On Tom Pickard

August Kleinzahler

In June 2002, Tom Pickard moved into a cramped attic in the Hartside Café in Cumbria, perched on Fiends Fell, six miles from Alston, where Pickard had been living. The café sits at the high point of the road between Penrith and Alston, one of the few trans-Pennine roads. At just below two thousand feet it was the highest café in England, and felt like the windiest. The escarpment falls away precipitously to the Eden Valley, facing ‘the mountains of the Lake District and sometimes when the sun is angled appropriately one of the lakes is visible and I can see where Coleridge and Wordsworth walked. Or if I look to the north, across the Solway Firth some fifty miles away, I can see hills that Burns, Hogg and Walter Scott would have known.’ It is also from the west the prevailing weather comes ‘unhindered … like Thor’s fucking hammer’. Pickard holed up at the café for the next ten years. In March this year, a few months after his book appeared, the building burned down.

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