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