Monday, February 21, 2011


I sure was wrong about there being no more Willie the Whaler ads, there are three I'd never seen among the 1940 New Yorker issues alone.

And this one is amazing - Willie is not only out there doing his job - the only other time we've seen him in that situation was when he was quaking with fear at the thought of it - he's actually succeeded in hooking a whale!

Willie himself is so amazed that little lines of surprise are erupting from his forehead and his hat is flying off his head.

However, based on the text it appears that he accidentally hooked the whale, since his true goal was, as usual, to get sloshed.

"Nantucket sleigh ride" is such a well-known expression I'm pretty sure everybody knows it means whalers being pulled briskly along by a whale they'd just harpooned.

"Camber" is tricky. It seems to be a term used, at least nowadays, for race cars, and it also has to do with ship architecture. But the closest it comes to being connected to alcohol - and what else would Willie be after? - is the "mixologist" Camber Lay.

I just friended her on Facebook, because hey, why not?

I suspect the clue once again lies with the geography of England. As with Plush, as in "a slug of plush", Camber is a village in the South of England, in this case, West Sussex and was probably involved in the rum trade, although the Wikipedia article doesn't mention it. Its main claim to fame seems to be its sand dunes, or "Camber Sands" and related holiday trade: "Camber Sands was also mentioned several times in the sitcom Hi-de-Hi! as a location of one of Joe Maplin's many holiday camps." The series was made in the 80s, it's set in the 50s-60s and like all British shows except Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, the humor is utterly inscrutable:

Hi-De-Hi made the top 100 British comedies - what did we ever do before Wikipedia? I've never heard of any on the list except for "Fawlty Towers", "Black Adder", "The Vicar of Dibley", "Yes (Prime) Minister", "Are You Being Served?", "Absolutely Fabulous", "Waiting for God", "Keeping Up Appearances" and "Red Dwarf" - all thanks to public television; and "Steptoe and Son" because Wilfred Brambell, who played Paul's grandfather in "A Hard Day's Night" appeared in it; and "Meet the Wife" because it's mentioned in "Good Morining, Good Morning" on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: "It's time for tea and Meet the Wife".

I'd never heard of the number one show "Only Fools and Horses" which ran for 21 years.

I am intrigued by some of the titles though: Whoops Apocalypse, A Sharp Intake of Breath, and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.

The fact that Fawlty Towers is NOT number one just tells you one thing - British people are strange.

Come on - this is genius:

So what does this all have to do with Willie the Whaler? Well, another British series "As Time Goes By" - which I forgot I had also heard of, has a character: "the housekeeper is Mrs. Bale (Janet Henfrey), who has an unusual interest in the Shipping Forecast."

I will let Wikipedia tell you about the Shipping Forecast:
The Shipping Forecast is a four-times-daily BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles. It is produced by the UK Met Office (part of the Ministry of Defence) and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (part of the Department for Transport). The forecasts sent over the Navtex system use a similar format and the same sea areas. The unique and distinctive sound of these broadcasts has led to their attracting an audience much wider than that directly interested in maritime weather conditions.

The waters around the British Isles are divided into sea areas, also known as weather areas (see map below)[1] and many listeners find the well-known repetition of the names of the sea areas almost hypnotic, particularly during the bedtime (for Britain) broadcast at 0048 UK time. It is regarded with affection by many listeners, and in the United Kingdom often arises in general knowledge quizzes and is the butt of many affectionate jokes.

Full circle! And what an education you are getting, blog readers - don't even try to tell me you've ever heard of The Shipping Forecast. And yes, of course you can listen to the Shipping Forecast online.