Despite the shipping forecast having been printed or broadcast four times every day for the last century and a half, top code-breakers at both GCHQ and MI5 have confirmed they are no closer to working out what the hell it is all about.
Professor Simon Williams of GCHQ, who has listened to the shipping forecast on Radio 4 over the years with increasing bewilderment told us, “Here at GCHQ we pride ourselves on being some of the smartest code-breakers in the world, and with geniuses like Turing going before us we feel a certain pressure to decipher every mystery we are presented with.
“But this ‘shipping forecast’ is a right pain in the arse. We’ve never come across such a random collection of words and numbers in a code before.
“What are ‘Malin’, ‘Sole’ and ‘Fastnet’, for Pete’s sake? And is ‘Forties’ a place, a time period, or a number? And ‘Dogger veering 6 becoming moderate’ could mean anything. It is an absolute mystery, and we are ashamed to admit we are flummoxed.”
Regular Radio 4 listener Eleanor Gay responded, “I don’t think it is meant to be understood.
“Much like poetry, it is totally irrelevant to the vast majority of the population, but it probably means something to the person who wrote it, and many of us find it reassuring just to know that it is there as a long-standing British institution.
“No-one knows what it is about, or what it is for, but as we listen it holds the crippling existential angst of modern life at bay for a few minutes, for which we are thankful.”