THE people at Yorkboat must have a heart attack about this time each year. Getting to work in the morning, as you do every morning, only this time you see a great burning boat hurtling down the river while crowds cheer its demise.

The first reaction has to be to look for Beadle.

And then of course you remember that it's just a bit of Viking tomfoolery. A relief for those who rule the waves (of the Ouse) and something to watch for the rest of us.

The Viking Festival usually splits York into two camps - those who think Vikings are great and those who love Vikings.

Because let's face it, if you don't like Vikings and you live in York then you're in for a bit of a hard time. It's the equivalent of being against dirt in London, or phlegm in Wales. Those pesky Vikings get everywhere!

Did you know that in York you're never more than six feet away from a Viking? Probably.

That's true this week, anyway. For seven days York turns into a veritable theme park with axe-wielding bearded chaps on every corner, trying to look enigmatic because that's what they think Vikings did.

But I can't take it altogether seriously. Even the kids have beards. I don't care how manly the Vikings were, their women and children were not bearded!

Here's something fun you can do: challenge one of the Vikings' authority. Just sidle up and whisper "I know that your axe is made of polystyrene".

It's wonderful to watch the internal struggle going on. He knows, deep down, that he is actually still Derek, an accountant at Norwich Union. But he's been given an axe and for one week he is Olaf, destroyer of villages and scourge of Nova Scotia.

It must be a tricky week for opening a bank account.

I think the crux of my 'issues' lies in anachronisms. If these Vikings were giving it their all, just for one week, they would have me in awe.

But at about five o'clock they all suddenly down tools and head off to the pub. And there is no stranger sight in the world than a supposedly bone fide Viking sat necking a bottle of blue alcopop, texting his mates and slipping into a nice white pair of trainers.

The first time I saw a Viking in a baseball cap it was genuinely devastating. Finding out that the tooth fairy isn't real pales in comparison. My faith in re-enactment has been truly shattered, so thanks, Derek.

Slightly on a tangent, do you think that the Vikings had a Roman Festival? For one week could it be that they all shaved their beards off and pranced about in togas, wrestling each other and being very clean? And then, afterwards, went back to living in filth?

On a less speculative note, the rise in car parking fees and extended hours seems to have got beneath people's skin.

The problem is that there doesn't appear to be a viable alternative offered to car users.

A few suggestions: knock down Tang Hall and build a massive multi-storey car park thus increasing its value and beauty? Or better still, allow people to park for free only in Micklegate.

When they return from the theatre and find their car covered in sick and G-strings they won't ever want to park in York again.

I sometimes feel like running for council and solving all these issues, but then I wouldn't have time to do all that graffiti.

A very time consuming business, you know.

Updated: 11:19 Thursday, February 19, 2004