Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Nicola's October Editorial...


This issue of RAW MEAT is the first one written for the internet… the first of many. Hopefully! So I suppose I should really be plagued with an attack of stage fright – all those thousands of people zooming in to read my Newsletter, or so Andy describes the situation. Though I’m afraid I can’t really get that excited about the potential of using the internet. Perhaps I’m just a hopeless cynic but writing RAW MEAT doesn’t seem to be a real thing to me unless I can see, or perhaps - more accurately - touch it. For such a long time the Newsletter’s been available in paper form – in fact we’re still sending it out to subscribers in this format for the next few months, by the way. Just to make the leap from paper to screen is like jumping into a black hole – pretty scary!! So perhaps this is my case of stage fright!
Keeping on the subject of the internet, can I just remind you that my website is up and running at www.nicolabatty.co.uk My sister Lesley is responsible for putting it all together… so I’d like to say many thanks to her. The site’s had many visitors already, so I suppose that I’m sort of tasting fame!? Or as close as I can get at this stage. I hope that I’m getting people interested in my novels, which is the idea really. I want to add a new section to the website on progress with The Space Between – which is causing me much frustration at the moment with all the Victorian research involved! I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea setting it in the 1890s!
I’m getting really fed up with spending so much time on the internet asking Victorian questions; one reply I got from one of these question/answer websites advised me to “stick to what you know when writing your first novel”… which I wasn’t impressed with. What a completely drab world this would be if nobody was allowed to indulge their imagination a bit… there would be no fiction, in either books, films, on stage. The whole idea with The Space Between is to combine history with fiction so there is a perfect interweaving between the two. It’s still difficult to get the balance right – I want to put Wilde’s ideas about using history as a starting point into practice which has been done several times but not to such a degree! I rather suspect that the space between is turning out to be something of an epic. For more on this, see RAW MATERIALS in this issue.
To totally change the subject from fiction to fact, I’ll just mention a piece of real life which has been plaguing me… I intended to write about this in the last issue but I must have decided against it for some reason. About a month ago a really shocking incident occurred in the local park – a teenage boy was walking through with his bike in the early hours when he was shot and killed. The police say it was a case of mistaken identity, but still… it was really scary, particularly because the boy was at Jack’s school. Jack told me that they had a special announcement at school. For a while I was scared whenever Jack went out, because the same thing could happen again… but I suppose you have to live with these sort of things happening, you can’t avoid them totally.
Andy’s just gone out to a carers’ meeting… I hope that you’ll remember my objections to the horrible word Carer! Whether you agree with me or not doesn’t really matter as long as you understand my feelings. Anyway, back to the carers’ meeting: “What does it involve, Andy?” I asked this morning but received only a shrug in reply. It makes no sense at all to me why people should choose to use a different word where someone in Ziggy is involved… doesn’t the person in Ziggy need help, just the way other people do? Both Ruth and Jessica are my helpers…there’s no “caring” involved, I don’t think. What is caring anyway?? Can anyone tell me?
I’ll quickly change the subject back to more fun things. This week Jessica has gone down to London with her famous boyfriend, whose Birmingham based band is getting quite famous… they’re in the middle of making their third album Funny Times, and Jessica was pretty excited because she was going to meet the producer. I asked her if she was nervous, and she replied “No – I never get nervous. Why should I? I really like meeting people. This summarises Jessica completely… I’ve never known anyone so sociable. I remember her telling me how the band got its name in the first place… it was something to do with a cat called Misty! Apparently the cat went missing for sometime… I suppose it’s big adventure is like The Space Between, that mysterious gap that is waiting to be filled.
This morning Ruth was telling me about Jessica’s forthcoming birthday party which is going to be a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Everyone will have to dress up as a character, either human or animal! I hope that somebody goes as the Dormouse… I’ve always felt really sorry for it, getting tea poured on its nose! My suggestion was that I should go as the March Hare; I don’t know if anyone remembers Jan Svankmajer’s surreal animated film version Alice, but the March Hare is a little scrawny cloth toy who wheels round very fast in an old fashioned Ziggy. I’ve always had a passion for anything to do with Alice, particularly Through The Looking Glass. I love Tenniel’s black and white illustrations which I’ve raved about already I’m sure. I’m glad that my Dad shares my passion for Tenniel’s illustrations, and meticulously imitates his style for some of my book covers.
Ruth and I are just winding up our reading of The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman. Although I’ve really enjoyed this second volume of the trilogy I would say that Northern Lights has the edge so to speak. This may be my personal obsession with the frozen north which is where the fist book is mainly set. The Subtle Knife is slightly more confusing in places because it involves different worlds and it’s quite difficult to get your head round, but also the different characters existing in each one. Some characters seem to step over the borders between the worlds effortlessly, which makes the whole thing even more difficult to keep a grip on. Having said this, I think it’s an amazing, epic voyage through the imagination. I really admire Mr Pullman and would recommend it to anyone who has the chance to read the Dark Materials trilogy.
Turning from what’s already been published to our own future plans… I think it’s high time that we decided to embark on another Project! Seeing as my attention will be totally taken up by The Space Between for some time, I don’t intend to publish another novel in the near future, so it looks like our next project will be the long awaited Bites which I’ve talked about before. Bites will actually be a collection of the first 50 RAW MEAT editorials, which Andy has already begun compiling. It will be very strange to read the very first editorials again from 1999… I should think they’ll be completely different from how they are nowadays – what did I used to write about in those days? I can’t remember at all! I think that now though, the time is ripe for Bites… so look out for it!
Back to the computer once again. I know that I said I wasn’t that impressed with the magical power of the internet… but it obviously is working so far as spreading the word about me and RAW MEAT further afield. Already nearly 400 people have visited my website, which is good news! And yet I don’t like the idea of internet publishing… whatever happened to old fashioned books with cover designs?? Will all the artists eventually go out of business? Anyway, the idea of reading a book on a computer is one I can’t get to grips with I’m afraid. Perhaps I’m just old fashioned.
Enough of the computer! I have a picture in my head which is a beautiful Pre-Raphaelite one by John Everett Millais called Autumn Leaves. At one point in my past I must have had the poster on my wall, where I could stare at it for hours… for I can remember every detail of it now. It shows a pile of autumn leaves with three young girls standing around it, looking a bit wistful and Pre-Raphelite-ish. It’s so beautiful because of the amazing atmosphere of autumn it evokes so strongly that you can feel the chill air. It’s also pretty sad and nostalgic… the girls are (supposedly) yearning after their lost childhood. I don’t know why I’m suddenly obsessed with this picture – maybe it’s just the time of year or something! I think it may also be a reaction to all this talk of new technology – there will always be a place for Art.
It’s also something that has recently come home to me… although my eye sight continues to fade, I’m amazed by how vividly I remember details of pictures and whole sequences of films as well as real things around me. I would never think of myself as being blind because my head is always full of colours and images. I’m beginning to rely more on other senses automatically now, particularly the senses of smell and touch. There’s still always confusion of course, and perhaps there always will be… but I feel that losing one sense is certainly not the end of the road by any means!

Urban Scrawl Special part one...

URBAN SCRAWL !! (Rhymes with pub crawl)

Welcome to Andy's Column…


I went for a fifty five minute ride on my mountain bike this morning. I didn't plan it that way, it just evolved. I had been threatening to do some strenuous exercise since the summer break and nothing had really happened. Until we had to go to Nic's Doctors this morning at St Georges near the Dry Rot church. I suggested that we should go over to the Bridgewater Canal and have a look at the new St Georges Island development. But nobody else seemed interested and I knew how difficult this stretch of towpath can be for Ziggy as we have walked it many times. So, I got the old bike out of the shed and inflated the tyres and rode to my hairdressers instead.


My barber Artie was busy and told me to come back in an hour, so I decided to go for a little cycle ride. I started out from Arties on Claremont Road and headed west towards Princess Road where I turned northwards towards the city centre. I crossed Great Western street and Moss Lane and rode on past the Hulme Asda, through the new Science Park and eventually turned left onto Stretford Road at the Hulme Arch. I continued westwards to the Zion Centre buildings where I turned right into the newly landscaped park and cycled northwards to the million pound plus footbridge that spans the Mancunian Way. The bridge was a steep climb for an unfit overeater but I managed it in first gear. Coming down on the other side of the busy highway was the fun part and I was glad that my brakes still worked. A little jiggle to the right and then to the left around an NCP car park and I was out on the busy Bridgewater Way at the bottom end of Deansgate. From here I could see St. Georges church.


I crossed both carriageways of the main Chester Road and freewheeled towards the Canal Basin at Castlefield Quays. I checked my watch as I spotted the dark green water of the Bridgewater Canal in front of me. I had been cycling for fifteen minutes. There were a few narrow boats tied up on the canal side but no traffic on the waterway. To my right in the near distance stood the Venetian church. Today, however, I turned left onto the towpath where I was joined by a dozen or so middle aged joggers. I soon lost most of them as we had to climb the many little hump backed bridges that span the little wharves and inlets off the main canal. It is quite possible to ride at a good pace along this Castlefield stretch of the Bridgewater Canal but the cobble style stones in places do make it quite difficult and I do remember it is a nightmare for anybody in Ziggy.

ANDY'S URBAN SCRAWL SPECIAL CONTINUES IN RM#74. You can check Andy's page at: properjoes.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 05, 2006


A THIRTY MINUTE MOVIE by Jack Sewina © 2006
Scene 8
(The next day the police are all over the house searching for clues and questioning the four kids.)
Policeman- Do you know anything about what happened last night?
Rachel- No, we heard him shouting about something weird but we thought he was just playing another one of his dumb jokes.
PC- So no-one has any idea of how the killer got into the house?
Lunchbox- Nah, Like Rachel said ya know. We hears him shouting. But no-one came to the rescue.
Lunchbox- (continues) Oh, and did you hear about the kill in the woods? And in the taxi?
PC- Yeah I did and I'm afraid you’re all suspects.
All- What?
PC- Well funnily enough, you were all in the woods when the murder took place ...


SIGHTLESS by Nicola Batty (c)2006

Braille and Beyond (continued)

This is the final bit of the final story from my Ziggy Collection.

I suppose by this point I had accepted that my eyesight was on the way out… it didn’t scare me like it used to, yet I felt I had to act quickly now. The thing that did disturb me was that I would also lose the use of my hearing, which I had become more dependent on now. It was alright at this time to listen to books on tape or CD… but how long would I be able to do that? There was really no way of telling for certain. So I decided to enrol on a Braille course at a nearby college.

At the beginning of September, Carmel came with me to the college for an assessment. I with filled with trepidation immediately; images of the horrific university assessment crowded into my mind, jostling one another for room… I didn’t think much of these assessments for sure. However, I hoped that this would be different; I was encouraged when I met the tutor Bernard who was himself blind. I was taken into an individual room – which I couldn’t see the reason for. I would have liked to have been with the other people… perhaps I may have found it difficult to hear everything but I would have liked to have been given the choice.

Anyway, I simply practiced running my fingers over some Braille, which all seemed pretty meaningless! But obviously I needed to show that I had sensitivity and some movement in my hands, enough to take me through. Well, I myself was quite happy to continue with the course and when I went back the next week I was encouraged by Bernard and the other two teachers that I might keep on with Braille, even though it may take quite some time! There never seemed to be any question of my not being able to learn it.

So I was shocked when I received a phone call (through Andy) from Bernard, saying that the assessment had shown me to be unsuited to learning Braille; there was no point in continuing with the course. That was that! I was completely outraged… how could they reach stupid conclusions from a mere two hour assessment? I didn’t blame Bernard at all – I don’t think he had ultimate authority. I think that somebody else had told him what to do, and he was simply obeying orders.

The next time that I saw Jo I told her what had happened about Braille, and she arranged to get hold of some stuff on teaching yourself Braille from the social services.
This took ages to actually materialise… but when it did I began to work on it within a few weeks.

Meanwhile, Carmel left in December and I now have two new helpers, Jessica and Ruth, who cover the week between them – both of whom are helping with Braille, and also with my other writing! With them I finally competed the Dry Rot film script in April 2005, and sent it to the BBC. At the time of writing this, it’s still there. I’m still not totally confident about Braille…

It may be that I will give it up in the end. But I want that to be my decision and I want to give it a fair go first. I feel that the loss of my eyesight is an ongoing process… sometimes it never seems to end! So you understand that this is an unfinished story; I’m not quite sightless yet, and can’t imagine ever being so… even though I can see very little physically!

Does this make any sense? I hope it does. In years to come, look out for Sightless: Part Two

The End

Tuesday, October 03, 2006




Finally, The Space Between seems to have taken a hold of me after taking such a long time to get into it! It’s still difficult to keep developing all the threads (subplots, I suppose) at the same time, without really knowing the exact end though I have vague ideas with this of course, which is enough to go on.

I’ve been busy for the past month going over old bits and changing them or adding bits of background ie more about the east end, Harriet’s situation etc. but it was important to keep going on with the novel, you can have to much of going back over old things so I’m including some stuff which I’ve just written which is brand new, it’s essential to keep me feeling as if I’m going somewhere and feeling that I’m making progress. I’m sure that’s equally important for you as readers too; it will be interesting for you to read the novel when it’s complete, as it should be radically different from the bit you’ve read here.

All of the Victorian background I need is essential because I want to keep the novel plausible. But not too much authenticity… remembering Wilde’s phrase “Too much research kills the imagination.” Say no more… so I don’t want to get too worried about checking up all the details, like rents in the East End, the wages etc. But at the same time I need some idea of the value of things in the 1890s, so it’s a tricky business treading fact and fiction!

Writing this new chapter has given me a new lease of life, though I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s something to do with bringing back Robbie Ross… perhaps he has some magic within him. I feel like I’m writing about an old friend… I’ve always felt a great affection for Ross, even more than Mr Wilde in a way. That’s unbelievable I know; but I can’t really feel too much affection for Wilde because I’m too much in awe of him… if that makes any sense. But as for Robbie, he was always a great friend… both of mine and Mr Wilde’s. So it was a pleasure to resurrect him once again and so far this chapter is writing itself.

In fact the whole novel’s developing into an epic, so much so that I’m wondering about turning it into a trilogy, which I’ve wanted to do ever since reading Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials. But this may turn out to be just an idle jest. Partly because of the time span involved, from the early 1890s to 1921, it may need 3 volumes to cover all the different subplots and remember all the characters at the same time. Perhaps this novel will not be called The Space Between, which will be the title of the whole trilogy, but I’ll have to think about this first instalment.

I think I’ll call it something Wildean, of course, as it will cover the years leading up to his death, but I don’t want to plan too much at this stage… you never know what will happen. I always wondered if Mr Pullman intended to write a trilogy… but now I can see that perhaps it simply happened because that’s the way it’s developing with me!


COPYRIGHT Nicola Batty (C) 2006.



“One pound of apples, I said! Get a move on, love!”
Quickly Harriet turned back to the market stall, fumbling amongst the fruit and weighing out the correct amount. As she handed the old, miserable faced woman the paper bag full of apples she forced herself to keep her mind on her job – she could not afford to loose it. But all the time she was longing for the piles of fruit to dissolve away, just for a moment… and then she could return her stare to the other side of the square, where the small, smartly dressed young man had been standing.

“Here you are… sorry,” mumbled Harriet as the old woman snatched the apples from her hand and shuffled away into the crowd where she was quickly swallowed up. Already the market stalls all around Spital Square were alive with people, both customers and sellers of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, even though the hour was quite early and a steady drizzle had begun to fall. Her eye swept over the clusters of shabby women around the stalls hastily, leaving the sight of them far behind and returning to that respectable figure who she was sure was familiar… so familiar.

Against this background… and yet he was still there, he moved towards her. Feeling the colour drain slowly from her face, she watched him approach, struggling through the busy market square to reach her. Or was he truly trying to reach her? Had he even seen her? She moved her hand shakily across her face, wiping the moisture from her eyes as the rain became harder. She shivered as she stood there in her thin cotton jacket, though she could not be certain if it was the cold that caused her to shiver or seeing someone from the past.

Her own past suddenly came to life once again, resurrected for a moment although she had thought it all over. All those years spent walking the streets, a penny here, a penny there… or memories of the Whitechapel Murderer suddenly sprang up again from the ashes, and would not lie down.

Harriet watched the well dressed young man stop at another stall several yards away, selling fish; his eyes skimmed over the stall only briefly, before turning to the watch he now drew from his pocket. Harriet saw a look of mild irritation fleet over his tiny, delicate features as he returned the watch to his pocket and turned up the collar of his overcoat, protecting himself against the chill spring wind and rain.

He looked remarkably out of place here, amongst the crowds of people with no hats, only thin shawls around bony shoulders and these were the lucky ones. Around the edges of the square were the outcasts and beggars, and children played amongst it all. It was all a game to them… such as the killings had been to the Murderer. Just then her attention was distracted by some older children buying a few plums and when she turned back the young man had disappeared. She felt her heart sink like a stone, despairing. Perhaps she had imagined him. But then she started suddenly as she felt a light touch on her elbow.

“Good morning… Harriet. Is that right, Harriet? It’s been a long time since we last met, hasn’t it? Do you remember me?”

Harriet swung round to face the elfin faced young man. He was smiling at her, his bowler hat raised in his slender hand. Just as she remembered, his smile was mischievous, like a little boy’s… like Jack’s smile. He didn’t appear to have aged at all since their last meeting in Whitechapel – he could still be no older than Harriet herself. “Of course I remember you, Mr Ross. Though I’m very surprised to see you here… I never thought that we’d meet again! Whatever brings you here?”


SIGHTLESS. by Nicola Batty, this final tale from The Ziggy Collection concludes this issue.
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