Writing as someone weaned on the thrilling 1930s Errol Flynn version of the Robin Hood legend (it seemed to be on TV every Sunday afternoon throughout my formative years), I have to say that the latest incarnation of the socially responsible outlaw is pretty disappointing.

I can only imagine Louis Walsh was the casting director for the new BBC Saturday teatime series based on the character, as lead actor, diddy Jonas Armstrong, looks more like a fugitive from Westlife rather than from the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Meanwhile, Maid Marian, as personified by the rather too luscious Lucy Griffiths, looks as if she'd be happier lip- synching with the Sugarbabes. Just where she managed to find to all that eyeliner in medieval Sherwood Forest is a complete mystery to me.

I'm all for updating history to make it accessible for a new generation, but even I can spot that this version has been created by a focus group determined to appeal to the teenagers who are probably already hooked on The X Factor, playing at around the same time on Saturdays over on ITV1.

I certainly can't imagine this weedy little Robin, with his quite astonishingly bad haircut, taking on the likes of dastardly Basil Rathbone in a one-on-one swordfight. But I can definitely imagine him miming in the line-up of a badly choreographed boy band - or maybe sitting on Sharon Osborne's lap.

Actually, it's been a difficult week all round for Robin of Locksley. Not only is he currently personified by someone with less sex appeal than a minor hobbit, but I also learned from Radio 4's Today programme that some academics now think that he was probably Welsh!

It was bad enough when Kevin Costner played the character with an accent straight out of Ohio, (although I still cherish the scene from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves when the hero is shipwrecked beneath the white cliffs of Dover and utters the immortal line: "Come friends, we shall dine in my father's castle at Nottingham by nightfall.") But surely everyone knows that the real Robin Hood was Tasmanian? Let's face it, no one ever filled a pair of Lincoln green Pretty Polly tights like dashing Errol Flynn.

Still, it's not all bad news on BBC 1 at the moment. I have to say anyone calling Maison Cain at 9pm on a Monday evening has to leave a message on our answerphone because I like to make sure my enjoyment of Spooks is completely unadulterated.

I'm not alone, apparently. Such is the popularity of this stylish spy soap opera that recruitment at MI5 is currently at an all-time high with hundreds of applicants contacting the secret service careers office about vacancies - which is odd because I always thought that they contacted you.

When I was at university, one of my friends (a gifted language student) was invited, through her tutor, to attend a meeting in London with a view to the possibility of "doing some translation work".

It was only when she arrived at the interview somewhere in the depths of Whitehall and was asked some extremely peculiar and personal questions that she realised that job in question was rather more challenging than the dusty academic translation work she'd been expecting.

She was told that she was "ideal" for the role in question because her appearance was "absolutely average" - which didn't exactly go down too well and was one of the (many) reasons she turned down this interesting offer.

It's the nearest I've ever come to the world of James Bond and just goes to show that real spooks are probably not quite as glamorous as the ones appearing on TV every Monday night. I'm sure that most female readers will agree that if they ever met actor Rupert Penry -Jones, they could certainly pick him out again in an identity parade!

Just for the record, I'd be a rubbish spook. Not only am I memorably short, but last year when I "pressed the red button" and took the programme's light-hearted digital aftershow test to assess my own suitability as spy material, I did so badly in the preliminary introductory section that I didn't even make it through to the basic grade. The virtual spookmeister, Harry, was "very disappointed to have to turn me down". Then again, I couldn't really take him seriously as, even during the most exciting episodes of Spooks, I can't entirely expunge the image of actor Peter Firth as one of the Double Deckers, circa 1969, from my memory.

Finally, while on the subject of my academic prowess, I am able to offer absolute proof that, far from being dumbed down or easier, the mathematics learned by young people today is far in advance of anything I've ever been capable of.

As someone who is partially self-employed, one of the horrors lurking on my horizon this year is the prospect of having to fill in an online self-assessment income tax form. When I found out that my local Inland Revenue office ran a short course to help people like me, I immediately signed up.

So it came to pass that last Thursday morning I found myself among a group of thrusting young entrepreneurs (plumbers, electricians, mobile nail technicians, etc) all eager to learn more about the arcane world of self assessment.

This included several short arithmetic exercises and simple problems, which they all tackled with easeful aplomb.

Unfortunately, I had a nasty flashback to my second year maths lessons at Westfield School where my teacher, a woman who made Dickens' Wackford Squeers look like the pattern of compassion, reduced me to the equivalent of a human jellyfish at every available opportunity.

My mind went totally blank and I began to panic. There's something truly humiliating about being the only person in a room full of under-25s absolutely incapable of filling in an expenses claim correctly.

At the end of the seminar (led by a very understanding and helpful woman who was nothing like my sadistic maths teacher), we were asked to briefly summarise the most valuable thing we had learned in the course of the morning.

For me, this was the fact that in the near future I shall be employing an accountant.