Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Where I try to talk seriously about myths and history, but end up turning into the Wife of Bath

Let's talk about men. I was going to talk about history, but you know me. I'm not much for the facts. (Remember the Gurkhas?)

I do like a good myth however. And there we were in Robin Hood country, having great fun listening to the Robin Hood audio trail in the car. This is a downloadable tourist trail which straddles the hitherto unstraddled divide between historical and literary research and recommendations for where to buy coffee and garden plants.

How the myth has changed over the years is fascinating, and I'd recommend the audio trail to anyone, even if they're not in Nottinghamshire looking for plants. It has left me gripped by a desire to read whatever of the original tales are available, even though their Middle English mentality may mess with my sweet childhood memories of Michael Praed. (Michael Praed was the only Robin Hood in my opinion, in the same way that Connery was the only Bond, no matter what the Americans did to poor Michael in Dynasty.)

At least the original tales get rid of that pesky Maid Marion, who was always in the way of my Praed-centred teenage dreams. Marion turned up only much later in proceedings, and was more or less invented by Morris dancers for Mayday festivities. Oh, and she was played by a man. And she was a bit of a tart.

It's possible she was reassigned from another French story of years before, where she happened to be in love with another bloke called Robin, but she sure as hell wouldn't have known what she was doing larking round an English maypole centuries later. With a beard. And an entirely new Robin, who spoke not a word of French.

There was more history on offer in Newark Castle, where I learned all about the Civil War. My previous knowledge of this period came entirely from Channel 4's The Devil's Whore (and had been slightly overshadowed by the discovery of just how attractive John Simm looks with his face all mangled).

In fact, I got so excited about my ever-expanding hoard of knowledge that I ended up getting inappropriately cross with the Eldest Latte because she refused to stay and watch an actor pretending to be an alchemist near the Sherwood Forest visitor centre. "But this is fascinating!" I told her in my best enthusiastic mother voice, as she tugged at my sleeve and whined about going for a picnic. "Don't you think? What's not to like about a handsome and charismatic man in an open necked shirt a well researched and entertainingly-presented explanation of medieval science?"

There's a serious problem with souvenir tackiness around the myth of Robin Hood. I know souvenirs tend towards the tacky, but still. It's worse than that. I'm willing to forgive some of this, because the myth has origins in medieval times, and I remember from my medieval literature lectures a good deal of chatter about testicles and bare bottoms hanging out of windows, so, you know, it wasn't a particularly classy period. But that doesn't excuse the colouring sheet given to my children at Nottingham Castle.

There were things on offer for adults that couldn't be excused either. They made Errol Flynn look like high art.

In fact, I was becoming concerned that I would have nothing to sum up my stay in the area (apart from, you know, a load of photos of old trees and some lechery). But then the day before we came home, we dropped into Strays bookshop and cafe for a drink. And there it was.

See that? A leaf drawn on the top of my latte.

It's as if Herne the Hunter personally wanted to make me happy.


  1. NOw, if I could block out the image of Errol Flynn in tights, you'd have a set of photos there that might just possibly keep a smile on my face all day.

    Have you rewatched Robin of Sherwood? I bought it on video some years back (heaven knows where that tape is now) and it was not quite as wonderful as I remembered it. Turning down the sound and just gazing at the screen did improve it somewhat ;-)

  2. Ah, Michael Praed. The memories, the Saturday nights, the adolescent day dreams of forest-bound activities. '...the hooded mannnnnnn...'.

    I was just trying to remember if Errol's particular jaunty Robin Hood theme tune mentioned tights. I was wrong though, that was Wonderwoman ('in her satin tights, fighting for her rights..'). I shall disappear now, I have mislaid my golden lassoo

  3. What are you talking about? Errol Flynn was HAWT.

  4. My children got hooked on the recent BBC tv series of Robin Hood. It made me want to throw up/throw things at the tv. The apparently 14-year old bloke with a vaguely Mockney accent just could not hold a candle to Michael Praed.

  5. If she was originally French, and also a man ... does that make her Marion La Rue? x

  6. Haha that post made me laugh!!!!

  7. Ohhwoh I have today found your blog via Notes From the Trenches; your blog and have without hesitation put you on my morning sanity read... - it was when my coffee managed to find its way into my nasal cavity and reappear out an orifice which it did not enter due to snorting with laughter. Snort is perhaps too polite a description..Love your writing; men in tights, nothing quite like it to start ones day!
    New Fan in New Zealand

  8. Re: comment above - I can't proof read or give correct info! I found you at Friday Playdate. Another great blog and writer - credit where due and all!

  9. I like your style. I found you via The Sight of Morning and am working my way backwards snickering quietly.

  10. Are you me? I LOVED that Robin of Sherwood series in the early 80's. Nothing else comes close. And Nasir.....oh my, the dreams I had of him are not for a family site.

    and John Simm in the Devil's Whore - ditto!

    You are in my head and I am scared.


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