herald

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Neil's not-so horrible history the only viking in the village

LAST night on RTE 1, comedian Neil Delamere stood at the prow of a boat that was gliding down the Liffey and I thought: "Of course! This is how Neil Delamere came to Ireland for the first time!"

"That's why I don't find him funny," I said. "He's sea-folk like Kevin Costner in Waterworld and I am of the land."

I never quite got Neil Delamere. He says everything in a bubbly, eyebrow-raised "this is a joke" voice that sounds like it's followed by two exclamation marks and jazz-hands.

Now, while this tone of voice makes him better suited to comedy than say, hospice-care, I think it undermines the jokes.

So it was a relief to think my indifference might be a cultural misunderstanding.

Indeed, I planned showing him Youtube videos of cats playing the piano. "On land, we find this sort of thing funny," I'd say.

Quickly, however, I realised that Delamere was not in fact of the sea, but was endeavouring to recreate the lifestyle of the Vikings for a programme entitled The Only Viking in the Village.

To this end he piloted a longboat, wandered Viking Dublin, spoke to archaeologists, guided by another man, made clothes from cow-innards and his own wee (I hope this man was a Viking expert) got given a sword called Fidelma and sort of learned how to fight with it.

This was interspersed with comic recreations of historical events and extracts from a stand-up show about his Viking heritage.

And weirdly enough I found myself enjoying it.

Maybe it's because I have a soft spot for programmes that find humour in history (like the excellent Horrible Histories). Looking askance at our forefathers reminds us that no matter how seriously we take ourselves, someday we'll look silly to our own descendants.

So Neil Delamere notwithstanding, this made me smile.

And I learned something new about Vikings (they coloured their clothes using wee) ... which was nice.

Money is a three-part series exploring Britain's relationship with, well . . . money.

The excellent first episode examined wealth seminars, wealth gurus and the ordinary people who spend thousands in the belief it will make them rich.

Janice, a kindergarten teacher, has a house filled with post-it notes proclaiming "I am a millionaire" and "I will be financially free" and starts each day with quasi-religious visualisation exercises.

Nicky, grief-stricken after her nephew died, followed a trail of self-help books all the way to the cult of wealth creation.

She recently nearly lost her home but still believes she will one day be rich.

Teenagers Sarah and Reece are forgoing university to attend seminars and be mentored by two sharp-suited businessmen. Sarah doesn't work. Reece works in Homebase. They are in debt.

These people believe that education is unnecessary, that a positive attitude can alter economic reality, and that everyone can be a millionaire if they put their minds to it. The programme also features interviews with the men and women who fuel these beliefs with books, events and specious bulls**t. That they make their money talking about making money doesn't trouble their fans, who gaze upon them in adoration and greet assertions of their future wealth by high-fiving one another (high-fiving seems to be the wealth-seminarians' way of saying "amen").

Indeed, as the camera scans a crowd proclaiming "I am an excellent money manager" while massaging their earlobes, it's clear that for many this is a spiritual experience.

It's to director Vanessa Engle's credit that she doesn't editorialise (although her off-camera voice sometimes sounds amused) and that she treats her subjects with respect.

It would be easy to laugh. Indeed I was laughing, until I thought I saw Michael Noonan at one of the seminars.

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