December 3


As a kid I wanted to be a cowboy. At first, it was The Lone Ranger. He was very saintly, had a very dapper (so I thought at the age of 6 or 7) outfit, the mask, and a splendid horse. LoneJessharper When I was a little older I became more enamoured of the rough-edged outsider type, and my hero worship went to Jess Harper, of the 'Laramie' TV series. The reformed gunman kind of a guy, his old ways always threatening to come to the surface, especially if somebody really bad and obnoxious irked him. A part of me still wants to be a cowboy, I think, particularly if it means being something I’m definitely not. But did I want to be like them, or to actually be them? It's a good question. Whatever the answer, and I'm not at all sure I know even now what it might be, the fact is that now the cowboy I’d have to be would not be a nicely kitted out dude, but one of the more realistic somewhat scruffily suited maybe even broken bowler or top- hatted types who rarely shave or wash because this is the real old West and welcome to what was the real world and perhaps even still is.

The West of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” is that West. On the way home from watching the movie, Tim and I discussed where in film history the wardrobe of these chaps changed. It’s not a very serious point, but I’m curious, nonetheless. The chaps in 'Bonanza' were always so well turned out, weren’t they?

Anyways, all I really want to get to saying here is that “The Assassination…… ” is a remarkably fine film. When I discovered it was 2 hours and 40 minutes long, I Jessejames2Jessejames hesitated about going to see it, because that long in a cinema can mean two things: an hour too much, and an aching back. But this was more than ok. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful, wonderfully played very long film. If you’ve read the reviews you’ll know that it’s all about hero worship and the craziness of the worshipped and the worshipper. Brad Pitt as Jesse James and Casey Affleck as Robert Ford are both convincingly scary and psychotic in their separate ways. It’s in their eyes, and a few other places, too. And the country, wherever it was shot, is spectacular, and often snow-covered. There’s an almost elegiac quality about the whole thing, in its pace and consideration, except the film knows there's not really anything to be elegaic about. Watching it, one can’t help but sense you’re in the presence of an especially well-achieved piece of art. And art it is, and artifice. Which is ok. Like the best art, it’s made by a brain or brains that knew what they were about, and expects the audience to have usable brains too.



December 7


A missing poet who reappeared on Saturday after five years and who had been officially declared dead has been arrested on suspicion of depressing lots of readers of poetry after photographs were published apparently showing him at a poetry workshop in Panama last year. Jeremy Twill was arrested in Bestwood, near Nottingham, where he was staying at the home of his son Wayne, 29.

In the photograph here, Twill is (allegedly) the chap with his back to you, although that could be a woman.

Shop2E&D sources tonight claimed that novelist Fantasia Twill had confessed to knowing her husband was half-alive during the five years he had been presumed dead.

Twill, from heaven knows where, walked into a London police station on Saturday appearing tanned and claiming to be a missing poet who had lost his memory. He couldn’t remember when he’d lost it, but it had definitely gone missing.

Mrs Twill, who sold her home in Felixstowe, Suffolk, and moved to Panama around six weeks ago, broke down as she told reporters in the Central American republic that her life had become a "nightmare with knobs on".

She confirmed that the picture did show her husband, who was officially declared thankfully dead in 2003.

Yesterday, Mr Twill was arrested. Detectives investigating the case said they would examine the validity of the pictures. But they said they had no immediate plans to travel to Panama, "because it's a long way away."

Twill walked into a London police station on Saturday and announced: "I think I am a missing poet."

He was declared thankfully dead after his disappearance in March 2002 during a trip to a poetry adventure weekend at the Arvon Foundation in Devon.

Mrs Twill, 55, claimed she had initially thought her husband had more or less died in the poetry adventure, because “those things can be pretty fucking hazardous”, but realised he was still alive when he got in touch "years later".

Mr Twill was held at a Nottingham police station overnight and will be questioned later.

Nottinghamshire Police, who are leading the investigation, said they would be examining photographs that allegedly show Twill at the poetry workshop in Panama City in July 2006.

Detective Superintendent Armitage said: "That is one line of inquiry we will be following." But he added: "Photographs can be doctored."

Armitage said police had no immediate plans to extradite Fantasia Twill or to travel to Panama to interview her. “It’s a long way away,” he said.

Shop1(The photo here shows Twill at a poetry workshop in Iowa in 19 something or other. He's the one who looks stupid.)

Armitage said Twill's reappearance had "raised a lot of literary questions, not least that one about the death of the author." He said: "We needed to speak to Jeremy Twill - clearly it's only right and proper that we spoke to him under caution. He’s a poet after all, and we all know what that means." He confirmed that Twill would be medically examined, inside and out. "He may have been suffering from amnesia or some other mental stuff for five and half years," he said. “Perhaps even for longer. Also we think it will be fun.”

Armitage made a public appeal for information, telling reporters: "We want to piece together exactly where he's been since he went missing in 2002. Also, while we’ve got him, we wouldn’t mind him explaining what his poems mean."

Asked whether the investigation was being led by poets, Armitage said poets and writers had more "latitude" than the police, and added: "Poets have certainly been providing us with a lot of information."

Armitage confirmed that the police had been told of a possible poetry link between Twill and Panama three months ago. Panama is widely recognised as the poetry capital of Central America.

Fantasia Twill yesterday told reporters she had believed her husband half-dead and had claimed in "good faith" on his half-life insurance. She was, she said, “busy putting together a volume of his collected poems. I’m up to page 2,309.”

She moved to Panama six weeks ago after selling the couple's caravan, but has now said she hopes to fly back to Britain to see her husband.

The poet’s readers appeared to disown him, issuing a statement which talked of their "anger and confusion" at the news. Mr Twill's publisher, Dorothy, 91, spoke of feeling "betrayed".

"In the short space of time following Twill’s appearance in London on Saturday, we have gone through a rollercoaster of emotion," said readers Toby Todd, 31, and Quentin Queue, 29. "There we were thinking, quite happily, that we’d read all the poems he’d ever written, and then suddenly we find he’s still alive. This must mean more Twill poems. Jesus! It’s difficult to come to terms with and we both have serious headaches. He must be breaking some kind of law, mustn’t he?”



December 10



First there's missing dead poets turning up alive and well, and even canoeists surviving death, and now there's this, and I'm wondering more than ever before why bother to write poems when real people can come up with this kind of stuff. ......



December 12


This week some people have been to see Led Zeppelin, a musical combo from way back.

Others have seen The Verve, another outfit from earlier times.

MerekatzMe, I’ve been to see Merekatz. This is my ticket.You’ll see it is number 5. There were other people there but I’m not sure anyone has a ticket in double figures. This was poetry, after all. Actually, “a beatnik cabaret”, which sounds even worse, but I’m not sure there was anything very beatnik about it.

Merekatz is three poets. At least it was three last night. It might be fewer than that now. (Or more!) They are my old Ipswich buddies Rupert Mallin, Keith Dersley and John Row. Dersley plays guitar and sings. Mallin and Row perform their poems. Why the hell Dersley doesn’t do his own poems I have no idea. (Well, I do know, but this is not the time to go into whether or not there is any demand for poetry.) Violin is provided by Dersley’s better other half, Joan. A lady whose name I’ve completely forgotten also pitches in to, er, sing three self-penned songs, one of which is about psoriasis.

Norwich is  nice.

Picture_025Oh, I took some photos of the gig. They are not very good because I am not very good at taking photos so I'm not putting them on here. But this is the band after the show.

From left to right it's song stress, Joan, Dersley, Row and Mr. Mallin.

After the show, everybody else having scooted off back to Ipswich and/or home, Rupert and I shuffled into a local Indian restaurant and had a very late supper before going back to the Station Hotel, a bed & breakfast that was worth all of it's £39 per room.

This was the funniest evening I've had for a long time. I know it doesn't sound like it, but it was. I keep meaning to ask Rupert why he had to keep nipping out to the toilet every time the lady singer was half way through a song. I think he must have had the hiccups or something.



December 18


A poem by Nigel Pickard


We are lying
alone. Reaching out,

there is somebody
who used to be

somebody. How is it
that you are

no longer
here? The room is sunk.

Dawn. Clouds forge.
It is darker now

than an hour
ago. Tell me

what this is for,

© Nigel Pickard, 2007



December 21


Here is my Christmas present to you. If you’re into music, that is. If you’re not, please simply accept my best wishes and move on.

Pandora_2 If you go here you’ll find what boils down to being your own radio station, designed to suit your own musical tastes, with the bonus of there being no DJ.  All you do is type in a band or musician you like, and the website streams something of theirs’ and then music of a similar type, free and endlessly.

It sounds like it could be naff, but I’ve tried it and it works. I keyed in “The Postal Service” and for the next hour or so until I went and did something else I got stuff I really liked, some of which I had heard before, and even have, but most of which I hadn’t. I then tried it with another band, The Dirty Three, and it was great. So you hear music you like, and also discover bands and singers you’ve never heard of. It can’t be bad.

Like I said, it’s all free. Because it’s supposed to be listened to in the USA only (which, given that it’s the internet, seems like a ludicrous notion) they ask you for a US zip code when you register. That’s not difficult to do. After that, away you go……

I’m afraid I don’t have a poetry equivalent of this to offer.

And that’s it for 2007. No more posts here until 2008. Happy New Year and so on and so forth.

Be strong.
It’s a wonderful world, apparently.

UPDATE, 8th January:

I've just heard that Pandora is going to stop streaming to the UK from January 15th for legal, licensing reasons. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.