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“And now the shipping forecast...”
“Now time for the shipping forecast... KABOOM”
“This is a low”
It is a 5 or 10 minute radio show for those who like their nostalgia gift-wrapped in a souvenir shop and is a sad reminder when the British navy was so powerful it could name stretches of water unchallenged. Today the Shipping Forecast is issued daily by the Met Office, formerly known as the British Meteorological Office until they grew tired of fielding calls about meteor showers and climate change advocates.
Recently in an attempt to raise money, the Met Office has offered sponsorship rights to areas at sea. This has lead to a change in the forecasts. So no longer will you hear this on your radio in a shipping forecast, first transmitted in 23 October 2002:-
Does it exist?
Before the the Met Office was set up, sailors predicted the weather with a variety of methods. The popular ones were holding a wet finger in the air, asking a mermaid or checking to see if anyone had shot an albatross. It worked for some and not for others but as they were at the bottom of the sea, their opinions didn't count.
In 1854 the world's first meteorological Office was set up to move weather prediction from superstition to science. The first official in charge was Captain Robert FitzRoy. A weather junkie, he is known to us today as the captain of The Beagle and one time cabin companion of Charles Darwin. When Darwin came out as an evolutionist, Fitzroy retired from the British Navy in disgust. It was he who first gave some of the names at sea, though his habit of naming everything after the British royal family saw him getting fired and then committing suicide when Queen Victoria got caught short in an unexpected storm.
The invention of radio and that sailors aren't the brightest people led to the Shipping Forecast. By keeping it short and enigmatic, the Met Office was accused of being part of the British Secret Service on the grounds that their name started with an M. Indeed if the internet had been around then, it is likely the Met Office would have been obliged to change their name to something more obvious like WeatherTalk in honour of the British habit of talking about rain without the least provocation.
Today the shipping forecast is broadcasted 4 times a day, at 0048, 0520, 1750 hours and xxxx (also known as the Official Secret Weather Bulletin). This is because it only happens twice unless you use longwave. Which nobody does nowadays. The timings for the third and fourth broadcastings of the shipping forecast are rumoured to be known only by two people; Lord Lucan and Bigfoot.
The British government have set a stringent law in place that all people must be asleep by 0045 and cannot wake up before 0530. Anybody who breaks this law will immediately die. You have been warned.
There have been certain events where radios explode when the forecast approaches thus meaning the listener cannot tune in. A fine example of this occurred in 1952. In a phenomenal moment, later codenamed by "Ivy Mike" by the United States, millions of radio sets exploded merely seconds before the forecast was due. And you all thought it was just a coincidence.
These are the current regions as defined by the Met Office as valid and fully paid up as regards the sponsorship deals:-
- Jock- the area of sea which covers most of Scotland. This region used to be called "Jockstrap" but then the strap broke causing tidal waves, tsunami's etc.
- 1337- this area got its name from the deranged accents of people from this area, who all speek Leet.
- LOL- a remarkable name for an area of outstanding natural ugliness. Back in 1945, or rather a quarter to eight in the evening, a ship desperately tried to send an SOS message from this area. But he was typing in the dark and send "LOL" instead. Which caused the people reading it to LOL too. Which is harsh, because they sank.
- Blur- Blur were rewarded for their efforts on their song "Isn't this Slow", all about the shipping forecast, by having a region named in their honour near their native Essex. Before that, this area was named "Chantelle Houghton".
- Dover FTW- The best region TBPFH. Theres nothing like rolling in the clover on the White Cliffs of Dover with you over and over is there? For. The. Win.
- Channel- SPONSORED BY P&O FERRIES. Seeing off Sea France, Your Mum and Picasso in a lucrative sponsorship deal, P&O Ferries paid millions to call this area of sea their own. And what do they get in return. Longer journeys due the high fuel prices and their name on one map that I made in MS Paint earlier. Weird. People will pay money for anything these days.
- Rockall (not on the map as it's closer to Greenland).Sailors' slang for Fuck All.
- ROFL- the French translation for Anthony Eden.
- Nelson- Bet you all thought this would be named after Horatio Nelson. Well you're wrong. It's Nelson Mandela actually. I mean look what he's done for the world, surely he deserves his own area?
- TOG- Ireland = Terry Wogan. All his old git radio listeners hang out here.
- Scouse- It is advised to steer clear of this region. Not just is the accent harsh on the ears but the Mersey Tunnel has been known to flood from time to time.
- South East Myspace- This was updated from "South East Iceland" only last year in order to make the shipping forecast more trendy for kids and general noobs.
An All Weathers Forecast
..And it's goodnight from Blighty but first, drink your cocoa and your secure your hot water bottle safely in your bed. Listen as we serenade you with this traditional sea shanty: What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor?...
(Musical Interlude including seagull calls and walrus grunts intermingling in the general racket.)
"And now the Shipping Forecast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at some unearthly hour. Let's say 4am because you were all in bed whilst we were working, NOOBS. Get a life and get out of your 9 to 5 job.
There are storm force warnings of rising kilts worn by randy Scottish men in JOCK. Passengers on cross channel ferries in DOVER are advised to go on deck and hang their heads over the rail.
The General Synopsis: The sea will be wet and liquid in most places, apart from 1337 where it is almost all frozen. So who here actually believes in Global Warming, eh? There is a low approaching from the south west. Heading towards the West End. IT'S BEHIND YOU!
- JOCK. Rampaging haggis, about 6 or 7. Keep indoors at all times and rid yourselves of these beasts.
- 1337. It's icy. Get some Coke out of the fridge, or by some, about £2.99, or occasional high of £3. Chop off some ice and serve with drink. Do not shake well before using.
- LOL. Visibility, absolutely terrible. Should've gone to Specsavers.
- BLUR. Visibility, blurry. Strong winds prevalent from the rear ends of tipsy Essex girls.
- DOVER FTW. There'll be blurbirds over the White Cliffs of Dover. So carry an umbrella to make sure you're not pooped on.
- CHANNEL. P&O ferries line the boundary of this area and will sink any craft within 200 metres. So unless you are the Pride of Canterbury, please steer clear.
- ROFL. Strong, sickening garlic-like smells in South-East. Oh wait, that's just the French.
- ROCKALL. Italian ship grounded, crew disappeared. Survivors standing by without a prayer.
- NELSON. Poor visibility and lots of rain. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain but as Nelson doesn't quite cover Spain, the rain will be falling on your boat, mister! Bailing buckets at the ready.
- TOG. Lots of old gits, about 70 or 80 in age. Will try and offer stickers to put in your window. So hide all your portholes in advance.
- SCOUSE. Liverpool and Everton fans will be arguing whether it will rain in this region. But I assure you, it will. After all, Rudolph the red knows rain, dear.
- SOUTH EAST MYSPACE. There will be lots of phishing going on (what a pun!) in this region. But don't tell anybody anything unless you are absolutely certain "www.myspace.com" is in the address.
That concludes the shipping forecast..Still awake? Well I am off to a lapdancing club so I will leave you with those poor saps at the BBC World Services. Goodnight.