Tuesday, 29 May 2012

If You Do One OTHER Thing In London This Week…

Our weekly slot in which we point you in the direction of other great happenings and events in our great city. A new exhibition, a gig, a museum, a pop-up-shop – the best of London within a few minutes of a London Walks walking tour.

Patriotic times indeed. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. At such times, we are sent scrabbling for a definition of Britishness in the ongoing post-Imperial era. Ongoing into eternity.

This quest takes many forms. Pop musicians pose for pictures at dog racing tracks. Politicians spout guff, mis-quoting George Orwell. Journalists polish up the platitudes they wheeled out for the Golden Jubilee ten years ago. Celebrity TV presenters get commissioned to make sound-bitey docos, the butterfly narratives of which flit from HM Queen to The Beatles in the blink of an eye, in the hope that we’ll all forget about King Edward VIII and the Sex Pistols altogether.

But for this writer, the spirit of Britishness can be found in the short BBC broadcast of the shipping forecast.

The shipping forecast – compiled by the Met Office and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 – is a weather forecast for the seas around the British Isles.

It’s a few minutes of perfect Britishness.

Our conversational predilection for chit-chat about precipitation (or sudden lack thereof) and our geographical predicament are united in a pristine and brief broadcast over the airwaves a great British institution. It’s delivered in a plummy British accent. We listen obediently, not really sure what’s going on…

“Southwest, German Bight, Humber, Thames. West or southwest becoming variable, 4. Occasionally very poor.”

What can it mean? Most of us know not, but the reassuringly clear BBC delivery lulls and calms us, allowing us to remember our famous sense of moderation and decency and stiff upper-lippery as the waves batter our coast.

The delivery is in such a deliberate and clear manner for those – in peril on the sea? – who need to write down the information. That’s write down. With a pencil and paper. The old fashioned way. And there’s nothing more British than being old fashioned. We are an island, after all, and we often react slowly to change – all of which is encapsulated in The Shipping Forecast.

If you do one other thing in London this week running up to the Jubilee celebrations, listen to The Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4. You can do so HERE.

God Save The Queen!


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