Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Nicola's November Editorial

It seems to be one of those rare November days when the sunshine is bright and the sky totally clear. Usually Autumn deteriorates towards the end and becomes a total mess of slushy leaves and grey clouds over head, hanging so low that they’re threatening to squash you. It’s a shame because Autumn should be so beautiful with all the colours of the leaves. Now that October is finished I suppose that all thoughts should be turning to Christmas… but it’s too early!! I think it’s disgusting how soon it’s all foisted on us against our will, at least against mine. Christmas should be kept in a box and not opened until Christmas eve.
So it’s back to November and it’s nearly time to celebrate my great hero Guy Fawkes. One of my most vivid childhood memories is of seeing a building in Manchester with these words painted across it: GUY FAWKES WAS INNOCENT. Say no more – I wondered if this slogan was painted by a catholic hand or not, but it’s nice to know that my respect for Mr Fawkes is shared, even if it is too late. I was delighted to receive through the post the taped version of The Gunpowder Plot by Antonia Fraser which is one of my favourite books. It’s perfect timing – just goes to show how his spirit lives on through the centuries…
This time of year always reminds me of the birthday of my friend Sally’s little boy on November the 7th. I said that she should call her son Guy… but she went for James, which was a slightly treacherous move! Ah well, the timing was right at least. I met James again last week when I went away to Norfolk. Jack and Mum came over to visit me and we all (including Sally and her kids) went to the seaside – not really the right weather! Still, it was most enjoyable… I think I appreciated spending some time outside Meadow House which was the name of the place I was staying at. It was a sort of Ziggy hotel, in a way… not really at all like the old nursing home that I stayed in a few years ago. It was a very convenient way of seeing Sally and getting away from the city for a while.
When my mum came to visit me she said “Hey, there’s a dirty big photo of Stephen Fry in the hall… maybe he opened this place!” Sure enough, he did and then someone else told me that he lived just outside Swaffam. This same Ziggy person suggested that I write to him to a) share our interest in Wilde and b) send him some of my novels concerning Wilde. Sally said she could easily find out his address for me… I don’t know if I’ll take up the suggestion. Still I’ve got nothing to lose…

I was really glad that I’d seen Brian Gilbert’s film Wilde before my sight became too bad, so that I still have clear memories of Stephen Fry and Jude Law to cling to. It was pretty inevitable that Stephen Fry would play Wilde some day, because of the uncanny resemblance! He did a pretty good job, I thought, of understanding Wilde and presenting a sympathetic portrait and I was particularly impressed by the piece which accompanied the Wilde film script; this was sort of an introduction written by Fry himself. The director and actors seem to have worked together to recreate Wilde and do him justice. It was a labour of love it seems. I was actually more struck by Jade Law’s striking portrayal of Bosie, a truly nasty piece of work. Though absolutely charming of course! I remembered sequences from the film that I was not at all daunted by the prospect of writing about it for my dissertation Reinventing Wilde, which is still available, by the way!

Another film which I have vivid memories of is an old classic The Time Machine, after the book by HG Wells. I loved this story as soon as I read it… though I felt that it was incomplete and much more should have been said on the subject of time travel. The impossible actually taking place effortlessly, without a clash. Watching the fashions changing on the shop dummy in one of the sequences from the film, filled me with such a scary feeling that lives with me still… it’s like the clash between the impossible and reality if you see what I mean. Anyway, this theme of time travel is coming into the book I’m currently reading, My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time. It’s a great book so far… totally weird, so that impossible situations take place all the time without effort. I wouldn’t call this book a science fiction novel at all – though I suppose it is slightly, in the same way that Killing Time was.
Still on the subject of my own stolen time or an extract of it, which I wrote last month for the History Matters website. Do you remember me going on about it in the last issue? People were asked to write about one day in history and then all the accounts would be stored in the British library for future generations to read. I was so excited by this idea that I got to work on my own dull day – but the thing was, it wouldn’t be just a dull day for anyone reading it in a thousand years from now. Anyway, here follows my own story of the 17th October…

Monday, November 06, 2006

History Matters RM#74

ONE DAY IN HISTORY – 17TH OCTOBER copyright Nicola Batty © 2006

This is hardly an insignificant date for me – 17th of October being the day after the birthday of my greatest hero and mentor, Oscar Wilde. So first of all I’ll say “Happy Birthday” to him, for he is always sitting along side me while I’m at the computer… as I am everyday, because I’m a writer! I’ve written several novels about history which is one of my pet subjects, resurrecting the past and also characters from the past. I think this is one of the most important aims in my writing, using history as a starting point, and then layering upon it with fiction. In this way anyone can bring the past to life, as I – and everyone else taking part in this project – are trying to do. I wish that people from long ago had left accounts of every day life such as this… especially people in Ziggy. I must explain that Ziggy is my wheelchair so he is also always along side me as well as Mr Wilde. So you can see that there are quite a few of us trying to get through your door at the same time – not an easy task!

I have to mention Ziggy here, though I don’t generally like to talk about him as I don’t think my wheelchair is very relevant to my writing – but I think people in the future will be fascinated to hear about attitudes towards me and Ziggy today. Can you imagine how a Victorian Ziggy person’s account of the day would have read? It probably would have been incredibly boring and yet fascinating at the same time (if that’s possible).

So then, I began my day with the usual getting up routine, helped by my constant companion, the long-suffering Andy. When we had had enough of each other he left me with Ruth, my lovely helper, who was telling me about how she had been forced to walk here from Chorlton (about 2 miles) because she had lost her bike!! Afterwards we went upstairs as usual, on the computer writing my novel – or perhaps novels, because this one may turn out to be something of an epic! If you want to see more about my writing please look up my website But to continue with the day, I wrote another chapter of the Victorian novel. I was interrupted just before I reached the end of the chapter by the unexpected arrival of my twin sister Suzanne with her Alsatian, Storm in tow. Of course I was very happy to see her – though Andy had forgotten to tell me that she was coming! Not to worry… we took Storm and Jack (my 13 year old son, who had come home from school) to the local park, which was pretty good – if somewhat brief! It was really nice to be with Jack and Suzanne – they are very close since Suzanne was present at Jack’s birth which I think must give them a special bond! Suzanne was telling me about her poetry book which is going to be called The Barking Thing when it’s published by Bloodaxe soon. Jack was chattering non-stop to Suzanne all the while…which was alright, because they never see each other – but I couldn’t get much of a look in! When we returned home, Jack disappeared upstairs to his Playstation while we sat around and discussed tea pots! Andy had found an Eastenders (the TV soap opera) teapot in the attic which was actually quite tasteful considering it was shaped like the Queen Vic pub! It was quite interesting for me to run my fingers over it and get some impression. By the way, I should explain that I’ve pretty much lost my sight over the past five years.

Suzanne gave Ruth a lift home later and Andy set to work making the dinner which was quiche and salad. I amused myself as usual in the evening by listening to some music on cd while Jack watched telly and Andy was on the computer sorting out his blog which he’s fairly obsessed with at the moment. Jack was being very helpful to me for once – he kept coming in and asking me if I needed anything! He must have been after something…

The day wrapped itself up in the usual manner with me waiting for Andy’s attention –he was obsessed with the internet, as I said! So, another day disappears down the plug hole of history.

Jack's Page RM#74

Scene 8 (rewrite)

(Steven storms out of the front door)

lunchbox- Steven come back. Steven!

Jamall- Let him go man.

Rachel- He’ll come back.

Lunchbox- How do you know that?

Rachel- Apart from the fact that all his stuff is here, his clothes his money?

Lunchbox- Yeah I suppose so. What do we do till then?

Jamall- Why don’t we search Michaels room.

Lunchbox- For what?

Jamall- What he wanted to show us. He called us up saying he wanted to show us something. Why don’t we go look for it?

Lunchbox- Come on then.

(they all walk up the stairs and into Michaels old room.)

lunchbox- What are we looking for exactly?

Jamall- Anything weird. You know? Like something out of place.

(they search for about 30 seconds until Rachel finds the picture.)

Rachel- shit. Look at this.

(they all gather round the picture)

lunchbox- What the hell?

Jamall- Do you think this is what he wanted to show us?

Lunchbox- I don’t get it.

Rachel- Maybe Steven was right. Maybe it’s the ouigi board.

Lunchbox- What do mean by that?

Rachel- What I mean is. Nothing happened when we touched that ougi board, the glass shook a bit, so what? that could mean anything right?

Lunchbox- Right.

Rachel- So maybe. When Tony died, because we left the ouigi board out with the glass on top. He was in the presence of it. So maybe he came out of the ouigi board and is haunting us. Because he thinks its our fault he died.

Lunchbox- I told you man. This kind of stuff really shits me up.

Jamall- Okay the picture is weird. And everything Rachel just said seems to fit yeah? But didn’t Michael shout something about his camera?

Lunchbox- Well lets find his camera then.

(they search around for a bit and again, it is Rachel who finds the camera.)

lunchbox- Why are women so good at everything?

Rachel- How do you turn it on?

Lunchbox- (takes the camera off her.) Well, not everything!

(he opens the camera and turns it on. They see Tony’s foot again.)

Jamall- I know someone who can help us with this. My brother. He knows all about this sort of phenomenal stuff.

Rachel- You take this to your brother. We’ll finish searching the room for anything weird.

Jamall- Alright.

(he runs down stairs, gets his coat on and runs out of the front door.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Urban Scrawl Special part two...

Welcome to Andy's Column.
Urban Scrawl Special part two...


I cycled on past Hulme Lock and the still incomplete St. Georges Island development, which appears to tower out of the water. At this point the tow path got a bit hairy, the ground is a bit soft and it goes very narrow especially under the Hulme Hall Road bridge. The eighteenth century towpath continues to be a bit squashy for another hundred yards or so as you pass under the nineteenth century railway arches that carry the twentieth century trains and the twenty first century trams out of town. Once I got past Cornbrook Bridge the going was easier but still quite narrow. There was by now only one jogger in front of me and he turned back at Pomona lock (which allows boats from the Bridgewater canal to enter the Manchester Ship Canal.) The only obstacles in my way now were a couple of anglers and a few walkers. You could be forgiven for thinking you were out in the countryside at this point but the great mass of waste land is a giant brownfield site. I had heard that someone had gained planning permission to construct a number of apartment blocks, in the style of a ships sails, at one of the docks off Pomona Strand but I saw no evidence of this at all.


I cycled on towards Throstle Nest bridge. In a deep cutting to my left were a number of railway lines and on my immediate right of course was the thick dark green water of the Bridgewater Canal. Beyond the canal the Metrolink trams run on a newly constructed overhead track to Salford Quays and on to the place where the Eccles cakes come from. Just before you reach Throstle Nest Bridge at White City you have to go past the overhead tram stop at Pomona. The tow-path on the south side of the canal which I had been cycling on since Castlefield Quays runs out here and you have to cross the canal by an ancient horse bridge. A quick glance at my watch told me it had taken me twenty five minutes to reach this point. I crossed over but came off the canal here and then crossed the Manchester Ship Canal at Trafford Road swing bridge. (The swing bridge is now welded permanently shut, so big ships can no longer reach Pomona Docks even if they wanted to.)


I cycled through the maze of offices on the Salford side of the Ship Canal, finding a passage to the north bank (Salford bank) near to the Colgate factory on Ordsall lane. From here on it was an easy ride back towards the city centre and away from Salford Quays as the Ship Canal bank is wide and concrete and firm. I road as far as the Woden Street footbridge which is just about where the Manchester, Salford and Trafford boundaries meet, and where I believe the Ship Canal ends and becomes the River Irwell. It was difficult to ride up this terraced bridge but not impossible. I chose to dismount and take a look at the ever changing view. I say ever changing in the sense that it had changed considerably since I was last there a few months ago.


It's a strange place, if you look eastwards from Woden Street footbridge up the Irwell you can see the Manchester skyline in the distance and in the foreground the many new apartment blocks of the St.Georges Island development come into view. Looking westwards down the Ship Canal you can see Salford Quays and the Old Trafford football ground in the distance. In the foreground to your left is the giant brownfield site of the former Pomona Docks. On your right hand side, which is the Salford bank, a number of tacky warehouses and small manufacturing units litter the space between the Ship Canal and Ordsall Lane. What a waste of space this whole area has become.


To give you an idea of the enormity of the size of the place it's roughly the same distance as looking up the River Liffy from O'Connell Street Bridge to Phoenix Park in Dublin or the whole length of The Grand Canal from The Rialto Bridge in Venice. The easiest way to check it out for yourself is to take the Metrolink Tram from G-Mex to Salford Quays on the Eccles Line and you'll pass right through this area. Pay particular attention to the waste land between Cornbrook Station and the next stop at Pomona. It's incredible to think that you could build a whole city centre on this almost forgotten vacant lot. What a missed opportunity for someone! Of course I haven't checked to see if anybody has plans submitted to redevelop this area and the powers that be certainly don't consult me. So, when I say that this is a missed opportunity, I may well be barking up the wrong drainpipe.


I remounted and rode the short distance across the rest of the bridge. I negotiated the dark and gloomy overhead railway arches and emerged into the relative daylight close to the St Georges Island development, which used to be the site of the North Western Bus Company's Depot. As I crossed the Bridgewater Canal on Hulme Hall Road I checked the time. I had been cycling for a full forty minutes now, it must be time to head back. I crossed the busy main Chester Road and took the quiet Barrack Street with its cute little houses. I cycled on past the Doctors Surgery on City Road and continued onto Royce Road crossing over the busier Chorlton Road so as to stay away from the bulk of the traffic.


On I rode, crossing Stretford Road and Greenheyes Lane onto the still unfinished Hulme High Street, past Hulme Market and Moss Side Leisure Centre to the junction of Moss Lane. Here I crossed over the busy highway onto the Alexandra Park Estate, following the road around Quinney Crescent to its junction with Great Western Street, where I turned left, managing to cross Princess Road on a green traffic light. Taking the first turn to my right I proceeded in a southerly direction towards Claremont Road and the famous Arties Barbershop. Total journey time fifty five minutes.
More from Urban Scrawl Andy in RM#75

You can check Andy Sewina's blogspot at :

Next Posting...



“Good bye then,” said Ross, raising his hand and reaching for the door but as he did so the door burst open so that the little bell jangled wildly, the chimes mixing up into a discordant mass. A small boy cannoned into Ross, almost knocking him over backwards. The boy had been carrying a paper bag full of apples, which split open and the fruit rolled across the floor.

“Freddie!” cried Emma, alarmed. “Be careful!”

“Sorry,” muttered Freddie to Ross, drawing back from him quickly. Emma began to gather up the fallen apples, held by Mr Hall and her son. Meanwhile Ross simply shrugged and gave a pleasant smile to the careless young boy. Bending down just before he opened the door to leave, he scooped up a stray apple and handed it carefully to Freddie… who took it as if it were a priceless object, something sacred of great significance.

“Here you are,” said Ross, “you almost missed this one.”

“Thank you, sir.” Freddie watched the smart young man step outside the shop into the light Autumn rain. Everything seemed to be very quiet and still with the departure of Ross; Emma felt utterly confused by the things that had just happened, her heart was still thumping and her face still red. She rounded angrily on her son.

“Why don’t you be more careful? What are you doing here anyway?” she demanded.

Freddie stared at the floor suddenly. His short fair hair was wet and plastered to his skull, the raindrops still running down his cheeks.

“I said I was sorry… it was an accident,” he insisted. “I just came over here to see if Mr Hall had any jobs for me… do you uncle?” He looked at the shop keeper, who had found another bag to put the apples in. This he handed to Freddie with a cheerful grin.

“I’ll tell you what you can do Freddie… you can clean and polish the shop windows and the doorstep. If you make a good job of it I’ll give you a penny. Do you agree?”

Freddie jumped up and down in delight.

“Of course I’ll make a good job of it! Thank you!” Freddie hurried outside with Mr Hall to get the bucket and cloth; Emma stared after them, wondering if Mr Hall’s kindness towards her son came from simply him having an open heart, or… was it perhaps something more to do with the loss of his own baby boy many years ago. She sighed deeply; she still felt giddy from Ross’s sudden business proposition. Half a crown! She moved around the shop slowly, like a clockwork toy, pushing all the draws tight shut and putting things away. She liked the monotony of her task; she didn’t have to think, everything belonged in it’s place. She thought she could see Freddie outside, polishing the door step manically. She smiled to herself; the boy was nothing if not enthusiastic. Would half a crown perhaps buy him a brand new pair of boots? Her mind wandered over such possibilities… for a moment it struck her that the situation was quite ridiculous! She had no idea at all what she’d do with the money she had earned… she moved behind the counter, still tidying and polishing before she went. Sam suddenly entered her thoughts, like an unbidden spirit; he would claim that half crown instantly, swallowed up in rent or suchlike. Drawing Harriet’s silk purse from her pocket, Emma opened it and felt the coin inside. She drew in her breath sharply; Mr Ross had paid her in advance. It seemed incredible. But suddenly she knew, she was quite convinced of what she would do with the money. For this coin belonged to her; and she would spend it in whatever way she chose. MORE FROM THE SPACE BETWEEN IN RM#75. DON’T FORGET TO LOOK OUT FOR MORE NOVEMBER POSTINGS OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS!

November Postings...




It’s a great relief to be creating something new in The Space Between… for I was getting pretty fed up with rewriting old stuff and changing various bits and pieces, though of course this still goes on; what you read is really only the finished product and it’s easy to forget all the hours of hard work that have gone into it! Such are the joys of writing… I can’t complain really because it plagues me if things aren’t quite right. I didn’t feel happy about going on with a novel unless it’s right because things develop from what’s gone before… if that makes any sense. The whole process is rather like the natural growth of a plant or something, where twigs and buds grow out of other branches… so you can't reach the flower until you’ve got all the green shoots and twigs before. Not very well explained, I know, but I hope you can see the symmetry.

I still have in mind the idea of The Space Between becoming a trilogy, simply because of the length of it. But also the length of time expands, which is about 30 years, so each book could deal with a decade; I want to make the first book concentrate on Wilde (sort of, although he never makes an appearance!). I wanted to call this book something definitely Wildean, though not too obvious. My favourite idea is To be Suggestive which is part of an actual quote from Wilde about writing fiction… so it seemed completely relevant. The main object of the book is to mix historical fact with fiction, and it’s not necessary for Wilde himself to appear in the novel… I just want to use his ideas.

Back to chapter four. I was immediately tempted to include my own fictional version of Freddie in The Space Between as soon as I read about him in Robbie Ross’s biography. It seemed he was a gap just waiting to be coloured in; though there was very little detail given about his parents, his life, and no photos or physical description! This would not do, so I set to work with my pen (or rather, Ruth’s fingers!). It seemed so very unfair that the only mention of him is in relation to Ross… though this is perhaps inevitable in a biography. Anyway I thought that he and Ross should have a first meeting years before the actual historical meeting happened – or at least that’s what the biographies claim. But who knows? My fiction may turn out to be more factual than fact!

It’s strange the way that Emma has grown out of being a completely faceless character; she has elbowed her way to the forefront and now stands shoulder to shoulder with Harriet in importance. She was only mentioned very briefly in Ross’s biography and I didn’t intend to put her in my novel at all… it just happened. Although I’ve been rewriting all the old chapters to make her have a different life. You may not recognise Emma at first… she was originally called Christina and was a school teacher – which I realised was totally implausible for the 1880s. So she’s now married… though I’m still a little worried that I’m making her thoughts too modern for a Victorian mind. What do you think?

Another reason I like the title of To be Suggestive is that it hints at something slightly naughty – so would arouse interest! But more importantly this undercurrent of homosexuality is central throughout the book… we have Rick and Shan and later Ross and Freddie… and perhaps Jack and Freddie. Though I’m not sure about this, we’ll see. MORE RAW MATERIALS IN RM#75.
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