Apparently some Roman once wrote that Britain is “more blessed than any other land, the winters are not too cold and the summers are not too hot”. Obviously these days he would only be half right (the last week aside of course) but there’s no doubt that the Romans loved our shores. They spent 400 years here before their empire went all Lehmanns on them.
The media seem to spend most of their time running this precious country of ours down so it was nice to see Michael Wood return with another one of his warm, meandering and dead sentimental programmes. In The Great British Story, he’ll be celebrating the history of the people that made Britain what it is today. Thankfully he’s not talking about Henry VIII or Simon Cowell, but the poor down-trodden, oppressed, plague-ridden people themselves, most of whom, he advises us, were immigrants.
As with every single vaguely-historical programme that’s ever been recorded, the first episode of this eight-part series is dedicated to those greedy sandal-wearing visionaries, The Romans.
Wood gushes on for a bit and we get a healthy dose of cheery community-led archaeological digs and warm-hearted local anecdotes from a bunch of Brits. Of course with the jubilee around the corner, we can expect plenty more of this kind of patriotism in the weeks to come, which is no bad thing, because as soon as the football starts, quintessential Englishness will return to being rubbish at penalties and public binge-drinking. The whole programme is basically what you’d get if Coast and Time Team had a middle-aged fling and produced offspring.
Yet for all the soft edges, there’s a rich vein of historical trivia here. Some of the most interesting include a section in which we discover that St Patrick was actually English and a part where Wood explains that there were black people in Britain before the British people got here. I wonder what the BNP would make of that?