Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

February 2007 Issue 77

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The Space Between.
Andy's column.
Urban Scrawl!
Nicola's February Editorial.
All her News and gossip!
Nicola shares her writing secrets,
the trials and tribulations of writing a work-in-progress-novel.
Nicola's February Editorial..
No, I’m not going to open this issue by talking about Oscar Wilde’s book, I’m actually just using the title to describe what happened today! My intention was to write the editorial today but because the weather was amazing we decided to go out for a walk instead (which actually turned out to be a bit of a hike!).
Not only was it bright sunshine but also it was pretty mild for this time of year! I was reminded of Scott’s exploits in the South Pole where he described his team ‘stripping down to their underclothes’ when they were wrestling their sledges over glaciers. This sounds absolutely incredible that the men should be getting so hot and sweaty in such a place! We didn’t go as far as the South Pole today – Sale Water Park was as far as we got! It was quite a rough ride at times and Andy came in useful for particularly hairy bits, the steep hills and muddy puddles! When we came home afterwards, Ziggy was so muddy he had to have his wheels washed down with a hose but all in all the expedition was a great success!
The most exciting part of our expedition for me was passing through an area of swampland – about the closest I’ll ever come to Louisiana!! It only needed the tropical climate and the bitey insects! Mind you, there were enough gnats around! If you read Raw Materials in this issue you will understand my excitement; the section from To Be Suggestive I’ve chosen, is all about the swamps of Louisiana and the monsters that lurk therein. As I’ve never experienced the swamps before (except in the pages of Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire) I thought I should get the feel of the one in Sale… is that why it’s called Sale Water Park, I wonder?
An even more exciting thing happened a few weeks ago – I actually received a letter from Mr Fry! You remember me saying that I wrote to him last year, talking about Wilde? I discovered through my friend Sally that he lives in the same village as her and she volunteered to post a letter for me… which turned out to be quite difficult because his front door had no letterbox!! However, Sally must have put the letter under the door or something because he got it. I was amazed he bothered to reply at all so it didn’t matter that the message was brief (he’s a busy chap I suppose). It was only a few lines thanking me for my “gratifying letter” but the thought was there!
Talking of letters, by now you would have received my letter explaining my concern about RAW MEAT becoming totally computerised! While I recognise that most people nowadays have regular access to a computer, there are still those who don’t or don’t have time to spare to read RAW MEAT. Or maybe there are people who would prefer to sit down in a comfy armchair and read a printed copy… I know that I would. I’m still worried that by making the Newsletter only available Online we’ll be losing subscribers. Andy doesn’t share my view but we have agreed to produce a printed version for those of you who really can’t live without it. If you would like to receive a paper copy please contact me as soon as possible. Or fill out the form we sent you. WORK AND PLAY
Perhaps I am just being a stick in the mud and behind the times, but I can’t mix using the computer with leisure time – or ‘playtime’. The computer certainly has its uses and is essential in my line of work… therefore, after working on the computer most of the day, I feel it’s necessary to have a break and change of scenery. For me this means listening to music or stories in a quiet room… away from new technology!! Nowadays people use the computer all the time; for example, Jack watches films, listens to music, etc, so maybe I’m just being old fashioned after all! Recently I was given a CDRom of Stormbreaker… the whole book, four hours long! I was really looking forward to hearing it, but dismayed when my CD player wouldn’t read it. I still haven’t listened to it yet… I just can’t bring myself to sit out by the computer in the evenings like Jack does. Maybe there’s some deep psychological reason to explain my aversion. But seriously, I don’t think that reading stuff on the computer will ever take the place of actually reading a book. Do other people also feel this way?
Enough about computers! On to good old fashioned tapes. At the moment I’m listening to Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, the first book in his Gormenghast trilogy. It’s a wonderful tale which I read some years ago but I remember in great detail… every one of his characters is memorable, so weird and surreal. I remember being really disappointed with the TV version a few years ago… it did no justice to the book at all. Besides being an incredible story, the version I’ve got on tape is especially wonderful… the chap reading it speaks really distinctly and clearly so it’s great for me. Also the tapes themselves are of surprisingly good quality considering they’re from a tape library – I think they must be twenty years old at least by now. I myself have listened to them at least once before. I’ve also been sent Gormenghast, which is next on the list. Incidentally, this trilogy gave me an idea for The Space Between… why don’t I use the name of my trilogy for the title of the second book?
We’ve taken a little break from reading about Lizzie Siddal because I want to prepare myself for seeing Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead this week. I want to be able to enjoy the theatre without my vision… and obviously it will help me to follow if I read the script before hand. So that’s what we’re doing and I’m really enjoying it… it brings back lots of memories for me of the film version I saw ten years ago. Gary Oldman played a very eccentric Guildenstern who was into physics and kept saying “wait a minute, this is interesting” whenever he noticed a curious scientific phenomenon. Tim Roth played Rosencrantz, sometimes on horseback and sometimes wondering about amidst the background characters of Hamlet. It’s a lovely idea, to focus in on different characters besides the central ones… giving the story a completely different slant. I suppose that I’m doing a similar thing with The Space Between. SEBASTIAN DARKE: PRINCE OF FOOLS
Before heading to the theatre, we’re going to call in at our friend Phil Caveney’s book launch. Phil has also been writing a trilogy but unlike me he’s been commissioned to do it! Both Andy and I know Phil from when he was the leader of the South Manchester Writer’s Group… in fact he still is but a bit more successful nowadays. Phil has published several books, some of them for children and teenagers… I think that Jack will be particularly interested in this one, liking Stormbreaker as he did. I myself have read a couple of Phil’s recent books which are all pretty gripping yet quite distinctive. Unlike most adventure novels for teenagers which are set in or around London, Phil’s books are all set in Manchester – in fact the last one I read Slayground was set in Moss Side! I think that I’d like to read this one even if Jack doesn’t!
My own claim to fame has just been confirmed by the editor of The Wildean. This is the official journal of the Oscar Wilde Society, and a chapter from my Dissertation Reinventing Wilde has just been printed in it, although I’ve not received my copy yet!! I explained several issues of RAW MEAT ago that the chapter they’d chosen to print was one of my favourites, Wilde in Fiction, which leads directly on to The Space Between… so I’m delighted that it will appear! If you’d like to read Wilde in Fiction may I remind you that copies of Reinventing Wilde are still available.The Wildean can be found on the web (AT) www.oscarwildesociety.co.uk

At last, I’ve begun referring to my novel as “To Be Suggestive” instead of “The Space Between”… though I suppose that it could still go under the name of the whole trilogy. I hope that this isn’t confusing; it’s like the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake (which I’m reading and greatly enjoying at the moment) where the middle book is called by the same name as the whole trilogy. Does this make sense?? I’m thinking of calling the second book The Space Between but I’m not quite sure yet. This particular chapter I’ve been working on (chapter 5) seems significant in two ways; not only does it mark the half way stage (roughly speaking) but also it involves major events that I’ve been working towards all the time. I’m thinking of Wilde’s arrest of course and Ricketts’ action with the manuscript. So that these events have been actually reached and dealt with I feel a bit panic stricken and lost as to where to go from here. Of course I’ve got a rough idea of the way the characters will take the story – but that doesn’t stop me being anxious about whether or not I can keep the level of suspense up now that the dramatic events have happened! This chapter has also been quite a different one to write, being made up of lots of little fragments which veer away from the conventional structure, though this is not a bad thing of course. Though I am aware that it may not allow the reader sufficient time to become truly involved with what’s going on… though I hope this is not the case! I found that I had to rewrite much of the original Arrested which is hardly surprising. That was the easy part of the chapter… I wanted to keep the story moving for Harriet et al. and this was tricky because I’m still not confident the reader will cope with all this jumping around of locations and characters. It’s important to keep some sense of consistency also, so the novel comes together as a whole and not just bitey fragments. So, alongside Wilde’s arrest and Constance’s fall we have the piece I include here with Sam, Harriet and the two boys. Oh and Georges: do you remember him from Chapter 2? I wanted to bring him back in though I’m not totally clear about the reason why… I’ve still got this thing about the swamps in Louisiana but I couldn’t really explain why. I’m hoping that it will all become clear later. The American link is obviously going to become useful for later, probably in the third book where the manuscript turns up somewhere in America but for now he could provide a bridge between London and America for Jack, because I want some reason for him to have ideas to go there. I thought he should at least meet Georges… though I wasn’t sure that Georges and Harriet should recognise each other after all this time! It would perhaps be more realistic if they didn’t… and also less contrived, as a miraculous recognition would seem like something in a soap opera! I’m keen to avoid this because in some ways it seems that the novel is like a soap opera – involving so many characters in the same time space. Writing about Jack and Freddie also provided me with a bit of a challenge. Of course I have experience of young boys with my Jack but a Victorian five year old is quite a different kettle of fish! Jack was easier to imagine than Freddie though I have no idea why. I know pretty much the direction in which Freddie and Jack are heading… so I just wanted to lay down some early ground work for them and then take it from there…

THE SPACE BETWEEN copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2007
THAT THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXTRACT FROM Nicola's work-in-progress-novel and the final published work may well be very different from this Newsletter version.


Sam turned towards the church gates leading out onto Commercial Street. All around him people were still flooding out of the church and he was not too surprised when a man’s voice called his name. He turned around at once to find himself face to face with an unfamiliar man with a bushy black beard. He stared, thinking desperately.
“Hello Sam… it has been some time, I think.”
As soon as he spoke, Sam remembered that accent. A smile appeared on his face for the first time all morning as he seized the man’s hand warmly. “Georges! We must have missed each other the last few times at the docks. I knew your ship was here… I looked out for you, but I didn’t see you. Good to see you again.” Sam paused, wondering why he suddenly felt so happy. There was something about Georges that filled him with a sense of easy warmth, such as he had never experienced. Clearing his throat carefully, Sam asked quickly, “Are you here for a few days?”
“Just one more day… I sail back to New Orleans tomorrow.” Georges gazed around him vaguely, rolling up the sleeves of his white shirt with such a natural ease that Sam envied him. “It’s such beautiful weather in London for once. It makes me think of my home. I miss it, you see.”
“Yes, I remember you telling me about Louisiana once before.” Sam nodded, gazing at the embroidered pocket of Georges’ jacket which was draped over his arm. From the corner of his eye he saw Harriet begin to move towards him, joined now by Freddie and Jack. “I remember the stories you told me about the swamps… you gave me that picture for my son, Freddie. Though you won’t remember it… it was a long time ago.”
Georges laughed, delighted. “Of course I remember the picture of the swamp monster! How could I forget? It took me such a long time to do. I’m glad Freddie appreciated it.”
“Oh yes, he certainly did… he still has it and he sometimes talks about it,” Sam nodded over Georges’ shoulder as Freddie approached. He continued in a voice which edged with pride, “you can talk to him yourself… here he is now.”
Sam turned as the two boys hurried up beside him. Both boys looked hot and uncomfortable in their shirts and jackets. Glancing at Georges briefly, Freddie looked up questioningly at his father. Sam touched his fair hair lightly. “Freddie, this is Georges… you remember your picture?”
The young boy stepped forward at once, his eyes shining with enthusiasm. “Oh yes, I remember the swamp-monster you drew! I want to see one... was it fierce? Did it attack you?”
George looked at the boy seriously. “No… but I was lucky, the monster didn’t see me. There have been several dead bodies floating in the swamp… arms and legs torn off, even heads!” He paused dramatically, allowing his words to sink in to both the boys’ minds.
Beside Freddie, Jack stood motionless, listening also. “I was safe inside my little boat though,” Georges continued, “So I could watch the monster prowling around over the water, never touching the surface or else it would vanish. Explode – pop! Just like that.” He raised his hand and demonstrated with his fist. “That same monster will come back, the next month maybe, or it may be a different one… for nobody knows how many monsters there are in the swamps, for there are many of them in Louisiana.”
Freddy drew in his breath slowly, his eyes fixed on Georges. “Are there monsters everywhere? How many have you seen?”
Georges gave a casual shrug. “Only one… but of course there may be more. Who can tell?” He paused for a moment, gazing out at both the boys thoughtfully. “You know, Freddie, you should come and see the monster for yourself… or at least search for it in the swamp. You should come to Louisiana with me and we’ll go out together in my boat.”
Freddie stared, transfixed; beside him, Jack began jumping up and down in excitement.
“And me? Can I come too?”
Georges nodded again, absorbing the situation effortlessly, like a sponge.
“Yes… please bring your friend, Freddie.” He looked down fondly at the dancing five-year-old. “What’s your name?”
“It’s Jack… can I really sail away to America with you?” The young boy answered immediately, skipping over to Georges and thrusting his small hand into the man’s large one.
Georges made no reply; he simply smiled, looking over at Sam who gave a short, barking cough, calling attention back to himself.
“Well, we should be going,” he said, taking Freddie’s hand and beginning to turn away. “We’ve got to go home. It was nice to see you again, Georges. Until next time.”
“Goodbye!” called Freddie, beginning to scamper away towards the church gates.
But Jack clung to Georges’s wrist, reluctant to leave him.
From behind them Harriet watched the scene, feeling distinctly uneasy. She couldn’t explain why… don’t I know him from somewhere? She didn’t like these promises he was making her son… she wanted Jack near her. Stepping between the sailor and the boy, she held out her hand firmly towards Jack.
“Come on Jack,” she commanded and lead him away along the sunlit path.

Jack didn't make the deadline for this issue, sorry.
However, he assures me that he will write a film review for RM#78.

Welcome to Andy's bit..
Nicola mentioned our recent hike in her editorial. My version is as follows. We decided to take a little stroll round Chorlton Water Park the other day. The weather was more like spring than January and Nicola and her helper Jessica wanted a little fresh air. I drove us all down to the waters edge and we started to walk around the lake. It is a beautiful place and a nature reserve, it's hard to imagine that the city totally surrounds this wonderful area of countryside on our doorstep but it does.
We walked in the anti-clockwise direction from the car park and after a short while we came to the River Mersey. On the Mersey bank, we walked in the direction of Sale Water Park. My idea was for us to continue along the bank until we came to the Bridgewater Canal. The Bridgewater is carried across the Mersey via a bridge. The Metrolink Trams also cross the Mersey at the same place. What I didn't realise was quite how far away it was.
Needless to say, we didn't make it all the way to the Bridgewater Canal. It wasn't the distance really, I think we just got a bit side-tracked. Anyway, we walked along the Mersey bank, which is all very nice and well managed, these days. On our right hand side there was a golf course and a few people hitting little white balls with metal sticks. In the near distance on the other side of the river stood another golf course, Sale. I knew that it was Sale Golf Course 'cos many years ago I did a bit of caddying there. In a few minutes we had walked from the Lakeside at Chorlton Water Park to the footbridge at Jackson's Boat. MORE LATER..
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