October 28, 2008

The shipping news

Filed under: BBC radio addiction,misc,This is not a mommy blog — Duchess @ 3:58 pm

I don’t sleep all that well, and since I know that it is mostly because I don’t live all that well, I live with it, in my stoicly Puritan way.  

My way is I wake up between 4 and 5 and begin to sneeze.  I have, in my life, slept with men, children, and pets (sometimes all three).  Now I sleep with a box of Kleenex.  

After awhile, when I have tossed and turned and blown my nose (repeatedly) and tossed and turned some more and stuffed a wad of kleenex up my nose (it’s the preemptive strike theory of sniffling), I turn on the World Service.  That’s on a bad night.  

BBC radio runs until about a quarter to one and then kicks back in at around quarter past five.  In between the World Service takes over.

The BBC starts and finishes each day with the deeply reassuring Shipping Forecast.  There are usually warnings of gales, but the litany of names makes all good Brits feel island safe:  “Faeroes, Fair Isle, Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Cromarty, Forth, Forties, Tyne, Dogger, German Bite, Humber…” and on round the coast to the more familiar “Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland”, then back through the Irish Sea and north to Scotland again.  I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it is like a spell.  If we chant those maritime syllables three times a day we’ll keep safe from all harm.  It’s a hymn not just for those in peril on the sea. 

When they stopped broadcasting the Shipping Forecast at 5.50 pm each evening on the main radio station there was a (minor) outcry: programme planners said most of their audience had never been aboard a ship and had no idea what the words might mean; protestors said we were being denied our heritage if we didn’t hear those words recited: Forties, Tyne, Dogger. 

I think what they really thought was some Euro bogey man might come and build a Channel Tunnel, connecting us with The Continent and making us a Different Sort of People.

Once the Shipping Forecast has moved on from all the Rising and Falling more slowly, and the deeply inscrutable gales varying from 8 to 10, and the Unnamed that I have always taken to be visibility, moderate or poor, occasionally very poor, there’s the News Briefing followed by Prayer for Today.  No separation of church and state here, but now that we are all good friends together we have all sorts of prayers.  This morning it was Hindu, because October means Diwali.  

After Prayer for Today there’s Farming Today and that’s usually when I go back to sleep because there is not a lot in this world more soporific than GM modification, porcine husbandry, crop circles, mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease, or even (today’s story) the anti oxidant benefits of new fangled purple tomatoes.  

On a really bad night, however, I wake after we have invoked Almighty blessings on the Queen (last thing before BBC shutdown) and before that nice bucolic dawn comfort comes on, and then I have to listen to the hard stuff — World Service the sun never goes down on the empire instead of BBC we know you are sleepy. On the whole, I don’t like the World Service. Where the BBC is cosy and sedate, the World Service is shouty and insistent.  They have jingles.  They have accents  They have news from unfamiliar places.

This morning they had news form southeastern Congo and I stopped blowing my nose and listened.  The fighting has intensified there, and though it has not been reported on the main news anywhere I know, refugees are on the move.

I woke up because my daughter works in southwestern Uganda right over the border from the DRC and Rwanda.  She works with children maimed and blinded in the Rwanda genocide and with children orphaned by HIV/Aids, the scourge of the area. For awhile Uganda had the highest rate of Aids infection in the world. Some of the orphans probably have the disease too, and one of the things my daughter has been working towards is to get these kids tested so they can get the drugs they need.

When the fighting gets bad sometimes armed rebels cross the border, but mainly the only change is refugees fleeing the violence spilling over into her corner of Uganda.

She wrote to ask whether we had received news of the increased conflict. 

Doesn’t really affect us.  Just prices go up, can’t get milk, there are a lot of people selling stolen UN tents in the market, and every now and then we see big military tanks drive past the office.

Ah, just the every day inconveniences of living in a war zone.  I’ll be so glad when she is safely back on an island.


  1. Dearest Duchess, It seems our children will be the death of us one or or another. Maybe that’s their lot in life and ours as well. I’ll place your daughter’s safety in my prayers. I love your stories.

    Comment by Midlife Slices™ — October 28, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

  2. *sigh* that should have said “death of us one WAY or another”. I’m sure you knew what I meant. :)

    Comment by MLS — October 29, 2008 @ 7:43 am

  3. Janie — I think my daughter is safe, but I worry. The renewed conflict made the regular — not just middle of the night World Service — news today. I worry the conflict will spread, but mainly I worry that she will get sick.

    When they were tiny their safety was our job. It’s harder now.

    Comment by Duchess — October 29, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  4. And I worry about my daughter living in North Carolina. I can’t even imagine. Kudos to her for the good works she is doing.

    Comment by Smart Mouth Broad — October 29, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  5. I guess the pride you have in the work your daughter does is occasionally checked by the dangers she is in. So what reports does she listen to when she wakes in the middle of the night? Storm news of a different sort?

    Comment by Laura — November 2, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

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