A Matter of Life and Death and The Shipping Forecast.

I am tucked in bed, shrunken and cashew against the cold as the rain pounds at the window : the scrawny beating of a sea-hag’s salty fist, demanding entrance. The only illumination is the weak green glow of the radio dial pooling on the floor. From it issues a voice. A beautiful voice, sonorous and somnolent ; she calms me.

“Forties Cromarty Forth:
Southwesterly 3 or 4, increasing 5 or 6 later. Slight or moderate. mainly fair. Moderate or good.”

She tells of magical places between lands and between worlds ; their names sometimes familiar … half-recalled, half-imagined.

“North Fitzroy Sole Lundy Fastnet Irish Sea:
Easterly or southeasterly 3 or 4, increasing 5 at times. Slight or moderate. Fair. Moderate or good.”

Her words are sub rosa and profound, their meaning recondite yet inclusive and I know that I am not alone. What other adventurers in the night hear her honours and edicts? What brave privateers lost on a cruel Coleridge sea are listening eagerly at their crackling wireless, sliding and rolling in the pitch dark yaw? It is a common brotherhood ; we share respectful audience with this wondrous oracle.

“High southern norway 1038 expected Dogger 1037 by 0700 tomorrow. Developing atlantic low expected 400 miles west of Bailey 991 by same”

On nights like this, when the wind is an interminable mournful wail and the dark, pluvial thrashing scratches bloody-nailed at my walls, she offers me comfort and warmth and consolation. She is a nepenthean June to my Niven and I need just listen to her tales of Dogger and German Bight, Shannon and Dover Wight to be lifted from the Doldrums, her warm breath in my sails.

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the sky-lark sing ;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning !”                –  S.T.Coleridge


~ by Sixto on September 25, 2008.

5 Responses to “A Matter of Life and Death and The Shipping Forecast.”

  1. You probably know Carol Ann Duffy’s famous “Prayer”, but it belongs here anyway:

    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.

  2. Thanks for posting that yarb, it’s a beauty. I didn’t think I knew it until reaching those famous last lines and remembered…I (aptly) heard it on the radio once while not fully listening, and then read of it I think in Michael Bywaters’ book Lost Worlds. Strange how the subconscious can work, absorbing as theme or tangled skein. What I thought of as original is, as usual, an interpretation. You are what you eat, as they say. Thanks again.

  3. Hey Manty,

    I like the way you began by saying you were in bed: it transported us into your privacy (for a brief moment, obviously), it brought us closer to you…well done :)!
    I must tell you what I thought as I read your post: the yearn to find somebody like you out there, somebody who shares the same views, the same loneliness, the same void…but at the same time, it was relaxing (it was a delightful reading)!

    I liked it, Manty…thank you for sharing yourself :)!

    Have a great weekend and cheers

  4. Thanks Max, it’s interesting, it was a personal feeling, yet influenced by cultural markers – what I’d read, what I’d heard and seen. Are we limited in the scope of our imagination by our memories?

  5. Hey Manty,

    I think that our imagination has no boundaries, yet our memories have.
    But I would also say that our imagination may very well be the threshold to our most profound memories…

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