On the rare occasions when, as a child, I was allowed to stay up late I have vivid memories of listening to the shipping forecast on my Dad's long-wave radio. I think that's probably where I picked up the odd affliction of not being able to sleep well without speech on the radio. I suppose, like a lot of people, the shipping forecast symbolises that comfortable environment, the cosiness against the storm outside, or the minds-eye view of a trawler tossing around on the late night waves whilst at the same time we sip our cocoa and pat the radiator affectionately.
Some years ago I read Charlie Connolly's superb "Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast" which combines facts about the shipping forecast; it's history, it's transmission and the stories behind it, with a travelogue and a damned entertaining one at that. So, when "And Now The Shipping Forecast" landed on my doormat for review I couldn't believe my luck, wanting more of the same.
Sadly though, whilst the facts and figures are all there, and the credibility and knowledge of the author are beyond reproach, I found the book to be rather lacking in the fun factor. It's not that Peter Jefferson is a poor writer, not at all, it's just that with such a subject matter, if you stick rather rigidly to the bare facts without letting your pen stray, you ultimately fail to tap into the comfort and reassurance which is the reason the forecast is so popular in the first place.
There is quite simply no "emotional engagement" here and, whilst it falls short of being text-book-like thankfully (Peter does use personal experience and anecdotes about his time delivering the broadcast himself to lighten the mood where required), I found "And Now The Shipping Forecast" difficult to like. It's too cold, too fact-laden and there's simply not enough of that warm cocoa on a stormy night feeling seeping from the pages. Which is a shame.