It's not as though we've never been here before. First there was the opera, then the T-pot (which I bought and broke the handle), and most recently the Netflix mini-series with Gary Oldman and Emma Thompson's cat. No apologies for any lack of origination, except to say, this fanhood has been lifelong; that despite living ex-patria for two decades, I've listened in as regularly as allowed on UK holidays and local Internet speeds.
Only circumstances have changed. Back when, in Blighty, I most recently remember waking up early, damn early, after late-night drinking bouts, listening to the broadcasts between draughts of water, stupefied, head pounding, eyesore, red-nose, sneezing, coughing, scratching arse, praying, Arglwydd Melys, never-again. With warnings of gales in Chromarty, Dogger and German Bight, intestines churned, war having broken out amongst those that suffer on the sea, crying to be heard by Thee.
Nowadays, of course, such blasted drunks are less frequent because of age and pressures of parenthood, living in lands without proper pubs and two hours before Greenwich Mean Time means times are called while England is still in the throes of night rages, late revellers rolling home. At seven AM local, Internet-tuned to Radio Four's anschluss with the World Service, followed at five-twenty GMT by the morning's Shipping Forecast.
I crane with an actor's ear while the weatherperson - a cross between scientist and thespian - delivers the ten minute set piece either as a promising drama school audition or syllable-perfect Gielgudian unflap. On another level, the SF is like playing a hand of patience. Will the reader stumble or fall at those guttural Scottish place names?
Will the numbers, the repetitions, the monotonies and threnodies breakdown in coughs, splutters and over-apologetic frogs-in-throat? Is the reader a young, inexperienced, angst-ridden tenderfoot too eager for a clear round? Is precipitation in sight, or is s/he a case of the aloof, urbane, RP pooh-er of visibility?
A few years back, I stoop to recall, the SF was under threat. It was one of those periodic shake-ups the Beeb goes through when Auntie clears out the cupboards and consigns a new generation to grow up without bloop-eaters. Unlike Mrs Dale's diary or Jack Demanio's clock, The Shipping Forecast sailed on beyond its natural retirement age. Now, even in the age of GPS, we still get our daily fix of solo yachters pouring over their charts in heavy seas while tuned in to the Home Service. Long may she sail.