Attention All Shipping first came to my attention as a BBC Radio 4 book of the week. It was broadcast at 12.30am, just before the shipping forecast, and that interminable tune Sailing By. When I came across Attention All Shipping later in a remaindered bookshop I was quick to snap it up at that reduced price, a choice I haven’t regretted.
Charlie Connelly provides an entertaining and readable trip around the coastline of Britain and the North Sea, introducing the reader to the shipping forecast areas, and to some of the historical characters associated with them. It’s like travelling with a likeable if slightly garrulous companion, though I’m not sure how far I’d like to go with someone possessed of Charlie’s dress sense and alcohol consumption levels. We meet a range of interesting local characters, share in his adventures and discover an incredible amount of information, most of which we’ll never need to use again.
Perhaps the most interesting parts of this book will be those that refer to areas of the British coastline that you know well. The Isle of Wight gets almost a complete chapter of apt and not very favourable commentary. Comments on the Yorkshire coast include the usual details about Captain Cook and Bram Stoker, but Connelly ranges further than these obvious topics.
Attention All Shipping is usually funny, and Charlie is an interesting character, though at times the jokes can wear thin. He concludes: My meteorological knowledge is not much improved – I’d certainly experienced plenty of weather, but still don’t know a millibar from a Milky Bar. However, not all the jokes are as bad as this, and I’d certainly recommend Attention All Shipping to anyone with an interest in an anecdotal and varied account of life on the coasts of our great nation!!