First, a couple of public service announcements. You can listen to Joanna Page and Kris Marshall on Tuesday's Daily Mayo (34 minutes, 16MB) talking about Fat Pig, and it turns out that absolutely everything I said about their interpretations of the play was right. I'm a theatre genius. You should listen to it purely for that reason alone, but it's also possibly the only time you'll hear either actor being asked to work out the volume of a hemisphere of radius 10cm. That might float your boat, too.
Our Joanna is also going to be on The Paul O'Grady Show this Friday (5pm C4, 6pm C4+1), discussing Fat Pig again - yes, I belong to a gym that has The Paul O'Grady Show (and Robyn and The Ting Tings) playing 24/7 on its TV screens: why do you ask?
Not all period naval fiction is the same, though. CS Forester's series of books featuring Horatio Hornblower, personified on TV screens most recently by another Welsh god, Ioan Gruffudd, is about ambition, moral values, doing the right thing and the little details of life in the Royal Navy.
The Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian, on which the movie Master and Commander was based, are about many things including the mechanics of sailing, politics and the state of science and medicine during the times of the Napoleonic Wars. But principally they're about the etiquette and social life on board ships and within the Navy. You're stuck on board a ship of war for anything up to a year with a bunch of men who were probably pressed into service, rather than having volunteered, and you have very little to do: how do you keep charge? How do you while away your time?
William Golding's “To The Ends of the Earth” is a trilogy of books that follows young aristo Edmund Talbot as he makes his way down to Australia to become a politician. As you might expect from the author of Lord of the Flies, it's almost the flipside of the Aubrey-Maturin series: Aubrey, Maturin and the crews of the various ships Aubrey commands in the series are all jolly good chaps and fine company, with only a couple of exceptions; “To The Ends of the Earth” asks the more unpleasant question: what if you're stuck on board a ship populated by complete bastards and you're not too well laden with social skills yourself? What do you do then?
Book 1, the Booker Prize-winning Rites of Passage, concerns the downfall of one of Talbot's fellow passengers, the Reverend Colley and is something of a mystery story - what happened to the Reverend that brought him so low? Close Quarters follows on and concerns an obviously ill Talbot and his instant love for Marion Chumley, a passenger on another ship they encounter. The third book, Fire Down Below, concludes the voyage of the increasingly unreliable HMS Pandora.
In 2005, “To The Ends of the Earth” was turned into a series of three TV movies for BBC2. Guess who they got to play Marion.