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on 17 February 2016
There are few more quintessentially British sounds than the Shipping Forecast, with its mysterious place names and strange predictions of stormy weather on the way.
To drift asleep to the beautiful 'Sailing By' theme tune will take you into dreams where you're gently washed ashore on a golden beach somewhere in the South Pacific, not the dark swirling danger of the Hebridean waters or the post industrial grey of a Channel shipping lane.
This is a charming journey around our shores, starting in forgotten maritime London and the hushed quietude of a Radio 4 studio. Along the way there is odd Norwegian DIY hospitality and small Scottish towns on their uppers..the enduring hope and power of lighthouses, demanding geography, commanding topography and all kinds of flora, fauna, people and weather.
There's a Bill Bryson-lite travelogue humour to this, which isn't a bad thing, but I couldn't engage with this writer. I guess I wasn't that interested in him, more the story he was telling. He simply isn't funny, and he would occasionally stretch an already thin piece of humour way too far, which became quite irritating by half way through the book.
At its best, this book gives some fantastic and genuinely exciting history, compelling stories and fascinating characters - from the world famous to the local unsung heroes. Particular favourites include the amazing story of the Principality of Sealand (quite extraordinary, and I can't believe I hadn't heard of it before), the tragic Heligoland, and the incredible bravery of lifeboatman Henry Blogg.
A good, easy read with some interesting learning, but could have done without the third year undergraduate level attempts at humour.