen Fry, in his 1988 radio programme Saturday Night Fry, issued the following "Shipping Forecast" in the first episode of the programme:

    "And now, before the news and weather, here is the Shipping Forecast issued by the Meteorological Office at 1400 hours Greenwich Mean Time.
    Finisterre, Dogger, Rockall, Bailey: no.
    Wednesday, variable, imminent, super.
    South Utsire, North Utsire, Sheerness, Foulness, Eliot Ness:
    If you will, often, eminent, 447, 22 yards, touchdown, stupidly.
    Malin, Hebrides, Shetland, Jersey, Fair Isle, Turtle-Neck, Tank Top, Courtelle:
    Blowy, quite misty, sea sickness. Not many fish around, come home, veering suggestively.
    That was the Shipping Forecast for 1700 hours, Wednesday 18 August."

And some forecasts,

  • Humber, Thames. Southeast veering southwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Thundery showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.
  • Tyne, Dogger. Northeast 3 or 4. Occasional rain. Moderate or poor.
  • Rockall, Malin, Hebrides. Southwest gale 8 to storm 10, veering west, severe gale 9 to violent storm 11. Rain, then squally showers. Poor, becoming moderate.
  • Southeast Iceland. North 7 to severe gale 9. Heavy snow showers. Good, becoming poor in showers. Moderate icing.
And most spectacularly, on 10 January 1993, when a record North Atlantic low pressure of 914 mb was recorded:
  • Rockall, Malin, Hebrides, Bailey. Southwest hurricane force 12 or more.  

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