No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, September 01, 2005

#79: Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast -- Charlie Connelly

Charlie Connelly is a lifelong afficionado of the Shipping Forecast. (For non-UK readers, this is a maritime weather report broadcast on BBC Radio at intervals throughout the day; the sea around Britain is divided into 31 sections with evocative names such as German Bight, Fisher, Shannon.) He decided to travel to each area, and write about it, in one year. And this is the result.

Early on, he has a rather irritating habit of stating an 'obvious' assumption that isn't that obvious, then contradicting it with an Amazing Fact or two, often gleaned from a characterful individual who 'knows more about [insert subject here] than most'. But later, he seems to get into his stride, and writes the sort of travelogue that makes you look twice at places you know (Plymouth, the Isle of Man, Cromer) and open your mind to thoughts of places you don't (Sealand, the Isle of White, Finisterre).

Connelly, a professional travel writer, has the contacts and the experience to facilitate visits, activities and interviews that most of the rest of us would be unable to access. He visits Sealand, the independent principality (and now data-haven) based on a Maunsell fort out in the Thames estuary. He attempts to cycle around the TT course on the Isle of Man, and has what I can only call an epiphany. He visits Rockall, the Faroes, the Scillies. He gets around a bit.

There are a few shortfalls. Listening to the Manx anthem (which I don't think I ever heard in five years of visiting the island) he wonders at the line 'Built firm as Barool [sic]', but doesn't bother to find out that North and South Barule are mountains on the island. He thinks that wormcasts on the beach are left by 'burrowing amphibians' (true only in the most generalised sense). But he's rude about Land's End, and right about the best pub in Greenwich. And he enjoys his travels -- and when he doesn't, as with the rough crossing to Lundy or the climb up Smeaton's Tower on Plymouth Hoe, he's ruefully self-deprecating.

Fascinating book, highly recommended.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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