Northside - Andrew Martin ejects Robin Hood from his car

Robin Hood, lemon curd and Nottingham: it's enough to make you sick

When I was nine, I had a nightmare in which I was going out of control on a bike. I was very aware in the dream of having eaten too much lemon curd, which I actually had that day, and a song throbbed away in my head: "Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen, Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men, feared by the bad, loved by the good . . ." and so on. The song became louder and louder and faster and faster, as I careered towards a violent denouement.

In fact, I was spared the moment of impact, as you are in dreams, but as soon as I woke up I was sick over my eiderdown.

I have never eaten lemon curd since that day. Another after-effect - and I know he's a good socialist and all that - is that I've never been very keen on Robin Hood or, by extension, his "manor" of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

I admit that my main experience of the county comes from driving north through what is poignantly billed as the remnants of Sherwood Forest, which looks to me like a lightly wooded lay-by. I also admit that I have only been to Nottingham once, to write an article on the Nottingham Ghost Hunting Society, who took me off to a haunted house in the country. No spectre materialised and I, having been rather banking on the known laws of the universe being broken, became so worried about how to make the piece work that I lay awake all night in the Nottingham Hilton.

The main bugbear, though, was that irritatingly sprightly bloke in green tights. When my sons were toddlers, I bought them a Ladybird version of the tale, and they, like me, were puzzled by Robin's definition of two men thwacking each other over the heads with quarterstaffs as "friendly", and the frequency with which the Merry Men "roared with laughter" when nothing funny was being said.

What this is leading up to is that, two weeks ago, we were all motoring up to York and my wife produced a tape she'd bought in an Oxfam shop called The Adventures of Robin Hood. It was a vivid performance by an American company, with quasi-Shakespearean language. The boys seemed to be enjoying the tape, but towards the end it entered unfamiliar territory. Having been pardoned and enriched by King Richard, Robin returns to Sherwood Forest for a comeback. He falls ill, however, and is taken to a nunnery, where he is bled by a nun who deliberately cuts too deep into his vein. Robin then starts slowly bleeding to death - and I, driving at around 80mph, began to faint. On the very brink of losing control, I simultaneously pulled over to the hard shoulder and ejected the cassette, first from the cassette player, then from the car. And there, I guess, it still lies, by the side of the M1, not far north of Nottingham.

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