In 1976, when I was just two years older than my ten-year old daughter Scarlett is now, one of the best Robin Hood films ever was released – Richard Lester’s truly excellent ROBIN AND MARIAN, starring Sean Connery as Robin and Audrey Hepburn as Marian. It may not be one of the most famous Robin Hood movies but for me it absolutely deserves to be called a classic.
Why do I mention this? Well as I said, it’s a great film, if a little sad. It doesn’t deal with a youthful and energetic Robin heroically swinging off chandeliers and acrobatically sword-fighting, a seemingly never-ending stream of identical guards, before wooing and winning a young and adoring Maid Marian. No, this film deals with an ageing and tired Robin, battle (and world) weary having returned from one of King Richard’s crusades and to find his world has changed.

In (and because of) his absence, Marian has entered a convent and become a nun, his old enemy the Sheriff is still in charge and sadly Robin is older, slower and (eventually) badly wounded. It ends, unlike all other Robin Hood movies, like the end of the original medieval tales – with Robin on his death-bed, shooting his final arrow and asking to be buried where it lands*.

It’s a very poignant scene and makes watching the movie it a very memorable experience.

Sean Connery was forty-five years old when he was making this timeless ‘old Robin Hood who dies at the end’ movie.

I’m sixty in (as I write this) ten days time.

That’s FIFTEEN YEARS older than ‘old Robin Hood’.

Does that matter? Sixty isn’t old (unless you ask ten-year old Scarlett, in which case it’s ‘ancient’) and this year also marks much more significant birthdays for my wonderful mother-in law Joy and indeed my birth Mum – happy birthday wishes to them both! So maybe ‘sixty is the new thirty’, right?** Admittedly in my head although I feel about twenty-five with the sense of humour of a twelve-year old – sometimes my body feels like it fought in the Civil War***!

I did an interview on Times Radio a couple off weeks ago in a slot called ‘Odd Jobs’ (other interviewees over time have included a professional hugger, an oil rig boat pilot and a fashion ‘colour consultant’) and the interviewer asked me if Robin Hood-ing wasn’t ‘a game for a younger man’ (and also asked why I had long hair – but thankfully didn’t ask if I dyed it these days****)!

So, what’s all this got to do with Beeston, I hear you ask? And why so many asterisks?*****

It got me thinking – is younger better? Serious question. Beeston keeps changing. New people and new buildings. Students. Lots of students, significantly changing the town’s demographic both in terms of shops and of course changes in accommodation. New flats and new building conversions everywhere – and with them, more things for Young People™ – cafés, an ice-cream parlour and the cinema, most obviously.

In fact if it wasn’t for all the vape shops too I’d wonder if we’re in some Beestonian version of 1950’s America – maybe someone should write an NG9 version of AMERICAN GRAFITTI, presumably called ‘BEESTON MURALS’ or a GREASE-style musical where a group of youngsters sing about souping up an electric scooter…

Beeston has changed a lot in sixty years. The Square was a road. There were banks. There was the Beeston Lads’ Club. The Boer War Memorial was still at the entrance to Broadgate Park. There was flooding on Station Road. We had Fine Fare, Plessey (Erissons) and public toilets – although to be fair we also had two cinemas; one of which was where the Queens Road Co-op is now and the other was very close to the big Priory Island petrol station. The latter subsequently became a short-lived indoor skate park skate where on my first and only visit there I broke my arm… but that’s another story.

Is change bad? Sometimes I like the idea of things being familiar and comfortable but I also love the idea of progress, new experiences and the vitality of change. If I miss some aspects of the past (and of course sometimes I really, really do) I can also share in the enthusiasm Scarlett has for life and for Beeston – and although it’s highly unlikely I’ll be there to see it when she’s sixty (in 2074!)

I wonder what Beeston will look like… will it have flying cars, people in silver suits and vast BLADE RUNNER-style hologram adverts – or even a shoe shop? Will the council finally have dealt with the Somme-like mess that are our horribly pot-holed roads (or is that the reason everyone  starts using flying cars instead)? Or will I be thinking “I’m one hundred and ten years old… maybe I should think about stopping dressing up as Robin Hood now”?

Time, as they say, will tell…

*And is thus embarrassing buried on top of the wardrobe…


*** The proper English one, not the significantly more recent American one. Or ‘the first American one’, as we may well be calling it soon.

**** Yes. Yes I do.
***** I just like them, OK? Plus, and very importantly, ‘****’ looks like it could be a rude word!