Life

TV Review: Sister Rita is a formidable force

Sister Rita, star of her own BBC show
Billy Foley

Sister Rita To The Rescue, BBC 1, Monday to Friday at 9am

If you grew up in Ireland you knew nuns like Sister Rita.

"No-nonsense" would be the normal description, but her semi-affectionate nickname "Attila The Nun" is probably more accurate.

There is something about the religious instruction of young women, or perhaps the innate nature of females, that produced nuns like Sr Rita. Disciplinarians who don't suffer fools gladly but possess a caring heart.

Throw on top organisational brilliance and you have a formidable force.

I knew plenty in my young years having been taught by the Presentation Sisters until age seven.

Men, on the whole, seemed to have a different reaction to Catholic instruction. I don't remember a single Christian Brother, who had me for another 10 years, with a kind word.

Undoubtedly damaged by their experience, with many leaving their families and starting their training in their early teens, the Christian Brothers I knew were characterised by bouts of rage and violence.

I never saw the religious serenity you would expect from men of deep faith.

I remember being utterly amazed later in life when I met a Tibetan monk who displayed stunning calmness, tranquility and contentment.

The only other time I've seen anything close to this was in an impressive Belfast cleric.

Sr Rita doesn't go in for Zen-like calmness. She's busy getting things done in the tough Manchester estate of Collyhurst.

She runs the Lalley Centre, which operates as a food bank and advice centre.

A nun of almost 50-years standing, she grew up in Cork but joined the Presentation Sisters in Manchester at 18 after two nuns came recruiting to her school.

Her name is now known outside the confines of the estate after BBC cameras followed her for a week. And you get the feeling she's enjoying it.

I suppose you have to have a bit of ego if you're going to achieve things in life and Sr Rita certainly rates herself.

"They don't call me the formidable Sr Rita for nothing," she tells the cameras proudly.

And she's right to be proud. Her centre is undoubtedly doing positive things for the struggling and there's little chance of people putting one over on her.

When locals tell her that some people are parking cars nearby and walking to the centre to use the food bank, she rages.

She sends out her volunteers to keep watch and declares that anyone who can run a car should be buying their own food.

It's tough love in Collyhurst and they'll be better for it.

****

The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV, Monday at 8pm

Martin Lewis made £87 million when he sold his moneysavingexpert.com website in 2012 so he's worth listening to when it comes to money.

He still has a role in running the site, which is the go to place for independent financial advice on anything from car insurance to pensions.

But three seasons into his television series and his advice is starting to become a bit predictable.

How many more times can he tell viewers to shop around for car insurance and energy suppliers?

He also has an unfortunate way of talking down to the audience. I suspect that the image he has in his mind of the typical viewer is a woman in her 70s.

Financial adviser Alvin Hall was doing the same kind of stuff on the BBC fifteen years ago but that show - Your Money Or Your Life - only lasted three seasons.

I think the Lewis show has also run its course.

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