Rule Britannia

September means The Last Night of the Proms and a rousing sing song of Rule Britannia. A spot of outstanding patriotism that brings The Albert Hall and Hyde Park to a Union Jack waving frenzy of solidarity.
What I didn’t realise is that Rule Britannia is the last part of the Fantasia on British Sea Songs, a vital part of the Last Night.

Sea Songs

This is a medley of British sea songs arranged by Sir Henry Wood in 1905 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. One of the most famous bits is of course the Sailors hornpipe.
It comprises nine parts which follow the course of the Battle of Trafalgar from the point of view of a British sailor, starting with the call to arms, progressing through the death of a comrade, thoughts of home, and ending with a victorious return and the assertion that Britain will continue to ‘rule the waves’:

  • Bugle Calls
  • The Anchor’s Weighed
  • The Saucy Arethusa
  • Death of Tom Bowling
  • Sailors Hornpipe
    • The dance that gets faster and faster and the audience clap along, trying to keep up with the orchestra. The proms version has an extra beat written into it right at the very end so that the orchestra always finished first. It catches out even the most dedicated promenader every time.
  • Farewell and Adieu, Ye Spanish Ladies
  • Home Sweet Home
  • See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes
  • Rule, Britannia!

Rule Britannia  originates from the poem  by James Thomson and set to music by Thomas Arne in 1740. The song is a reference to the Command of the sea status which the British Empire had throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. It is strongly associated with the Royal Navy, but also used by the British Army.

September 1982

I was very lucky and earned the right to be a promenader in 1982 – the year the Falkland War ended. Patriotism was at fever pitch. Solidarity was the name of the game. We took the roof off the Royal Albert Hall.
I will leave you with a recording of that night – I sang my socks off.
Last Night of The Proms – 1982

Mae West

The Mae West is a common nickname for the  inflatable life preserver because the great American Actress was famous for being  well endowed in the chest department. Therefore someone wearing an inflated life preserver often appears to be as large chested as the actress.
Believe me when I say I don’t need any help in that department!! They are not the most flattering nor comfortable of items to wear.

Modern Lifejackets

There are various types of lifejackets on the market with specific features aimed at different sports. As a result, Lifejackets come with or without harness attachments or with different types of firing mechanisms and buckle fastenings. The most important aspect of a jacket is its buoyancy rating which are measured in Newtons
Boring scientific fact alert!
Ten Newtons equals 1kg of flotation. Newton ratings are relative to the weight of the intended user.  A level 150 N lifejacket designed for a child or young adult will not sufficiently float an adult. When you buy for an adult you must get a level 150N lifejacket designed for an adult’s weight.
Simples!
The other vital part of a life jacket is the crotch strap. Again not the most flattering or comfortable things to wear. They are designed to stop the life jacket from torpedoing off and over your head on inflation.
On a recent trip to the Channel Islands I needed to go to the heads. Unfortunately I picked the precise moment the boat hit the Alderney Race and took on the attitude of a washing machine. I slithered down below and took on a brace position to stop me head butting the walls. I tried to disrobe forgetting about my jacket straps and consequently was left with shorts at half mast around my knees whilst I clung on for dear life.
Note to self: – Undo them first!

To wear or not to wear – that is the question.

Ask any racing yacht crew and all of them will say that they never wear a jacket. Its just too dangerous for them. They catch on equipment and impede movement. If they fall off they just hope the next carbon fibre catamaran doesn’t mow them down as they pass doing 40knts.
Since most recreational ribs owners  seem to think they are exempt, every weekend they pile a zillion kids on a rib, fire up two  150hp outboards and head off into a packed Solent. The only life jacket  worn is by the family labrador who with all due respect is the strongest swimmer there!!!
Anyone sailing with us is instructed in the wearing and the use of a lifejacket. I try and curb the urge to recite in my best British Airways trolley dolly voice ” Place jacket over head, pass the tapes around the body and tie in a double knot in the front and do not inflate until well outside the craft.”
Please remember the mantra of the RNLI – Lifejackets, useless unless worn.