Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


SIGHTLESS © Nicola Batty 2006
Sightless is one of the stories from my Ziggy Collection.
University Challenge The Second half
At this point Mary threw a spanner in the works by announcing her intended departure. Kelly had already left and I had been coping with just Mary’s three days help with typing… but things were just beginning to get a bit stressful now. I felt a bit annoyed by Mary’s announcement.
“I’m really sorry not to be able to stick with you till the end of your course,” she told me apologetically. “But I think you’ll be able to get some help from Student Support… won’t you?”
I shrugged miserably.
“I don’t know if my funding will stretch that far.” I looked up quickly, trying to be more positive. “But I’m sure I’ll find some way to get some help… I just wish you could stay a few more months! Can’t you?”
Mary sighed shaking her head.
“I’m afraid not… it’s time for me to move on, Nic. It’s been great working with you… I’m sure you’re going to get this MA anyway, so don’t worry!” Seeing my woebegone expression she patted me on the shoulder reassuringly. “I won’t be leaving you yet – I’ve only just applied for another job but I haven’t heard anything yet! So I’ll keep on coming here until I hear anything definite… if that’s okay with you.”
I looked away, saying nothing. I did feel a bit resentful about Mary’s departure; I had been relying on her all the way through this course and I thought if she appreciated that then she could’ve stayed… couldn’t she? But at the same time I understood her need for a break – we had been working together for four years, after all. Perhaps it really was time to move on.
Easter came and went and I began to find Mary’s three days help not enough. My Mum came to the rescue on occasion; she’s a pretty professional type person as well as having experience of academic writing, so she was great. I also used Louise sometimes, and once or twice tried a student sent by Student Support, but this was disastrous, because the student used to make changes to my text without consulting me, which I went mad about!! So I preferred to stick to people I knew and trusted… this was going to be my dissertation, my work, no one else’s! As the deadline in May approached, a lot of the work seemed to be down to other people… there was not a lot I could do myself at this point! It was all quite tedious… checking through footnotes, bibliographies, all that stuff. And then the printing.
Mary was still around at the end of May because she came with me to get the finished dissertation bound and handed in. I should have felt a great sense of relief wash over me… but I didn’t, I’m afraid!
I was completely satisfied with Reinventing Wilde; in fact it had far surpassed my original vision. I loved creating this work so much… I wasn’t nervous about the result, because it seemed quite irrelevant… I think I was fairly confident that I would pass anyway!
Mary was still with me when I received the letter from the university saying that I had.
“That’s brilliant, Nic! I always knew you’d do it!” she said excitedly. “All those hours of hard work paid off… you see, I told you it would!”
“Yes,” I said simply. It was all I could think of to say. I couldn’t explain how I felt… not excited at all, not relieved. I was glad, certainly, for Reinventing Wilde had worked much better than I had hoped it would. But still… what now? “So… the university thing’s all over now, I suppose.”
“Unless you want to do a Phd or something,” laughed Mary.
I shook my head quickly, pulling a face.
“No thanks. I think I’ve had quite enough of university. I feel like a change now… a return to fiction!”
Mary sat down carefully beside me, leaning her arm on Ziggy.
“You know Nic, this timing seems to all fit together… with me leaving next week I’ve just been given a starting date for my new job, so it’ll be a fresh start for both of us, won’t it?”
After a moment of complete silence, I nodded slowly.
“I suppose it will, yes. I just feel quite sad about you leaving… I don’t feel very positive at the moment.”
Mary squeezed my hand.
“Cheer up, don’t be silly… you’ll feel better tomorrow! Things have to change, you know!”
She stood up abruptly. I wished I could share her confidence; I was anxious about finding a replacement for Mary, particularly at this point in time. Mary had been such a help to me all through these years, which had been so difficult with the deterioration of my eyesight. She had always been there as a friend to me… I felt nervous about the loss of her emotional as well as practical support. I sighed heavily. Perhaps it really was time for complete change, after all…
Braille and Beyond
Within a few weeks of giving in my dissertation, I began work on my next project, a film script of one of my novels Dry Rot. I had been itching to start this for months and had been working out ideas for scenes in my head. So it was not at all difficult to give the ideas some form at last. The most difficult thing was teaching Carmel – Mary’s replacement – to come to terms with the computer! It was not an easy task for Carmel… both Andy and I wondered if Carmel was going to work out. She was a professional Carer, not really what I wanted! But Carmel tried hard to settle in… and the Dry Rot script developed slowly but surely.

RAW MATERIALS © Nicola Batty 2006
I dithered for ages about whether to include the first part of chapter three or not; as The Space Between is a work in progress I should not be afraid to show pieces which will not be in the finished novel. On the other hand I thought it may be too confusing, especially if the piece is to eventually be totally changed beyond recognition, as this piece will be. I also don’t want to make myself feel as if I am making no progress just when I feel that I am beginning to pick up the threads and go on… which is why I’ve included a piece from the second half chapter three, with Rick and Shan. I think this will stay pretty much in tact.
I became uneasy about the character of Christina; although I really liked her - she was independent and strong minded – but she just didn’t seem to fit in with Victorian times. I kept coming up against unnatural questions, such as where would she have lived? In rented rooms or a house in Whitechapel? I asked a couple of these questions to three history experts on the internet and all three said that the character of Christina was totally implausible. This came as no surprise as I suspected as much myself! It just wasn’t possible to be a single working mother in the 1890s. I had a couple of options: I could either make Christina widowed or have her husband living with her. But then I thought, why should I want to kill the chap after I’ve just thought him up? He could provide me with some interesting sub-plots, like making a link Louisiana. Please don’t ask me why I’m so obsessed with Louisiana… I really don’t know. I just feel that the swamplands of this area will be essential to the ending of the story. Anyway, before going any further with the novel I thought I’d better do some re-writing… practically all of the first half of chapters two and three had to be changed drastically. You’ll have to wait until the novel is complete before you can read it in full! Meanwhile I’ll just fill you in with certain extracts I’ve chosen… so you don’t get lost.
So, the piece of Chapter three I’m including this month doesn’t involve Christina, and it requires some attention! I’m fairly happy with Rick and Shan now… they are both developing into interesting characters. I had the idea some months ago of bringing in to my story a book which was written in 1894, The Green Carnation. I came across this book when I was writing my dissertation; it was a skit on Wilde and Bosie and the whole Aesthetic and I wanted to use it to give some flavour of the time. I also thought it was important to show how dangerous these times were to live in if you were gay, and so I could kill two birds with one stone by using the writer, Robert Hitchens, as one of my characters. This chapter is set in 1893 so Hitchens would not have yet begun writing the novel. This suited me perfectly because it’s the inspiration I wanted to catch, rather than the finished product. Although I didn’t have much information on the actual character of Hitchens, I had enough to go on… I probably got his appearance completely wrong, but there you go! That’s the beauty of imagination I guess!
It seemed important to me that Hitchens was taking a break from writing fact to write fiction. This is something which Wilde himself touched on in the prologue. Although I didn’t want to appear to be repeating myself, I thought I’d take the risk. There was a definite link between the two characters and their ideas anyway. In the end I’ve decided to include this piece in RAW MEAT to show that I am actually making progress instead of going back over old stuff!

The Space Between Copyright Nicola Batty © 2006
Please note: This is a work-in-progress-novel and the final published version may well be very different to this Newsletter edition.

Following his friend’s cue Charles began to study the menu but his attention was suddenly caught by a gentle cough and a light touch of fingertips on his shoulder. He turned at once to see a thin young man with small round spectacles. Charles thought he looked vaguely familiar.
“Excuse me… I do hope I’m not interrupting but I just thought I’d say hello. Do you remember me, Charles? I believe we met some months ago… was it at Frank Harris’s?”
Charles looked at the slender figure before him, the tiny, fragile face with it’s prominent cheekbones and closely cropped, light brown hair. He got to his feet quickly, seizing the young mans hand.
“Of course I do… it’s Robert, isn’t it? This is my friend, Charles Shannon.” Shan stood up also, glancing questioningly at Charles. “Shan, this is Robert Hitchens.”
“Oh yes, Mr Shannon, I’ve seen some of your paintings,” said Robert enthusiastically, pushing his glasses further up onto the bridge of his thin nose with nervous, shaking fingers. Charles noticed that he was clutching a glass of champagne in his hand and he wondered how much of the bottle had already been consumed. “Very fine portraits, most certainly… you are to be congratulated!”
“Well, thank you Robert… it’s very kind of you to say so.” Shan resumed his seat quietly. Charles knew that his friend didn’t like high praises from relative strangers so he sat down himself, trying to distract Robert’s attention away from Shan.
“Are you here with some friends, Robert?” he asked, gesturing to the young man to pull up a chair and sit down also. Robert found himself a stool and perched carefully upon it, making sure that the creases in his grey trousers followed an exact straight line. Charles noticed that he wore no bright colours at all; only the scarlet of his narrow tie stood out against the greys, blacks and whites.
“Yes – it’s the birthday of one of my friends… so we’re having a little celebration!” He smiled, raising his glass to Charles and turning slightly pink although this may have been the result of the champagne, Charles thought.
“Well, how strange,” he said with a smile, “for today it is my birthday also. So let’s drink to both of us!”
He raised his wine glass and Robert clinked his own against it. The musical note it made lingered in the air for a moment, ringing above the murmur of voices. Robert chewed his lip, frowning; he had that kind of face permanently creased, ready for worry.
“Ah… birthdays are curious things, are they not? The passing of time, the charting of decay.” He paused and sighed, the sound seeming to shake his entire frame. It was clear to Charles that Robert and his friends had already been celebrating for quite some time. Robert drained the remainder of his champagne and forced his mouth into a twisted smile. “Oh, we all have dreams… but how often do we realise them? We all have intentions, but they never come to anything.” He looked directly at Charles for the first time. “Are you a writer, Charles?”
Charles smiled vaguely.
“Sort of… sometimes I am, yes. Sometimes a designer. And sometimes nothing at all.”
Shan gave a low chuckle. Charles searched for his friend’s hand beneath the table but could not find it. He looked away quickly.
“Sometimes a writer is probably the best way to be,” commented Robert, his voice sounding suddenly lazy and tired. He removed his spectacles slowly and rubbed his eyes, as if to emphasise his fatigue. “I myself am a writer… though only of articles in the papers… nothing really.” He sighed again and shook his head sadly. “I will not be remembered. I am here today, gone tomorrow. I am chained to facts, so that I cannot break free.” The Space Between continues in the RM#73…

Jack's Page

Scene 5.
(everyone gets in and hangs their coats up)

Michael- I’m gonna print the picture off the computer.

Jamall- alright.

Michael- back in a minute.
(he runs up the stairs.)

Scene 6
(we see everyone run and get into a taxi)

Jamall- em, 141 Claremont road please.

Kamran- rightio.
(they drive for a while and the taxi driver breaks the silence.)

Kamran- So, have you had a rough night? It looks like you’ve all seen a f***ing ghost or something. f***ing hell I've picked up a f***ing bunch of f***ing saddos for f***s sake. F***ing cheer up a f***ing little bit or I'll f***ing kick you out of this f***ing taxi, f***.

(as they are stopped at a red light the camera turns and we see Revenge standing there, he drags Kamran out of the taxi and kills him. The rest get out and run for their lives.)

Scene 7
It's time for things to get interesting.
(we see Michael doing his thing on his computer, but when he brings up the picture he notices something so shocking he drops his pen on the floor. On the picture in the background we see Tony standing to one side.)

Michael- what the f***?
(shouts down the stairs.)
Everyone come up and look at this, you wont believe it. Something really freaky is going on here.
(we hear a pair of footsteps run up the stairs but no-one appears. Michael is too shocked to notice. In his shock he notices that he has left his camera on.)

Michael- Oh crap I left my camera on. (shouting again.) Guys are you coming? There’s something about my camera too.
(He opens it to turn it off and the tape suddenly starts playing. He sees the place where he dropped it and sees something even more shocking. Someone wearing a size 9 blue Nike trainer. Tony’s foot. He stands up to run downstairs, but when he turns around he hears a sound behind him. Stays to check it out. Hears a low growling sound.)

Revenge- Growl.

Michael- shit .
(He quickly scribbles something on a piece of paper. Then suddenly from out of the dark a bloody man wearing a bloody black ski mask and an axe runs out on Michael and kills him.)

Welcome to Andy's column …
Writing on the wall?
Is the writing on the wall for Raw Meat?
I ask myself, as others plot to reduce this publication to an electronic mail-shot.
To be fair to them I muted the idea myself on these very pages several months ago. However, if Nicola Batty's Newsletter was to become an internet publication would anybody read it? Well, yes I guess anybody who stumbled upon or went to Nic's web page would be able to also access Raw Meat.
But what about all those subscribers? Well I guess they'd be happy too, as they would now receive the Newsletter for free. So, what's the problem?
Our Stan
I just had a phone call from our Stan in Thailand and guess what? He asked me if I could send him a copy of Raw Meat by E-mail. I said I would try, but it got me to thinking that that could be the answer to the future of this Newsletter.
What do you think?
Happy birthday to Chang Noi, I hope I've
Spelt his name right. He was five on August the ninth and his name means baby Elephant!
Anyway, as some of you may know I had my birthday on August the 25th along with Elvis Costello, Martin Amis and Grandmaster Gareth from Misty's Big Adventure.
Oh yes, and happy birthday Nic, for September the third.
Raw Meat
So, it looks fairly definite that Raw Meat will become an E-Zine in the near future.
Potential subscribers and re-subscribers you can safely put away your cheque books right now.
How it all will all work out or happen I'm not yet quite sure. But it will be by some form of electronic subscription, we don't want to put RM on the website and for people to forget about it.
What we need to do is to send it to your electronic mailbox instead of your street address.
I'll keep you posted
As many of you are aware Nicola Batty's web site is now up and running on the above address. If you checked it out before it was completed we apologise but please check it again as I'm sure you'll be impressed.
I must say a very big thank you to Nic's sister Lesley in Birmingham for all her hard work in making it happen.
Canal Walking
I walked from the Piccadilly Basin eastwards under the road bridge at Great Ancoats street and along the tow path of the Rochdale Canal. Opposite the freshly restored Royal Mill buildings there were two young men swimming in the canal. I smiled and walked on by. Later I was reading the Saturday edition of the Manchester Evening News and there was a story in the nostalgia section about two men being jailed for a month in 1906 for swimming in the very same canal. Of course one hundred years ago the canals of Manchester were thriving highways, carting coal and cotton and finished goods to market.

Ian Richardson's Apt Anagrams.
Answers as promised.
1. Steamer. 2. Waitress. 3. Upholsterers. 4. Desperation. 5. Remuneration.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

RAW MEAT .. # 72

As always it feels really strange to be getting back into ordinary life once again after the disjointed summer break. Jack’s quite happily returned to school. I think he’s ready to return to work now and to his old friends. He was telling me that he would have 2 timetables for alternate weeks this year, which means they must be doing some more subjects. He will also be choosing his options for his GCSEs this year – the passing of time! Jack has already pretty much made his mind up which subjects he wants to carry on; he’s certainly not a ditherer! It’s difficult for everyone to get back into the old work thing, I suppose… though for me it’s got a positive side, because I feel quite spoiled in having the attention of either Ruth or Jessica all day!!
I just had my 43rd birthday, which I can’t believe! It’s such an incredible age to be – it feels like it’s someone else who’s 43 and not me at all, another Nicola Batty perhaps. September has always been a significant time in this way, marking the passing of the years… perhaps it has something to do with the onset of autumn – though I don’t really know why this should be. Autumn and ageing always seem to go together, not only because they both begin with the same letter! Is it really down hill all the way now…?
We’ve just returned from spending a week with our friend Sheila and her kids in Seaton. Although this is in Devon it’s nowhere near Plymouth, which is the part I know from my childhood. Seaton is actually on the border between Dorset and Devon, near to the coast. Though the terrain seemed to be exactly as I remembered – very steep and hilly, lots of cobbles and rough ground all around the town. The guest house at which we stayed was at the end of a cul-de-sac, so it was really peaceful… much as I imagine Rick and Shan’s house to be (a reference to The Space Between, by the way).
I was very excited to discover that this costal town was only a short drive away because I was desperate to resurrect all my old memories of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the film with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. I was absolutely obsessed with both the book and the film when the film came out at the beginning of the 80s, and I watched it so many times that I can still remember long sequences in detail! The film opens with Meryl Streep standing on the end of the Cob, which is a stone harbour wall, and I was incredibly excited when Andy and I retraced her footsteps all the way out along the wall. It was slightly bumpy for Ziggy but so exciting, with sea on either side. The sea wasn’t quite so stormy as it was in the film, but… I think this was the highlight of the holiday for me!
I wanted also to go to the Undercliff, which is an area of woodland overlooking the sea which was also used in the film. But here my plans were thwarted; it was extremely difficult to park the car anywhere close to Lyme Regis – in fact no traffic was allowed in the town. (It was but it was very difficult to park. Andy) I thought this was quite cool really because it meant that it was all very Victorian and peaceful… no disgusting petrol fumes or anything like that. But it also meant that it was impossible for me to manoeuvre my way down the extremely steep main street in the town. Never the less we ended the memorable day by eating fish and chips on the harbour, which I’m sure the Victorians never did!
I’ve been thinking a lot about Victorian life recently, for obvious reasons. Particularly about the Victorian east end. As explained in this issue’s RAW MATERIALS I’m busy making alterations to both the second and third chapters; I think I’m going to move Christina and Harriet out of Whitechapel because it was such a notorious slum area. This sounds really snobbish but there’s just no room for manoeuvre in the slums, that’s the reality of it. But I don’t want to completely lose that feeling of seediness… there must be some way round this. I’ll think aboiut it… meanwhile, Andy told me about a programme he’d been watching about the east end during the 1880s and 90s. in those days a small terraced house such as this would contain about 16 families, (I think it may have been sixteen people, about four families. Andy) including lots of kids. Can you imagine that? There was no privacy whatsoever and yet I complain about living with just Jack and Andy!! It gives you a sense of proportion.
To change the area from one city to another, I’m going to talk about my home town of Manchester. Although I don’t really know if this is my hometown, because I wasn’t born here but I suppose most of my childhood memories are of Stockport or around Manchester… anyway, I’m sick of it at the moment! I hope this is just a tempory feeling but I long to move out of the city completely… to somewhere peaceful with lots of woodland and general countryside. Perhaps a very small village… the only reason it needs to be near the coast is because both Andy and Jack love the seaside. But I’m fairly indifferent to it – but I really hope these dreams of mine will become real soon, because I’m getting really impatient! I don’t feel any attachment to Manchester at all, in the way that Andy does and this is quite sad really. Manchester is just a city like any other.
I recently heard from a long lost aunt (actually my Dad’s sister) who emigrated to Australia about 10 years ago. I was really surprised to hear from her after all this time – we last met at her house in Plymouth before Jack was born so things have changed somewhat now! She was describing Perth to me and it sounds wonderful – just as I’ve always imagined the islands of the south seas. Sun sea and white sand. Every day Jackie said she sees different birds and creatures…and here am I stuck in Manchester! Why??
By now you should have received the final volume of The Ziggy Collection – sorry for the delay! I hope you think it’s worth the wait! We’re still toying with different ideas of binding together a complete Ziggy Collection… but that’s still at the idea stage so we’ll keep you posted. That’s about it from me for now… over to you Andy!
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