The Reelingintheyearsification of Irish history ... so reassuring
Patrick Freyne: 2014 was so awful … Thankfully everything’s perfect now in 2021
Garth Brooks at Croke Park: Dubliners banned his concerts and built a big wall around the capital. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Who were the people of ancient 2014? Did they eat the same food as us? Were they really “all about that bass”? Did they know the secrets of iron? What were their favourite mindfulness apps? Did they hug their children? Which gods did they worship? What series of Line of Duty were they on? When did they first cross the landbridge to these islands, chasing wild boar? Many of these things we can never know for sure. Sadly, all we have left of the people of 2014 is the broken pottery, elk bones, iPhone 6s and Garth Brooks merchandise they left at their settlements and religious shrines. Oh, and there’s also some Reeling in the Years footage.
Reeling in the Years (Sunday, RTÉ One) is the best way to consume history. Getting the Reeling in the Years treatment makes the traumas of the olden days feel safe, appropriately soundtracked and compartmentalised. The people behind Reeling in the Years should really compile a daily montage called Reeling in the Day to make the horror of the 24-hour-news cycle (and of existence) easier to take. And if they could create a personalised Reeling in the Years, just for me, presenting all of my regular triumphs and humiliations to the sounds of Doja Cat and Jason Derulo, that would be great too.
The ancients’ true leader is a wizard named Michael D Higgins, whom we watch visit the queen of the Britons, thus cementing a beautiful new crosscultural relationship that would never again be soiled by nationalistic fervour
Historians speak of a phenomenon called the Reelingintheyearsification of history, in which people spend time Zeliging in the backgrounds of press conferences in the hope they will turn up in a montage a decade later. Most journalism schools now teach students how to do a serious nod that says “I am witnessing history and am sufficiently humbled” on the off chance that any events we attend are excavated by television archaeologists and put to a zippy soundtrack.
That all said, the lives of the ancient people of 2014 are fascinating. If the footage on Reeling in the Years is anything to go by, these crazed nonconformists live in a topsy-turvy world in which people frequently gather in big crowds and in which there is a Fine Gael Taoiseach, not a Fianna Fáil one. Their true leader, however, is a wizard named Michael D Higgins, and we watch him go to visit the queen of the Britons, thus cementing a beautiful new crosscultural relationship that would never again be soiled by nationalistic fervour.
The biggest celebrity in Ireland is, as ever, that scamp “weather”. And so on Reeling in the Years we always get to see the weather do its stuff. There is footage of people being appalled by the weather’s behaviour. We all shake our fists together and yell “Weather!!!”. There are also several sportsball tournaments to witness, wherein sturdy gentlemen and ladies with sticks chase a mystical orb in order to win a large golden cup for the greater glory of an abstractly defined geographical area.
Elsewhere, as is tradition, newly elected politicians of 2014 are hoisted on to shoulders and bounced like large babies. By 2014, they were no longer being burped, however. They go on to demonstrate great political insight later in the episode by holding the nation’s water supply hostage, much like the Joker might do to Gotham City. This goes as well as you might expect.
There are lots of perplexing things about the people of 2014. Despite having a relatively advanced civilisation, they were unable to house all of their people. This seems odd and barbaric, but, of course, that’s easy for me to say here in 2021, where everything is perfect.
Donald Trump existed in 2014. He dispatches one of his Trumplings (Don jnr) to buy the Doonbeg golf course and the townsfolk who come with it. The Trumpling appears onscreen, emitting a high-pitched metallic scream of distress to draw his father to him. His father appears, a radioactive, melted He-Man figure with attic insulation for hair, speaking like a malfunctioning Norman Vincent Peale audiobook on a waterlogged iPhone (6). Then local businesspeople tell the cameras how thrilled they are.
It must be said, there’s very little activity that local businesspeople aren’t thrilled by. If Trump were pumping nuclear missiles into Earth’s crust to “see what would happen”, or building a huge death ray to destroy his enemy the sun, or just dumping vats of Trump ooze there, someone from a local chamber of commerce would tell an RTÉ reporter how great it was going to be for the local shops.
‘No!’ cried the Dubliners. ‘No. Just no. They should like pesto and Orange is the New Black and true-crime podcasts – not Garth Brooks!’ So they did what Dubliners have done since the Battle of Clontarf: they ruined everyone’s fun
The darkest period in our nation’s history also features. This is the moment in ancient 2014 when the willowy elites of Dublin realised that 400,000 of their fellow countrymen were interested in seeing the agricultural tunemonger Garth Brooks at the Croke Park sportsball arena, modelling big hats and yodelling. “No!” cried the Dubliners. “No. Just no. They should like pesto and Orange is the New Black and true-crime podcasts – not Brooks!”
And so they did what Dubliners have done since the Battle of Clontarf: they ruined everyone’s fun. They banned Garth and built a big wall around the city. It was like that bit in a Zack Snyder film where everything goes into extreme slow motion and someone screams “Noooo” at the sky, except with red lemonade and Letters to the Editor.
Brexit was nothing compared with this culture war. Brother was set against brother. The plucky radical firebrand Micheál Martin raised the issue in the Dáil. (Where is he now?) The White House even released a statement (which read, I think: “You all have lead poisoning. Please leave us alone.”) People with cowboy hats and road frontage wept in the streets. People in corduroy jackets with eggshell-blue kitchen cupboards wrote broadsheet articles about what a Garth Brooks is, how to spot one in your garden and why the Lilt-suckling mountain people of Monaghan like them so much.
Garth Brooks himself chastised everyone by videolink from his home on the moon/in the United States/inside a horse. (I have no idea where crooning cowboys live.) He wasn’t angry with us, he said; he was just disappointed. It truly was a Garth night of the soul.
Watching it all now in futuristic 2021, with our robot butlers, killer viruses, Furbies and Elon Musks, it feels as though the people of 2014 have much to teach us. They seem to have had many of the same hopes and dreams as we who have straighter spines and have seen the finale of Line of Duty. And though they are all long gone from the Earth, I feel a strong connection with them still. Also, for the record, I would love to see Garth Brooks live.