Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Friday, August 03, 2007

August 2007 Issue 83

So, yet another grey, miserable day of threatening rain looms… still that’s the British summer for you I suppose. It’s an extremely sore point with me at the moment as you’ll discover if you read on, but first of all I want to share with you a crazy idea I’ve just had concerning some property in Torquay (not Faulty Towers) which Andy spotted on the internet recently. It’s got about 10 rooms, including a Ziggy one, massive kitchen and grounds… and I think a three bedroom cottage in the grounds. Of course it’s price tag of £600,000 is beyond the average person’s means but what if a number of people clubbed together? Wouldn’t that work?
As you’ll know by now, I’m something of an anarchist and believe in communal living – helping each other where and when needed. For many years I thought about living in such a property as this. It would be ideal, both from a practical point of view (money-wise that is) and also philosophically, or perhaps artistically. All we need is to get some other people similarly interested. So how about it? Are you looking for a change in direction, as I am? Families would be welcomed, the seaside being the ideal place for kids! Ziggy people too would be encouraged; Andy is keen to make any building alterations necessary. Please get in touch if you share this vision and I can send you more details of the place and we’ll take it from there.
To return to more immediate matters such as the WOMAD Festival which we should have experienced but didn’t because we had to come back home early due to extremely difficult mud conditions. It’s pretty hard work for Andy at the best of times to get Ziggy across fields but it’s impossible when mud is making Ziggy’s wheels slip and get stuck. And it wasn’t just Ziggy – cars had to be towed by tractors all the time! Most people in Ziggy had already left on the first day but we stayed long enough to see Peter Gabriel that evening. So WOMAD was not a total disaster for me but I was greatly disappointed by not being able to get around the site and listen to all the different music and stuff going on over the weekend. I was on the Ziggy platform for Peter Gabriel and so I was quite close to the stage – he played lots of his world music involving tribal drums and stuff like that which was great. Although the Ziggy platform was crowded with people, there were only two or three other Ziggies there… imagine going home before Peter Gabriel!!!
Whoever would have believed that mud could have that sort of power as far as Ziggy is concerned? Before we got there we were all much more worried about the tent getting rained on and everything getting soaked rather than Ziggy’s wheels being unable to cope with the mud! I couldn’t believe it… I still can’t. Extremely frustrating. There were several walkways around the edge of the site but these were pretty useless really because they kept coming to an end, and what then? I can’t even make any positive suggestions about what could be done to make it easier for people in Ziggy at these sort of festivals. Ziggies are incompatible with mud and the beach or even deep Transylvanian snow (remember it Sheila?)
I suppose it would be stretching the simile too far if I compared WOMAD with the dump on which Stig lives in the book by Clive King that I’m reading with Jessica at the moment. Although I can’t remember any details about the book, I think I must have heard it read aloud as a child either at junior school or on Jackanory… sitting hearing Jessica read it takes me right back to when I was seven! So far, Barney has just met the odd boy, Stig, who lives in a sort of cave made out of rubbish in the chalk pit near to Barney’s Granny’s. It reminds me very much of The Wombles… “making good use of the things that we find” and all that. All very eco-friendly and hip nowadays. In my memory Stig was a grown man, a sort of troglodyte I suppose! Strange the way you remember things quite differently from how they actually are… it’s like the whole of childhood is a completely individual experience, set quite apart from concrete reality. Anyway, the book is having to stay on hold until Jessica returns from her holiday and after that we have another problem to face because the new Harry Potter is waiting patiently in the wings…
Meanwhile, Ruth and I have just started the final part of Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, which is shaping up to be every bit as good as the last two, if not better. I can feel how much his confidence has grown now that all the threads are beginning to come together and he’s quite sure of the personalities and behaviour of his characters. It must be really tricky to come to the end of writing a trilogy… you must be very aware of keeping up the suspense and intrigue right to the very last page. I believe Miss Rowling has managed this with Harry Potter, though I suspect that’s a bit different because she wrote the last chapter of the last book before even beginning the series! Mind you, who’s to say Philip Pullman didn’t do the same? I don’t think I could work like that, I’m not certain of either the title or the plot of the final part of ‘The Space Between’ as yet. But that doesn’t really worry me as I think that ideas will develop out of each other and so it’s a natural growth, like the branch of a tree.
Anyway, back to Mr Pullman’s final yarn. Already I’m completely absorbed in his fictional world (or worlds, as there are many), I love all his wonderful characters – tiny people who fly on the backs of hawks, two angels who completely share each other’s feelings and of course the people with their demons on their shoulders or flying above their heads as birds or bats. The image of one of the angels, Baruch, quite literally coming apart and just evaporating into the air, won’t leave me. I would like to make this ‘Dark Materials’ cycle compulsory reading for everyone. In a way I’m almost glad that I’ll miss seeing the films which I’m sure won’t be anywhere near as good as the books.
Still talking about great works of literature, you might remember me mentioning that Jack had written a short story for school on the subject of the first world war. He’s quite rightly very proud of this story The Truth About War and you can read the first instalment on Jack’s page in this issue. I hope you’ll be as impressed with it as I was and as in fact the teacher was! Jack still has his sights set on working in film making… possibly script writing, I wonder?
If I might wind up this editorial with a moan then you’ll just have to bear with me! It’s a criticism of the way computers have begun to take over people’s lives… as far as shopping goes anyway. While ordering things from the internet is excusable if you’re looking for something specific – it’s even a good thing – I dislike sending birthday presents etc by computer because it’s so bloody easy! Just press a button or two and hey-ho, that’s it… out of sight, out of mind. There’s absolutely no effort required, no imagination, no thought. Is this how the future should be… to make everyone like gormless zombies who are incapable of thought and initiative? Perhaps I should write a story set in the future involving this new breed of zombies and call it ‘The Computer People or The Effects of Shopping by Internet.’
A quick message – It’s just come to my attention – that our friend Steve Taylor has just published a new book on the subject of Time which sounds pretty intriguing. Anyone else who’s interested in getting hold of a copy can do so through Amazon. I’d heartily recommend that you do so! Clink-the-link to his website. http://www.stevenmtaylor.com/
And by the way my twin sister Suzanne’s poetry book ‘The Barking Thing’ is also available from Amazon. Clink-the-link HERE to find out more.
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2007
One good thing about all this pretty shitty weather is that I’m not so reluctant to spend time on the computer! Which means that The Space Between is progressing nicely – I’ve started the next chapter and I’m well into it at the moment. So far I suspect that this chapter could have a common theme of railways linking all the pieces… or at least some of them. I decided to bring Constance Wilde back into this bit which I include here, (below) for reasons which will become evident later! Forgive me for being so obscure… but I don’t want to give too much away. Suffice it to say that I wanted to show how Constance was coping with her husbands… what could you call it? Tragedy? I was so deeply affected by reading about her plight that I felt I just had to include it in the book. At first I was going to put it in when Constance visited Oscar in prison the year before… but because of the length of the previous chapter I decided to wait until 1897, and was searching desperately for another visit she made to Reading Gaol. I found it – it was excellent!! It worked very well because it wasn’t a conventional prison visit: in fact Oscar didn’t even know his wife was there on the other side of the door, watching him. This situation must have been so distressing for both of them especially Constance because she knew she wouldn’t see him again. It was especially ironic because the final glimpse she had of him was a couple of days before he was released.
I was a bit unsure about using Clapham Junction as the station where you’d get the train to Reading because I know that nowadays you would go from Paddington. Still I’ve read that Oscar himself changed trains at Clapham Junction. There’s that famous incident where he claims to have been surrounded by a mob of people who were all jeering at him and pointing to his prison uniform. The story goes that Oscar claims to have cried for ten minutes every day at the same time following this scene. Tears of humiliation and regret. Of course this story is much fictionalised by Wilde himself… which doesn’t make it any the less true or touching it’s quite a beautiful memory, if a very painful one.
I don’t think this chapter is going to be anywhere near as long as the last, already I think I may be about half way through. I have a pretty clear idea of the direction in which the rest of the chapter will go, and what has to happen to each of the characters during 1897.
The year is 1897 and Wilde is still in prison, having being sentenced to two years hard labour for “committing acts of gross indecency”. His wife and children have left the country and are living abroad.
© Nicola Batty copyright 2007
Through the closed lids of her eyes, Constance could still see that gaunt, haggard figure shuffling across the room towards the table where the papers lay awaiting his signature. He moved slowly, with great effort; when he lifted the pen and dipped it in the ink it was as though he was lifting a great weight, another prison chain. Constance had watched him through the window from the other side of the closed door, barely recognising this figure of the man who had once been her husband. He hadn’t seen her; he hadn’t even glanced up from the papers. He was a picture of complete dejection and hopelessness. Still, Constance could feel his image moving across the closed lids of her eyes… refusing to vanish even though the reality of her fleeting sight of him was now over but the memory would not fade so easily. Although she leaned her head back against the seat of the railway carriage and felt the rough cloth against her neck, it wasn’t a real feeling to her. That great sadness which had become attached to her husband threatened to overwhelm him and now it loomed blackly on the edge, threatening to overwhelm her also. Constance could feel more and more tears coursing down her face, sliding noiselessly from beneath her lashes and joining with one another to form a steady river over her cheeks and down to her folded hands. She sat there and let them fall, making no motion to wipe them away. How could such a thing have happened? Within his prison clothes the empty shell of her husband had moved so thinly that she had wondered if he was really there at all… or had she perhaps imagined the whole episode? Maybe she had. But then the train whistled and began to slow, it’s breaks screaming as it drew into the station.
Constance wiped her eyes with her Italian laced handkerchief, which she had brought deliberately to make her think of her life now, so far from here. She opened her eyes very slowly. She had to blink several times before she could make out anything clearly. She sky outside was grey and monotonous like lead, spitting out drops of rain from time to time. Moving her eyes down over the station buildings, Constance watched the porters wheeling their trolleys around the people who huddled in their winter overcoats as they tried to protect themselves from the February chill. Collecting together her bags, Constance got swiftly to her feet, pausing for a moment to allow the familiar discomfort to pass. As she opened the carriage door and carefully descended the steps, a station porter passed by calling unnecessarily, “Clapham Junction, Clapham Junction!” She stood there and watched him move further down the platform wondering why he was shouting so urgently. Wasn’t it obvious where they were? She was irritated by such a waste of energy in the face of her own sight, the sense of loss, the reality of the end. With a small sigh, she turned away and walked over to the small café where she brought herself a hot cup of coffee. Carrying it over to one of the small tables, she pulled out a chair and stood beside it, wondering whether to actually make the effort to sit down or not. She finally lowered herself gingerly onto the edge of the chair, wincing slightly as her spine made contact with the hard wooden seat. Perhaps I will need another operation… perhaps this one will be more successful than the last. Constance sipped her coffee slowly, looking around at the crowds of people bustling around busily, each absorbed within their own world, their own life. Nobody noticed Constance… nobody wanted to know her anymore. In a way she was glad of this; she wanted to be anonymous, to hide behind the other identity she had created for herself and the boys. She watched the people wrapped up in their mufflers and overcoats, fashionable hats and warm sheepskin gloves… she felt absolutely alone, cut off from all humanity. Even her friends had deserted her. She couldn’t even think of the last time she had seen Robbie Ross, many months ago. Their companionship had once been so easy and now it had become strained. Constance always felt on her guard whenever she thought of him, for she knew how close he was to her husband… and so Robbie and all of Oscars friends are working against me… I can trust nobody any longer. Constance shook her head quickly. She felt close to tears once again. This wouldn’t do… she must forget all this, forget all she had just seen in prison, forget it all and leave it London.
Draining her cup of coffee, she stood up carefully and picked up her bags. She lifted her face into the biting wind, feeling the sharpness of it against her skin with a feeling of satisfaction. Now she must keep on moving, keep on travelling across the city down to the coast to catch the ferry to France and then onwards, for her journey would never end. She would be always moving from now on. That would be her fate.
LOOK OUT FOR ANOTHER EXTRACT FROM Nicola's work-in-progress-novel in RM#84
The truth about war.
By Jack Sewina.

It’s become quiet and grown dark now. There’s a full moon in the sky. I’ve always been afraid of the dark, Nancy used to comfort me when I was scared, no matter how old I was. I wish she was here now. I wish she was here so much. I open the gold locket that hangs around my neck and see my sister smiling at me. I smile back. I can remember clearly the day when my sister got that picture taken for me.
“Take it with you everywhere.” She said, and I did. My eyes water and tears start to roll down my face.
“I’m so sorry Nancy…”
I was sitting on my bed attempting again and again to tie my bootlaces. I just couldn’t get it right. The laces always seemed to fall apart no matter how hard you pulled. I tried again. No such luck. There was a lot of rushing around downstairs. Everyone was fussing over my big sister, Nancy, who was getting her photograph taken. No one had ever had their photograph taken before, we could never afford it. It seemed that everyone had forgotten that it was my first day of school; there wasn’t even anyone there to help me tie my boots. I could hear my mother arguing with the photographer, I couldn’t tell exactly what they where saying. I hated arguing, I just couldn’t stand it. My mother and father used to argue a lot, not even proper arguments, the stupid kind, like arguing over who should collect the morning milk. Over the arguing I could hear footsteps coming up the stairs. The top step creaked softly. The bedroom door opened and my sister, Nancy, stood there wearing the most beautiful dress I had ever seen, blue, with silver strings. You can’t tell from the photograph but I always remember the colour. Her hair was tied back and fastened into a bun at the back. She looked absolutely stunning. She must have seen the tears in my eyes because she walked over and sat next to me on the bed and put her arm around me.
“Need a hand with those laces?” She smiled. I kept my eyes fixed to the floor and nodded. I had always been ashamed of not being able to tie my boots. I was six and a half but my sister had learnt to tie them when she was just five. She smiled and knelt down in front of me, looping my laces and pulling them through each other, I tried to remember the technique but she went to fast. She looked up at me and saw my averted eyes and the unhappy look on my face.
“Come here.” She stood up and gave me a big hug.
“Big day today,” She whispered over my shoulder. “Father’ll walk you to school in a few minutes, everything will be fine. I know it’s scary, but you’ll soon make friends and, hey,” She released me from the hug and looked at me. “You might even make a special girl friend.” She smiled at me. I smiled back, that made me feel better. I suddenly remembered what my mother had told me to say to Nancy.
“You look nice today.” And I meant it, too.
“Thank you Ben, and you look as smart as a soldier.” I smiled at that. My father always said it. It was his little slogan. The front door opened downstairs and the noise settled. I could hear my father’s voice downstairs, greeting my mother and the photographer. His heavy footsteps sounded all the way up the stairs, the top step creaked loudly. The door opened and my father strode in, wearing his work clothes, a white shirt, with the sleeves covered in soot but clean where his leather apron had been. I stared into his soot covered face and smiled. He turned to my sister and looked her up and down.
“You look beautiful,” Then he turned to me. “And you look as smart as a soldier m’ boy.” I and Nancy smiled at each other at that. My mother called from downstairs for my sister.
“Ready for your first day?” he asked. I nodded.
“Come on then.” I jumped off the bed and grabbed hold of my father’s hand. He had only just grabbed his coat and opened the front door when my sister ran at me and called me back. She knelt down, opened my hand, closed it and told me not to look until I was by myself. My father walked me all the way to the school gates, every moment I was tempted to look at the gift from my sister, but I didn’t, I kept my promise and it wasn’t until I had left my father and found a quiet sanctuary in the corner of the playground that I opened my hand and looked upon the golden beauty of the locket.
I can feel the intricate engravings on the locket; I pop it open and look upon my sister one last time. I can hear the sergeant shouting orders and screaming at soldiers who are cowering and hiding. We’re not being quiet anymore, shells are flying through the air and explosions are sounding in every direction, I’m just waiting for one to come my way, to put me out of my misery… out of my pain. I just want to be with my sister again, maybe this is my chance, and maybe this will get me to heaven… My mother used to talk to me about heaven a lot. Going to church and ‘praying to the lord’ would get me there she said, and that heaven was a special place beyond the clouds away from pain and misery. I told mother that I wasn’t in any pain, and that I wasn’t miserable.
To be continued in RM#84 (Jack is Nicola's fourteen year old son)
Urban Scrawl!
Welcome to Andy's bit!
It's good to see a contribution from Jack after a long break. He's written a short story set in the first world war called The Truth about War and we're going to serialise it in three parts starting with this issue. I hope he will write something else for future issues too! Perhaps he'll do some artwork for us as drawing seems to be his thing! Although, saying that, he plays the drums in a band now and he is also involved in some film making projects. So, which ever way he falls it looks like an artistic future is his!
As Nicola has told you in her editorial, we went to WOMAD last week! That is of course the world of music arts and dance festival. It was the 25th. aniversary this year and for the first time it was held at Charlton Park near Malmesbury in Wiltshire. For most people it was a great event despite the four or five inches of sticky mud. People seemed resigned to the mud factor and just got on with things - a pair of wellies and your happy as a pig at Old Trafford - Unfortunately with Nicola being in Ziggy (her wheelchair) we were pretty stranded, although we did manage to get to see Peter Gabriel on the friday night. For a full report on WOMAD you can check my blog at Proper Joe's.
Steve Taylor has a new book out this week called Making Time You may remember me raving about another of his books last year The Fall . Anyway, clink-the-link above and see what you think.
Don't you know!
This is the 12th. month we've been publishing this Newsletter Online. We started in September 2006 and you can read all the back issues in our archives as you navigate this site. And, don't forget you can clink-the-link to Nicola's Website at NicolaBatty.co.uk
POEM 800
Not a lot of people know this but it's Liverpool's 800th. aniversary as a city on August 28th. this year. To celebrate the fact, one poetry group is trying to collect 800 poems about Liverpool, to make an anthology which they are then going to sell for charity. Also, I believe that the poems are going to be stored someplace to be read in one hundred years time on August 28th. 2107. So, if you've got a Liverpool poem that you can donate clink-the-link-HERE and follow the instructions. If not, clink-the-link anyway and read some Liverpudlian wisdom. There's some great titles like A Bard Days Night. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, I submitted one or two myself.
DON'T FORGET YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO Nicola's Newsletter for FREE - Simply fill out the form in the sidebar.
Please leave a comment on this page!
You can e-mail Nicola at: nicbat3963@aol.com
Go To College Online