Inside this month: All hail the turd-polishers: yours truly and Robin Hood


You can put turd polisher on my gravestone if you like – either that or editor.

Although knowing my luck at the Copenhagen Post, the engraver will misplace a comma somehow. “Here lies Ben Hamilton: father, son, editor, turd polisher off, key commentator.” Nah, the ignominy of spending an eternity bowed in shame over a typo seals it – I’m definitely getting cremated.

When it comes to turd polishing, though, I can’t compete with Robin Hood (see G3 for details of the CTC pantomime). Think about it! Before he turned up, the men of Sherwood Forest were just a motley crew who stole indiscriminately.

They enjoyed robbing, but ultimately had low esteem. You only have to look at their names: Little, Much … one of them’s even called Bland.

A forest fraught with peril
But then Robin came along with his PR, and suddenly they’re stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. “You’ll be folk heroes and remembered for all time,” Robin told them. “Besides, what are you going to spend your loot on? Machine gun turrets for your mansion à la Scarface. A grotto to demaid Marion?” No longer a motley crew, they became the merry men.

Still, Robin couldn’t solve the problem of sleeping in a damp forest and waking up surrounded by deer droppings and the remains of Friar Tuck’s Ploughman’s lunch. The novelty of watching a group of men, however merry, sleeping in their own shit soon wears off, which explains why we rarely see them do much more than rob a few people, win an archery competition, save a noblewoman (normally more than once) and randomly run into some Crusaders disguised as monks (you try riding across the Holy Land and through Europe in chainmail under a habit – it can get pretty hot in there).

And the forest problems don’t end there. They can be impenetrable to a point, but only eternally if you’re nine years old. If the merry men have a permanent base, how long is it going to take some professional soldiers to find it? And why oh why do all the nobs keep on riding through it? “Sire, the road through Sherwood is two leagues shorter, but it’s fraught with peril” – “Err, I think we’ll take the scenic route.”

Problematic depictions
The only depiction that has ever come close to doing the story justice is the British mid-1980s series Robin of Sherwood, which is well worth checking out, if only for the theme music. Even if it did scrape the barrel for storylines, it kept the crew small (just six), it’s well acted (Ray Winstone plays a complicated, often violent Will Scarlet and the villains are good) and has a semblance of its era, even if the two Robins (yes two) do have New Romantic hairstyles.

But at least they don’t have the Rudi Voller 1990 World Cup mullet favoured by Kevin Costner in his laughable take on the hero. Did you know that the writer of this farce (as a comedy, it’s way better than Men in Tights) originally gave Morgan Freeman’s character the same name and background as the Saracen in Robin of Sherwood, only to discover that ‘Nasir’ was completely made up for that series. They quickly rewrote it to avoid copyright issues.

And what the hell is Christian Slater doing in that movie. He wanders around like someone who’s never been in a forest before, which is ironic given how wooden his performance is. He is so unashamedly American he might as well be wearing a baseball cap. They even wrote it into the plot that the Yanks were half-brothers – all the way from Brooklyn.

Classics are essentially timeless
Sadly most Robin Hood depictions quickly become dated. Instead of recalling the late 12th century, they’re reminiscent of the decade they were made in. A Christmas Carol (G13) has never had that problem on celluloid, although if I had to choose, it would be Alastair Sim’s 1951 version over Albert Finney in the 1970 musical.

And who knows, maybe we’ll one day acclaim the timeless quality of comedian Margaret Cho (G10 – unlikely, I would imagine), The Big Lebowski (G11) – while Generation X had This is Spinal Tap, this is Generation Y’s turn-to stonehead movie – and Debbie Sledge (G6) who has reinvented herself as a jazz diva and is playing countless concerts in December.

See ‘em and put ‘em on your gravestone – or as it’s known these days: Facebook. It’s where turd-polishing is all the rage.

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