Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 2007 Issue 80

Here we are at last! Sorry about the slight delay in the arrival of this month’s issue, which was due to a slight lack of enthusiasm on my part – for everything generally… but particularly RAW MEAT. My hostile feelings toward the computer have not lessened at all – in fact they’re increased to the point where I think there’s no point in feeding RAW MEAT into a computer and receiving NO human response, feedback, reaction… call it what you will but I’m fed up! So for several weeks I’ve not been able to communicate my feelings to anybody, let alone RAW MEAT readers. However, now I’m beginning to get my act together enough to be able to talk about how pissed off I am with RAW MEAT!
As I’ve said before I think the computer has got a lot to answer for in the way of taking away people’s necessity for direct human interaction. This is evident to me through Andy and Jack – they seem to be losing the ability to hold a conversation… they are far to eager to return to the Playstation/computer and stay glued to the screen for hours, watching all the distant images pass by and where no response is needed! Does this make any sense? I hope so because then maybe you will begin to see why I don’t like just feeding RAW MEAT into the computer every month and never receiving any response or reaction. At least with the printed version I knew people wanted to read it because we had quite a few subscribers. I can’t explain this because it is nothing to do with payment or anything, but I think what’s the point in writing anything if people only glance fleetingly at it and then bugger off? Take for example our latest book 50 Bites which I talked about at length last month. We received absolutely no response to anything I’ve said about the book which makes me feel as if I’ve been talking to a brick wall or maybe even the cat! No matter how much Andy goes on about reaching all these people in China or outer Mongolia… it’s all pretty meaningless if there’s no reaction.
Besides the frustration of receiving no human response there’s also the feeling of total boredom which encompasses me as far as RAW MEAT is concerned!! I hope you’ll appreciate my honesty with you. Well, I’m, sure it’ll be a waste of time trying to hide my feelings as they’d show through anyway. Perhaps this total boredom doesn’t just include RAW MEAT – it stretches far beyond. But of course RAW MEAT has been going such a long time that such boredom is perhaps inevitable. So what can be done about it? This is a question I’ve got no answer to… have you any suggestions? Sometimes it seems that life is just passing me by and I can do nothing to take any part in it anymore. This is pretty depressing stuff… maybe you’d do best to ignore me and turn over the page or mess around with your mouse and look at the next thing…
Although I’d like to change the subject completely at this point, there is something else I’d like to add along the lines of my computer aversion. I’ve explained to you my fears about the effect the computer is having on people (Jack and Andy being a prime example). It’s this total isolation that scares me… everyone seems to be encouraged to live independently and so isolate themselves in their own world, behind the computer screen. Nothing touches them directly: gone is the need for direct action. Instead of being encouraged to live independently for as long as possible, we should be encouraged to live together and to interact without barriers. Here speaks a true anarchist! I don’t really know if this is making much sense at all… perhaps I’ll just leave it up to you to fill in any spaces yourselves! Please send me any responses, good or bad, just so I know that I’m getting through to someone!
Anyway, that’s quite enough of this idle chit chat for now. Time to return to RAW MEAT. Jack’s been busy doing his exams in Maths, English and Science this week – he says he thought the English went best! He’s been studying Shakespeare’s The Tempest and actually knows much more about it than I do, because I’ve forgotten the story! I think I’ve got three Pre-Raphaelite prints of Miranda being shipwrecked though I can’t remember much about the actual play, it involves Ariel, Caliban and Prospero doesn’t it? I have vague memories of seeing a TV version in the early 80’s in which Toyah Wilcox played Miranda which sounds amazing!! I’m going with Jack and my Dad to see the play next month at The Royal Exchange in Manchester, which is my favourite theatre because it’s in the round and so the audience almost becomes part of the play, they are so close.
We were struggling with Will Self’s How The Dead Live which proved to be very difficult to read aloud in public. Self is a bit fond of using the F word along with various portions of anatomy which meant that Ruth and I couldn’t read it aloud in the park and as the weather was great we decided to lay the book aside and turned instead to Hawksmoor which I’ve not read for many years. It was written in the mid 80’s and is a London tale which is quite scary in places. It’s typical Ackroyd stuff in that there are 2 parallel stories – one of them is set in the 17th century involving the seven churches designed by Hawksmoor and the modern story takes place at these churches where murders have been committed. The policeman on the trail is also called Hawksmoor – although the original architect is not! This could be pretty confusing but it helps in a way to eliminate the different timescales and show how they overlap… a bit like Killing Time I suppose. Anyway the book’s great – do read it if you get a chance! I remember having a conversation with one of my writer friends about Hawksmoor; he was criticising Ackroyd’s style of imitating 17th century language in the way that Ackroyd kept describing his 17th century architect as being on the chamber pot ‘at stool’. It’s strange that I can remember this conversation so vividly… I thought that it was really funny how my friend should be so irritated by such a phrase!
When I first read Hawksmoor I was being a Goth in Woolwich and had just written an article for the National Student (magazine) about my trip to Transylvania, actually right up in the Carpathian Mountains. Not surprisingly, the article was called ‘In search of vampires’; The editor wanted some photo’s of me being a vampire and so he sent round his photographer, Steve Speller. Steve was an interesting chap who became intrigued by my fascination with Hawksmoor, which I was reading at that time. So intrigued was he that he went around the East End taking cool photographs of each of the seven churches… each one is very strange and individual with designs which you have to see to appreciate fully. I still have the collection of photo’s downstairs in a frame. Perhaps this is connected in some mysterious way to my strange love for London’s East End…
Steve actually used to live in Spitalfields, would you believe?? The few rooms he rented were wonderful; they had once been a cotton sweat shop in the 19th century and it was easy to imagine still those poor girls slaving away over their sewing until both their eyes and fingers ached with exhaustion. Steve’s rooms were something else; he used to keep some lizard type creatures in a tank, until they contracted a mysterious fungal disease and died one by one. Ahh, memories!
Amazingly Jessica and I actually finished the Julian Cope book last week – it’s taken us 18 months!! I suppose that you might call the book an autobiography, though it’s not really just about Mr Cope but also about the 80’s generally. Anyway, it’ll be really good to see him next week – we’re going to go to Stoke where he’s playing live. Although his music might not be quite as much to my liking as the Teardrop Explodes, I’m still looking forward to seeing him in the flesh as it were… now I feel like I know him not just as a musician but as someone obsessed by interesting things such as stone circles!
Still on the subject of music, I made an amazing discovery recently. I thought that I’d like to go and see my old hero Peter Gabriel, who I haven’t seen since I was pregnant, when I found out that he’s playing at the WOMAD music festival. I couldn’t believe it!! We’d just booked to go to the festival with Shelia and her kids… just for the music generally, art and dance – this is now an added bonus!
Ok, I’ve done quite enough Rawtalking for this issue and will wind it up now. I hope I have not gone on too much and got on your nerves! Any response you want to make will be greatly appreciated… we won’t print it unless you want! Hopefully the next issue should be ready at the beginning of June!
You can visit Nicola's website at: www.nicolabatty.co.uk
You can e-mail Nicola at: nicbat3963@aol.com
Raw Materials copyright (c) Nicola Batty 2007
It’s probably very telling that by far the easiest part of RAW MEAT to write this month is Raw Materials, obviously because it’s the only area of my life in which I feel any progress is being made! The irony of such a situation is unbearable… and yet, there it is. The novel rises from the flames like Phoenix from the ashes, still filling me with a tingling sensation of being alive, despite everything. So I decided to change the title from To Be Suggestive (which I thought was too long and wordy) to The Spark. Much more catchy, don’t you think? I toyed with the idea of Bright Sparks… but decided it was too silly!
This piece I’ve just been writing about Charles Rickets and Harriet is exciting and challenging, showing a direct confrontation between historical and fictional characters. Of course I worry about this all the time – is this meeting credible? Have I laid the foundations deep enough? or will readers think “Oh, come on now.” I suppose I’m expecting the reader to also use a bit of imagination as well as me… and isn’t this fair enough?? I don’t see any point in writing a novel which is just like fodder to stuff the reader with and leave no impression. Therefore my writing is obviously not meant for easy reading!! Possibly this is the reason why I’m having so much trouble getting published. Be this as it may, I can’t imagine myself altering my style drastically to pamper to readers… what’s the point in writing then? So perhaps I’ll just have to accept I’ll be a great unpublished writer all my life.
But to return to Charles and Harriet, I wanted to make a few passing references to Killing Time but without making it essential to have read it. This was actually not so difficult to do because Charles also knew both Ross and Wilde… and so there was mutual ground. I was still always aware of the totally different worlds occupied by Charles and Harriet; in a way it’s inevitable that the conversation will jar a little. I don’t think there’s any way I can place an ex East End prostitute against such arty farty and wealthy surroundings without there being some note of discord. But the trick is to get beyond this and make it seem believable… though not authentic because I hate the very word! Surely I could use the fact of there being a gap between their backgrounds to bring Charles and Harriet together? I hope that I’ve already paved the way for Charles, who’s quite an interesting character anyway because of his restless nature.
As I write more about Charles, my confidence grows… and also my affection and respect for him. I think he was a great chap – an incredibly gifted, determined and quite wonderful bloke. I wonder whether to bring him into the next novel as well? This is something to think on… it may follow on logically after he and Harriet have been living together in The Spark. I don’t know how feasible it is that Ricketts would lead this double life; his relationship with Charles Shannon never faltered although it was not an explicitly sexual one, so there’s room for a manoeuvre within it I’m sure!
Although I’ve been trying to get some interest – jut a glimmer – from a publisher at this point… there’s nothing for it, it seems, but to finish the book… which is no big deal really because there’s no going back now. So there it is!
copyright (c) Nicola Batty 2007.
This extract takes place in Spital Square; Harriet has finished work for the evening and is in conversation with Charles, who has come over from Liverpool Street Station.
“I don’t believe it! You know Oscar as well, do you? That’s incredible!”
“I met him a couple of times,” Harriet told him, folding her hands carefully in her lap. “Though I wouldn’t really say I knew him well.” She broke off and paused, glancing quickly at Charles. “Perhaps you can tell me something about him… it’s something one of my friends mentioned recently. I didn’t believe it when they told me that he was in prison… is that true, Charles? Why? Mr Wilde would never hurt anyone.”
Charles nodded slowly. Shrugging helplessly.
“Yes, it is true I’m afraid. Oscar’s been in Reading Gaol for…” his words trailed away and became a mere extension of the balmy evening, so that they mixed with and became part of the atmosphere. He looked away quickly, giving a little nervous cough. “He didn’t hurt anyone… he just broke the law. But look Harriet…” He took her hand suddenly. Not only wanting to change the subject completely but also because he wanted to be close to her. “Let’s talk about something else. Tell me about you… you said that things had changed in your life since I knew you. What things?”
“Oh, everything… lots of things have changed.”
She smiled as a feeling of ease and security washed over her; she rested her head against Charles’s shoulder and continued, the words lapping within her voice in gentle rhythm. “I’m quite a different person now. I have a child, you see. Jack was born nearly seven years ago… when he was a baby he had red hair, just like yours.”
Charles looked at her sharply; she felt his body stiffen, though his voice remained quite calm and almost conversational.
“Well, I…” breaking off, he cleared his throat slowly and started again. “I should like very much to meet him… if that’s possible. What’s his name?”
“Jack,” she replied.
“Jack…” Charles repeated the name wondering to himself, as if it were imbued with some magical tincture, then he shook his head quickly and laughed. “I find it impossible to believe that I have a son! Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure.” Harriet felt a little irritated; why should it be so incredible? It was as if he were trying to deny the obvious, the fact that they had shared a life for several months. “Jack’s just like you… he wants to be an artist. He’s always drawing pictures.”
“Is he? Well, he should certainly be encouraged in that.”
Harriet nodded slowly, thinking over his words and waiting for him to elaborate… but he didn’t, so she prompted him: “Do… do you have a wife now?”
Immediately she felt herself blushing crimson as Charles’s eyes bored into her. Then he threw back his head and laughed.“Wife! Not me, Harriet… can you imagine me being married? Come along now, don’t be silly. No woman will ever touch me… except maybe you, Harriet. Just maybe,” he added quickly, as if realising what he had just said. He withdrew his hand from hers, looking away at a small group of children playing near by. Sensing his unease, Harriet watched the sun sinking slowly behind the towers and domes of the city until she felt peaceful once again.
MORE FROM NICOLA'S work-in-progress-novel in RM#81
Welcome to Andy's bit!
It's difficult being a writer, or so they tell me... But sometimes I feel that it's double difficult for Nicola as her sight has long gone and her hearing is intermittent at best. So, when someone rejects her work, she often doesn't know why! Mainly because she has less control of the finished article - she can't see the layout for herself or check the spelling or punctuation. It gets worse, she starts to question if anybody ever reads anything she writes.
What writers need is feedback! Don't we all? Think about it! You create something, you spend all your time doing it, burning the midnight oil, all your energy goes into it, all your ideas! And no-one looks at it! No-one reads it! Nobody gives you any feedback! You feel isolated, defeated, you are ready to give up and get a proper job! But it's not like that for Nicola - things aren't that simple. Writing is her life - she is a writer! whether anybody reads her work or not - writing is what she does. So, if you have a spare minute or two please write her a comment or send her an e-mail, she really does need some feedback right now!
Well, we've been publishing things on the weird web for a while now and it's true it is weird! Raw Meat.. has taken a few knocks and I think Nicola wants to go back to a paper publication. I try to live by the adage Never say never! But, I think that even though we don't get the same kind of feedback thesedays, I feel that the web is the place for Nicola's Newsletter.
Anyhow, it would be difficult to go back to printing all those paper copies now as the machinery is ageing fast. The main computer we use/used for RM is over ten years old now and the printer is seven years old. I spoke to my local computer bod today about fixing a little problem, when I told him it was running on windows 95 - he said 'That's old!'
Blogs, Web logs, call them what you will! Monthly's, Weekly's, Daily's. Why do people write all that stuff? Worse still, why do people read all that nonsence? Well, as a blogger, I would have to tell you that it's addictive - it's a kind of drug or perhaps it's more like the high that a drug user might look for - whatever, it is an addiction! believe me. You can read my really bad poetry blogs StraightTalkingStreetTalkingSweet... and SweetTalkingGuy... just clink the link! Also, my Doktir Nairobi blog is up and running, if you really want to take a butchers - click HERE. Finally don't forget my weekly Proper Joe's, which I update every tuesday. How addictive's that?
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