Thursday 31 December 2015

Canadians vs Americans

It's the last blog of the year and let me pass this on. My son recently gave me a copy of Alec Guinness's A Commonplace Book, a sprightly collection of thoughts and quotations and scraps of conversation, many of them entirely new to me. I was pleased to learn that John Osborne's description of ballet was"poof's football". An entry in the book that particularly snagged my attention was something I first read, or heard of, as a child. It's an urban myth (with a maritime setting) and this is how Guinness recorded it:

This is the transcript of a radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95.

Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a Collision.

Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.

Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.

Americans: This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States' Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that YOU change your course 15 degrees north, that's one five degrees north, or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.

Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

None of this ever happened of course, but we want it to have happened, not least for the 'plucky underdog' aspect. Would it work as well if the protagonists were Russia and China? It's a story that's been in circulation for decades and the 1995 version, despite its suspiciously authentic source is simply a variant on a long-established urban (or maritime) myth. You can find out more about it here. 

I'm reminded for some reason of a film title (and it's a film I've never seen): Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River. It's a 1968 comedy starring Jerry Lewis, Terry-Thomas and Nicholas Parsons. "Jerry's on the loose in London. And Merry Olde England was never merrier!" Sounds awful - but do click on the link to see an engaging trailer which features the great Bernard (here weirdly stressed on the second syllable) Cribbins.

If you've read this or any other of my irregular blogs during 2015 -  I thank you.

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