Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

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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