It seems odd that the brain should make a connection between the most prosaic and the most poetic, between a financial services company and a Nobel laureate.
There cannot be many businesses that are more prosaic than those engaged in the sphere of personal credit ratings. It is bottom line stuff, pounds and pence, the loan-worthiness of an individual. But there must be someone with a more poetic streak working for Experian, the credit rating company, for they have a television advertisement with a musical accompaniment – it is Ronald Binge’s Sailing By.
In times when late night radio listening was a more frequent experience, the distinctive music was one that I associated with a particular moment – the moment when BBC Radio 4 switched over to the World Service at around 1 am.
Sailing By had the mood of a lullaby. It would be followed by the Shipping Forecast, the poetry of which created a sense that all was well with the world.
The forecast at that time of night had an especial place in my heart because it included the inshore weather stations, including Killough in Co Down, which was my parish for seven years in the 1990s.
The juxtaposition of the music and the Shipping Forecast would always recall the work of Seamus Heaney, who himself found poetry in the rhythmic repetition of the names of sea areas.
The seventh of Heaney’s Glanmore sonnets draws words directly from among those that would have followed Sailing By in that late night world.
Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea:
Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice,
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown. Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal-road, keel-road, whale-road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L’Etoile, Le Guillemot, La Belle Hélène
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar. It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, ‘A haven,’
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes.
It is odd how, even in the gale warnings, the Shipping Forecast can bring a sense of reassurance. Perhaps it is in the feeling of there being someone watching, overlooking, monitoring. Perhaps the peaks and troughs of a deep swell become less daunting when their presence is forecast.
Perhaps the Experian intention is to conjure in the minds of viewers the world described in the lines of Heaney, to evoke a sense of security.