Who, her? What I would like to see for the twelfth Doctor.

Some news you have probably already heard: Matt Smith is hanging up his bow tie for good sometime soon and ceasing being the Doctor. And you know that means? Regeneration and plenty of press speculation about who will be the next Doctor. The question being asked by many is will the Doctor have a sex change and be played by a female. I’ve had some thoughts and have decided to share them with you all today.

When I was little “my” Doctor was Sylvester McCoy.

This guy

This guy

He was the doctor from 1987–89 and came back to show his regeneration into Paul McGann after the series was cancelled and the movie was made. He was something of a bumbling idiot at first, making pratfalls and basically being a bit of a loser, but still kept the Doctors intelligence and knowledge. I don’t really remember him having been born 2 twos prior to the start of his tenure, but my parents watched repeats a lot so I did see my fair share of him. To be honest I was not overly bothered by the Doctor. He seemed like a grown up and as a small child I didn’t identify with that. I did get a desire for the Doctor to come and find me, invite me on the TARDIS and take me travelling through space and time. I still dream about it now.

So the Doctor was to me like the fun uncle who comes to collect you to take you on the adventures your parents wouldn’t, in which case the companion was the one I identified with. For me that was this girl…


Dorothy "Ace" McShane

Dorothy “Ace” McShane

This companion was aptly named, for she was truly ace! From her Wikipedia entry: “Ace is a 16-year-old who first appears in the 1987 serial Dragonfire, where she is working as a waitress in the frozen food retail complex of Iceworld on the planet Svartos. She had been a troubled teen on Earth, having been expelled from school for blowing up the art room as a “creative statement”. Gifted in chemistry (despite failing it for her A-levels), she was in her room experimenting with the extraction of nitroglycerin from gelignite when a time storm swept her up and transported her to Iceworld, and far in her future. There, she meets the Doctor and his companion Mel. When Mel leaves the Doctor at the conclusion of the serial, he offers to take Ace with him in the TARDIS, and she happily accepts.”

Ok, did you read that? Read it again! She was doing chemistry experiments in her room when she was whisked away in a time storm until the Doctor met her. She’s proper tough-girl nerd! She was great to watch as a young girl and she and the 7th Doctor had a relationship not unlike Harry and Dumbledore; the Doctor used the opportunity of her travelling with him to educate her about the universe and the history of earth, yet their friendship was strained at times by his manipulation of people and events. There was no love story, just an old man and his friend travelling the universe.

My point is that the Doctor has never been a role model to young women and girls. He’s a man. He can be something we aspire to find in the opposite sex, but we will never be like him. We can aspire to be like the companions at the moment, but the offering so far has been paltry. Rose Tyler loved the Doctor, Martha Jones loved the Doctor unrequitedly, Donna Noble did some amazing things as the Doctors friend and companion but had to have her memory erased rendering everything null and void. Amy Pond loved Rory and was best friends with her Raggedy Man, which was nice, but her storylines involved marriage and pregnancy. Granted perhaps Clara might be better, but I found the series flagged so badly at the end of Amy and Rorys run that I couldn’t be bothered with the next. I’d like to watch it again and watch it with my children and I’d like for there to be a good female role model for my daughter. It would be  nice if the Doctor could be a woman so that my girl can look up and see herself wielding the sonic screwdriver and, well I was going to say steering the TARDIS, but you know what I mean. Failing that can we maybe have a companion who isn’t gaga over the Doctor. Maybe one of an age closer to Donna or River Song? Maybe one who can be clever and quick, but not equally vapid and girly to counteract it. Can we maybe have a male companion who is not a tag along boyfriend of the primary companion?  There have been male companions in the past who have been much beloved and very successful. Love stories, while they have their place in the world, can be kind of boring. Certainly they are boring to children my daughters age. Lets have some mates bombing around the universe with the Doctor, preferably an old and grumpy one rather than the current young, manic and sexy ones. A female Doctor would be nice. A Doctor of colour would be pretty good, too.

Basically it would be nice to see a change of pace to liven up a somewhat stagnant formula.

And more Neil Gaiman penned episodes. In fact, lets just replace Stephen “sexist jokes are always funny, right?” Moffat with Neil.

I’m not going to Gavel! today because I’m in two minds about it. I think I’d be happy with either and I’m certainly going to be watching to see who appears out of Elevens regeneration. I’m going to put it to you Discussers instead: do you think we should have a female Doctor or another male?












Cookery Corner: Cidery Cheeseburgers with a Warm Salad

Happy bank holiday everyone in England! I hope you lovely Discussers have had a great time. We didn’t do all that much, but for today I did rustle up some home made burgers and a warm salad for tea. We don’t have a barbecue so it was all cooked on the cooker, but even so it was a good meal.

I’m funny about burgers. I love them, but I’m fussy about them. For me a burger needs to be a rustic affair; I can’t stand uniform pressed burgers and in this area of eating I can’t stomach frozen/re-heated ones. I always make my burgers from scratch.

023  It starts with a pack of mince; use your judgement for the amount you’ll need to feed the people in your party. Mix it with whatever you want to flavour it and anything goes– I’ve used mushroom pate before now! Today I mixed in a good sprinkling of Italian herbs, some garlic and a generous glug (or three) of Magners Irish Cider. Other varieties of cider are available, but personally I don’t much care for these sub-par ciders! Add to the mix an egg to bind the stuff all together and then dig in. Remember to remove any rings or you might end up with a greasy ring and I’m telling you now that nobody wants one of those. The image to the left is of the meat concoction once I was satisfied that everything was mixed and that the meat was suitable tender.


Next, form the meat into patties. Fun fact: the patties will shrink during the cooking process so aim to make your uncooked patty larger than the burger bun or you’ll wind up with a wonky looking burger! I make my patties by rolling the meat into a ball then placing it on a floured surface and pressing the heel of my hand onto the meat. I owned a burger press once, but your hand will do just as nicely. I then put the patties on a plate with greaseproof paper on top and chilled them in the fridge. The longer you chill the better, but today I started late so the patties only got half an hour (and that’s pretty long for me!) so its not crucial. Just be gentle with them when you flip them, kay?

My husband, Tony, is very much a no-salad guy. He’ll eat it if he has to, in other words, if he feels that whoever lovingly prepared it will be offended if it’s left uneaten. In a flash of inspiration once upon a time, I decided to make a warm salad. It’s nothing fancy, just peppers and mushrooms softened in garlicy butter over a low heat, then served atop of a bed of lettuce leaves. Easy peasy and Tony loves it. So, while my burgers were chilling in the fridge I did just what I mentioned above.

031 028 I tend to cook the burgers and the salad at the same time as the veg doesn’t take long and I like pinkish burgers. I made two much smaller and thinner burgers for the little Gavellors so they were cooked more thoroughly and quicker, leaving them time to cool before serving them. I had requests for cheese, so I sliced up some cheddar with herbs and laid it over the cooking patties so that the cheese melts into the meat properly–I hate the idea of cold cheese on a hot burger.

I made some potato wedges to go with the rest of the food, or rather I heated some frozen ones up. I do fancy having a go at making my own, but today was a lovely sunny day and we spent most of the afternoon in the garden instead helping my son garden, read: cover themselves in soil and bang pots together, while my daughter helped her dad clear out the shed and ride her bike. Frankly there are more exciting things to do than make everything from scratch, but we enjoyed the bits I did do! Now you can enjoy the picture below. So I hope you all put your bank holiday to good use, because we’ve got ages now until the next one in August, although I always enjoy that one as my birthday happens during that week and Ali Gaveller and I have exciting plans for that week. For now though: burger.


Reducing Pregnant Women to Fibbing Children; Why The Smoking Tests at Antenatal Appointments are a Really Bad Idea

It’s been a while now since I had a baby. My youngest is now 13 months old, but I remember all the antenatal appointments during the times that I was pregnant. I had 3 booking in appointments in my time due to the fact that I miscarried at between children. All three appointments were brilliant: relaxed, informative, friendly. I really felt like I connected with my midwife even though it was a different one each time. Trust was established. I felt that I could call any of these women whenever I felt like I needed some support or had any queries. I left the appointments buoyed up with glee and only some of that was pregnancy bloating.

Were I to get pregnant this year and go to a booking in appointment, I have learned, I would be expected to perform a breath test designed to monitor carbon monoxide levels. I would refuse and I’m not the only one.

I am not a smoker, never have been and never intend to be. I was asked at each appointment whether I smoked and explained, as I just have, that I don’t. Tick. Done. Apparently it turns out that pregnant women can’t be trusted. The purported aim of this test is to offer advice and help for the expectant mother to quit smoking, but if the woman wants to quit smoking she will ask for these things. In truth this is designed to root out the liars and badger them until they quit. This quote from NICE explains their reasoning:

“Some pregnant women find it difficult to say that they smoke because the pressure not to smoke during pregnancy is so intense,” 

What’s that now? Some pregnant women find it hard to admit that they smoke because of societal pressures against smoking while pregnant? Well then I’m sure an ordered breath test will make them feel nice and relaxed and ready to talk about quitting.

Look, its not good to smoke during pregnancy. There are a multitude of reasons why smoking is bad for you regardless, and during pregnancy its especially not good for the foetus. If you are pregnant not only is it better if you quit, but surrounding folks ought to as well. I’m looking at you, fathers-to-be. But ultimately it comes down to your body, your choice. If you are a pregnant woman your rights as a human come first. I respect your choice because I’m a decent human being.

The point of the booking in appointment is to fill out the start of the blue folder (in my Trust the folder is blue) and to get onto the system as a being with child. The appointment usually lasts an hour and you can ask questions, find out valuable information and get to know the department who you will know over the next months. I’ve said it before: its about trust. You can’t have trust if you listen to a woman tell you that no she doesn’t smoke and then you insist upon a breath test to make sure she’s not lying. You just can’t. And that’s a bad thing. For women like me, the baby in your uterus will be much wanted. You’ll be happy and excited and want to feel validated for that feeling. Millions of women get pregnant every day, but (especially for your first) you want to feel the most special. You also want to establish that trust thing I keep harping on about.

For women like me in my 3rd pregnancy you have one child, have miscarried once and you’re pregnant again. You are scared. Due to the midwife being sick you are having your booking in appointment at 11 weeks instead of 8. You’ve already had some spotting in this pregnancy and spent some time in A&E thanks to that. You’re scared. Your much wanted second child might not ever become a child. You want to get the booking done so that you can go to the scan booked that afternoon, where it turns out the foetus did not make it past 8 weeks. Once again you answer no to the smoking question. Just imagine if at that moment your midwife insists on a breath test. You’re fragile and vulnerable and suddenly the person claiming to be there for you is treating you like a sneaky liar. Fuck that shit.

For some women, if we want to look at the possible worst case scenario, they are not there because they are having a much wanted baby with a man they love. Let’s imagine the case for hundreds of women in the country. She is pregnant by a man who scares her. She is isolated from her family and her friends have been steadily eroded from her life. She literally feels trapped and being permitted to go to a booking in appointment is about it in terms of freedom. The midwife is a friendly face who is there for advice and support in pregnancy, but she brings up domestic abuse, too. The pregnant woman suddenly has a little spark of hope. Maybe she doesn’t bring it up then, but as the relationship between mother-to-be and midwife grows so does the trust and one day she speaks out. Except that when the pregnant woman says she doesn’t smoke, the midwife brandishes a Breathalyzer  The mother-to-be is snubbed; she is not believed when she says she’s a non-smoker so why the hell would she be believed if she said “my husband hurts me”? Trust is broken right at the start and it’s impossible to build up again.

I can’t see a way in which this test is OK.  Perhaps the end result might be that the mother-to-be quits smoking, but if she truly wanted to quit she would bring it up at the relevent time, right? And if the mother-to-be quits but the father-to-be or anyone else living at the family home does not, then was it worth it? Second hand smoke in a persons home is almost as bad at direct smoke. But wait a second…no-one is suggesting breath testing the father, are they? Nope, this is just for the mother-to-be. I wonder why that could be…perhaps it has something to do with the fact that women are often considered to be nothing other than incubators once they become pregnant (warning on this link due to the possibility of graphic images, although that page is pretty safe).


Only if you in turn trust us


(I must just point out that this has come from NICE guidelines, rather than directly from midwives, who I think do a terrific job under difficult circumstances and I’ve never met a bad one! I’m concerned, however, that their job will be compromised by this legislation, as well as the effect it will have on mothers-to-be.)

The Best Article You Will Read About JLS Splitting Up *gavel*

Ooh, look at me, gavelling right there in the title! Well, dear Discussers, that’s because I feel so darn confident about my title reflecting the article. You see, the band who came second on the X Factor in 2008 have announced that they are splitting up. It’s a sad day for the fans, for music, heck, it’s a sad day for everyone. And I feel for loyal JLS fans. Your favourite band splitting up is like a rite of passage for teenagers. It’s like the first time you get dumped; you have that sense of rejection and loss for the first time. They said they’d always be there and you believed them, but they lied!

Usually bands split up in order to persue seperate projects or solo careers. So no doubt we’ll see Aston and Marvin and…the other one and…are there four of them? Yeah, I know next to nothing about the band, besides that their condom affiliation and I want to say that one of them is dating a Saturday. I don’t know and I can’t be bothered to look it up. It’s a hot day. Google it yourselves.

I don’t want to talk about JLS. I’ve used up my reserves of knowledge on them already. I don’t care that they are splitting up, but I do know what it feels like to love a band and have them break up. So that’s what I’m going to talk about. We’re going to delve into the nineties and the first decade of the noughties, so leave your dignity at the door folks and lets begin.



Look at that picture. Heartthrobs all of them. I remember being fiercely loyal to Mark, lower right in case you didn’t know. I had an argument with a friend at school where I maintained that Mark was the dishiest, whereas she favoured Shane, the other brown haired lead singer. These arguments took place over sheets of letters we wrote to each other in class and it got ugly. Really ugly.

The bands first single “Swear It Again” came out in 1999 and I was in lurve. They were Irish, they sung lovey-dovey ballads and they stood up for key changes. What wasn’t to like? The group suffered a break in 2004 when Brian McFadden, then married to ex-Atomic Kitten Kerry Katona, left the band. Things weren’t the same after and although they had a sort of come back as a foursome in 2011 they officially split in 2012.


There are boybands, there are girlbands and sometimes there are bands with boys and girls in them. Steps were formed in 1997 and quickly became famous for their catchy pop tunes and easy to follow dance routines. To this day it is not unusual to see someone throw their hands up either side of their head if they hear Tragedy, even if they hear the original Bee Gees version. Don’t fight it.

Their first song was “5, 6, 7, 8” and involved line dancing. Line dancing. Kids today have no idea.

The band also became famous for one of the most dramatic break ups in history when hours before their final night of their Gold Tour Claire and H both presented their bandmates with letters of resignation, allegedly completely independantly of the other.

big-reunion-bwitched-then-590x350 B*Witched

This band got me through the Spice Girls break up. They were an Irish four piece band who sang songs with twinkly tunes and they wore denim with more denim and they each had a logo of sorts. My favourite was Lindsay who had black curly hair and had a little black cat as her logo. They were magical to me and I would listen to their albums while playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and so the two have become fused in my memory.

They were active between 1997–2002 when they went their seperate ways due to the usual case of one person getting most of the lead vocals.


These guys were part of my bad boy phase. Shut up.

They sang the same old pop songs, but cultivated a very kid-friendly “lad” image. They were essentially a British version of the Backstreet Boys or N*Sync.

They formed in 1997 and released “Slam Dunk (Da Funk)” as their debut single which reached number 10 in the charts. According to Wikipedia they split up in 2001, which is news to me as I thought they had disappeared way before that. I guess my bad boy phase was pretty short.

pa-1044982The Spice Girls

I don’t care who knows it, I LOVED the Spice Girls so, so much. They were The Band Of My Youth. I wanted to be Geri Halliwell and she made me feel good about my boobs, which developed before many of my peers and as a result of which I was bullied for having them. Looking back now I know they aren’t the feminist icons they allegedly were at the time and Girl Power was just an excuse to be a bit “crazy” and “wacky”. But whatever. I loved them.

They formed in 1994 after each one answered ads in The Stage. Each one cultivated a personality by which we came to know them. Ginger, Sporty, Baby, Posh and Scary Spice. They had a movie out in 1998 entitled Spiceworld and the VHS I owned was lime green. Awesome.

In 1998 Geri Halliwell decided to leave the Spice Girls and I, well, I cried. Only a bit, I didn’t need to ring a helpline like some Take That fans before me, but I was sad. It was the end of an era. The rest of the Spice Girls carried on for another two years until they officially split up and all of them went on to have moderately successful solo careers. They re-formed for a bit in 2007–2008 and currently a musical entitled Viva Forever is playing at the West End using the songs of the band. I will always love them for the musical place they had in my life when I was a teenager and for being the reason I wore platform shoes to school throughout ’97.

And there you have it Discussers. 5 bands I enjoyed in my youth who all split up and broke my teenage heart a little bit. And now I put it to you, because I’m sure we’ve all been there. Who are the bands that you loved? Do you remember what it was like when you heard them for the first time and how it felt when they broke up? Please add your thoughts in the comments; lets revel in teenage nostaligia. And if you are a current fan of JLS and are distraught by the announcement, take heart from this article. Yeah, it’s sad, but one day you’ll be able to write a blog post all about it and it’ll all be ok.

Cookery Corner: Individual Chicken Wellingtons. Sort of.

It’s Tuesday, which means Reviewsday, but I’m going to sneak in a quick Cookery Corner. I know they are scheduled for Sundays, but you know. Life.

I made up a random meal with chicken and philly cheese and pasta and added some mushrooms and spinach to make it sort of resemble a beef wellington. With chicken. So, here’s what you need:

This was the smallest bag of spinach I could buy. We had spinach in everything until it was used up.

This was the smallest bag of spinach I could buy. We had spinach in everything until it was used up.

As with most chicken dishes, I like to cook the chicken first, then because I’m working with pastry, I set the chicken aside to cool down otherwise the pastry will suffer for it. And yeah, you could make your own pastry, but unless its choux I don’t tend to bother. I can make pastry and that’s all I need to know!

Next is the cream cheese to give the dish some yummy, gooey-ness. I could have bought philly with chives and garlic and stuff, but given that I took the cheaters way out on the pastry, I thought I’d make up for it buy essentially making my own mix!


That’s regular philly, chives, basil and garlic all mixed up. I used the whole tub of cheese and just added the ingredients to taste. This is a very lead-by-taste-buds meal!

Next cook the mushrooms. I made this once before and left the mushrooms raw–they oozed out moisture until the pastry wound up with the soggiest of bottoms, which is a big no-no for making pastry dishes, plus its a helluva mess to clear off the cooking tray. So cook your mushrooms and then let them cool, finally pressing them between sheets of kitchen roll to dry them out substantially. The cheese sauce melts beautifully so you don’t want excess liquid!

Then you get to pretend you are Captain America as you order your food to Assemble.

Stack 'em up!

Stack ’em up!

Just because

Just because

Then it’s just a case of using the old water-as-glue trick in order to paste the pastry together and then sticking on fun shapes because this post is sponsored by “just because”.

Beautifully golden brown

Beautifully golden brown

And there you have it. I didn’t bother listing measurements or ingredients beyond the pictures because I made this up and will probably tweak it the next time I make it. Its a fluid sort of dish, one you can make your own very easily. Change anything you like about it and as long as you cook the meat first you can pretty much just bake until the pastry looks done. No need to worry about precise times; just keep an eye on your oven.

The Right To A Peaceful Protest

For those of you who have been living under a rock over the past week, I can tell you that Margaret Thatcher died on the 8th of April 2013. Her funeral will be held on the 17th (that’s my fellow Gavellers birthday, fact fans!) In accordance with her wishes she will not be having a state funeral; instead she will be having a ceremonial funeral.

Call it what you like, it’s still costing £10m.

"I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand 'I have a problem, it is the government's job to cope with it!' or 'I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!'; 'I am homeless, the government must house me!' and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?  "There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.  "It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations"

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?
“There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families, and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.
“It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations”

And that is an issue for many people. Our current government like to tell us that we must make cuts to national, necessary budgets such as the NHS, social care and local government (incidenatally where Maggie got her first taste of poltics as her father was a local councillor) yet somehow the Tories have managed to find a spare £10m lying around to spend on a funeral. What were they doing, en masse sofa checking? Did they all save their coppers and take them down to the bank in those little plastic bags? Did they all sell some stuff on eBay?

No, this money is coming from us, the tax payers.

I have nothing against using public money to fund funerals in certain cases. If a body goes unclaimed or if the family just don’t have the money to spare for a funeral then a modest burial provided by the state seems more than fair. But that’s not the case for the Thatchers, now, is it? Mrs Thatchers house is worth £6m, although it is owned by a business with links to 3 offshore accounts, leading to speculation that it is part of a grand scheme to avoid inheritance tax. That aside, my point is that we really shouldn’t be spending this money.

This leads me onto my main point: the right to protest. I am, unsurprisingly, not alone in feeling that this is not ok. Several protests have sprung up online to do with this funeral. In one case, groups of people have united to choose to turn their backs on the funeral procession as it winds through London. This has already been granted approval by Met Police. I am 100% behind this movement for this reason: the right to a peaceful protest. This will be a very simple protest, but it will speak volumes and will in no way harm the people who are there to pay their respects. Perfect!

There are also petitions online to protest against public money being used for the funeral which I also back.

Another form of protest has come about in the form of using the Radio 1 weekly charts to try to play the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from the musical The Wizard of Oz. The BBC spoke last week about their decision to play a 5 second clip of the song, should it reach number 1 (traditionally played in full regardless of the song choice) along with a news item to explain the reason for the song and for its short play. I am not a huge fan of the BBC lately, but I have to admit that I agreed with their stance. Banning the song as some members of parliament shouted for would be a massive censorship and utterly wrong. Playing a clip with explanations of why the song was voted for and why Mrs Thatcher incited such division in the country made much more sense. As it happens the song reached number 2 in the charts.

Look, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes peaceful won’t cut it. Sometimes you have to be out on the streets making your voice heard and to fight back if you are silenced. Sometimes that is the neccessary way to overthrow facism and dictators and cruelty and oppression. Sometimes you have to fight. But this is not one of those times. Fighting in the street cannot change anything here: the woman is dead and her legacy is over. She was PM for three terms starting in 1979 and ending in 1990. We can’t change what she did in those times. Protesting about how much hate she invoked won’t do anything. But what we can argue against is the reckless spending of public money for a woman who’s estate and surviving family can easily afford to pay double that is something we can do and it’s something I personally think we should fight for.

So I say do not throw public money away on a funeral for Mrs Thatcher when we are being told that cuts must be made against the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, because that is simply not what that money is there for. Gavel!


Jesse James vs Robert Ford



 On todays date in 1882 the outlaw Jesse James was shot and killed by a member of his own gang, Robert “Bob” Ford.  This action would haunt Robert for his cowardice throughout history and Jesse would be elevated to a Robin Hood like status. So, lets have a little history journey, shall we?

 Jesse was born Jesse Woodson James in 1847, the middle brother of three siblings. His father was a commercial hemp farmer and a Baptist minister who travelled to California during the Gold Rush and died when Jesse was 3 years old. Jesses mother, Zerelda, outlived her son and it was she who commisioned his remarkably ostentatious grave stone, making her feelings about both her son and his former gang mate very clear.

Jesses early life was overshadowed by the American Civil war which broke out in 1861. Jesse lived in Clay Country, Missouri, which had the unfortunate placing of being a border state, with 75% of its population being from the South. Indeed Jesses family chose to side with the Confederates at the outset of war. Jesses older brother, Frank, joined in with the fighting and when Jesse reached 16 so did he, following his brother. Their time at war was spent joining up with Guerilla troops and they were both reported to have taken part in a notorious massacre of Unionists, during which the guerillas scalped and dismembered some of their victims. They were then forced to leave Clay County, ordered by the Union millitary officials to head South. They defied this and went into a sideways state, Nebraska.

Robert Ford was born in 1860, so was too young to join in the fighting like his future gang leader. He was also born in Missouri, but never knew Jesse personally until much later in his life. He idolised the older man both for his Civil War exploits and the stories of his criminal activities.

From l to r: Zee above Jesse, Annie above Frank and Susan, sister of Jesse and Frank, above her husband Allen

From l to r: Zee above Jesse, Annie above Frank and Susan, sister of Jesse and Frank, above her husband Allen

Speaking of criminal activities, Jesse spent some time after the war recovering from the two near-fatal chest wounds he had received (though not at the same time!) and courting his cousin, Zee (short for Zerelda…I guess it was a family name!), who tended to his wounds while he recooperated at his uncles house. After 9 years of courting, they married.

But wait, these aren’t criminal activities! How about this: Jesse and Frank were probably part of the first daylight armed robbery in peacetime, during 1866 a year after the end of the war. We know that the robbery was lead by their former commander Archie Clement and one bystander was killed as the gang made their escape. Some argue that in fact Jesse and Frank were in charge of this robbery, while others protest that Jesse was still bedridden following his chest wounds. What we do know is that this time was troubled and filled with robberies and harrassment against Republican authorities and that many of the robberies and trouble were lead by the friends and former gang mates, and after the brothers became notorious there were those who claimed they had seen them, but whether that is a fabrication on the part of the eye witnesses remains to be seen.

Jesse James shot to fame in December 1869 when during a robbery he mistakenly shot and killed the cashier John W. Sheets believing him to be the shooter of “Bloody Bill” Anderson, a guerilla Jesse knew from the war. This was the firstime Jesse James would be proclaimed as an outlaw with a bounty on him and from then on Jesse joined up with some former Confederates to form the James-Younger Gang. Jesse also forged an alliance with the editort of the Kansas City Times, John Newman Edwards, who went on to publish letters from the outlaw in his paper, cementing his notority and keeping his name in the public eye.

During this time Robert had been following Jesses rise to infamy, helped in no small way by the fact that the James-Younger gang enjoyed staging their robberies in broad daylight, often in front of vast crowds of people as if it were mere entertainment. It worked on Bob, as he was desperate to join the gang. His older brother, Charles, is believed to have taken part in the Blue Cut train robbery in September 1881 in Jackson County, which no doubt you’ll recognise from Johnny Cash.

So Robert had his chance to meet Jesse, through his brother and make all his dreams come true. But before long Jesse was growing tired of his life of crime. By this time he had two children and had moved back to Missouri. The gang had been thinned out for various reasons–death, incarceration or having left the gang–and Frank had decided to retire. Jesses infamy was becoming more of a hindrance to his life now, hence the move back to Missouri where he felt more secure. Thanks to his paranoia and decimation of his group, Jesse came to trust only the Ford brothers; Charles having been on raids with him before and Bob being a young and eager new boy. He even asked the brothers to come and live with him. But this turned out to be a very foolish move.

A bounty was placed on Jesse James by Governor Thomas Crittenden of $10,000 and Bob intended to claim it. He had surrended to the law in January 1882 and been offered a full pardon if he could bring in Jesse James, who at the time was the most wanted criminal in the USA. So on this day in 1882, 3 months after Bob had negotiated with the Governor, he was having breakfast with Jesse. Afterwards Jesse stood on a chair to dust a picture and Robert, ever a man of honour, drew his gun and shot Jesse in the back of the head. Zee burst in and ran to her husband, shouting that he had been killed and Robert went for the excuse best reserved for the under-5s: “I didn’t do it.” Nevertheless he and Charles were arrested and charged with first degree murder, much to their shock. However the Governor kept to his word and after less than two hours the pardon arrived. However they were dismayed to receive only $500 each for the kill.

The man and the gun that shot Jesse James

The man and the gun that shot Jesse James

Robert made a career out of his betrayal, posing for photographs with the gun he used to kill Jesse James. Meanwhile Jesse’s heroism only grew in the wake of his death; the cowardly way he was disposed of by one of his own overshadowing the heinous deeds he himself had done in the past. He became an almost mythical figure, with comparisons to Robin Hood, in spite of their being no evidence to suggest he was ever “robbing from the rich to give to the poor”. Rather his motivations appeared to be the very run of the mill greed and a desire to cause trouble to those in charge after the war. He became a figure in literature, appearing in dime novels and books throughout the years. He has been the subject of 26 films, the earliest in 1921, the latest in 2007, with Brad Pitt starring as the titular figure and Casey Affleck playing the “coward Robert Ford”. He has appeared in a plethora of songs (I first heard the name as a teenager listening to Cher and hearing the lyrics “Now you’re gonna go down in flames/Just like Jesse James”)

On the other hand Robert Ford has gone down in history as a coward due to the way he took on Jesse James, firing on him while he was unarmed and had his back turned to him. Had he been a member of the law shooting at an armed robber, such as the killers of Bonnie and Clyde for example, he would have faced no such ire in my view. It was the incredibly backhanded way he approached the killing.

Jesse James, shot in the head by own gang member: receives hero status.

Jesse James, shot in the head by own gang member: receives hero status.

At this point it should be noted that Robert Fords own death was less than glamourous. On June 8th 1892 he was in his tent saloon when Edward O’Kelley entered with a shotgun. Witnesses reported that Roberts back was turned to the shooter, but O’Kelley was ever-so-slightly more honourable than his target as he said “Hello Bob”, to which Robert turned only to receive a shotgun blast to the chest (so only marginally more honourable).

So, what have we learned from this little wander into history? Don’t be an outlaw, but if you do find yourself on that path, be charismatic and dashing while courting the press so that people will give you sympathy and pretend you have a “cause” to rob for. And if you choose to betray your gang leader for $10k at least have the balls to do it face on or you’ll be known as a coward forever.

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