Some nights, when I feel lonely or disoriented for whatever reason, I listen to the shipping forecast. It reminds me of months and months of my life when it was the background music to feeding my baby son in the small hours. It reminds me of years and years of nights when it was the last thing I heard before sleep. It’s like the gentle rhythm of waves breaking on the sand, the clickety-clack of the train on the tracks, or the comforting drumming of rain on the roof; a sound that gathers up all the years of one life, and holds them in continuity with the generations that went before. It’s the comfort of the ex-pat far from home, and the prayer of the soul not quite sure of the God to whom they pray.
Carol Ann Duffy put it best:
Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.
Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.
Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.
Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer –
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.