Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

February 2008 Issue 89

Nicola's Editorial

As usual, I’m sick of winter. I’m so glad that at last the days are becoming gradually lighter after all the horrible January darkness and gloom! And it’s not only the light that makes everything seem so much more hopeful and optimistic, it’s also the first glimpses of crocuses in the park. Winter has been particularly stressful this year for Andy and I, for it’s been discovered Andy has a growth in his head, which needs surgery to be removed. This will mean making alternative arrangements for help for me for a few months, or however long it takes for Andy to get back on his feet. As you can imagine, all this is a bit of a headache, and not just for Andy! But seriously, I am worried, not only about the operation itself but also about how it’s going to work out for me and Jack, staying at home, together, without Andy. I’m sure it’ll all work out fine… it’s just a bit of a hassle to sort out.
I’ve only just managed to pick up the threads of The Spark again this week, because I’ve been busy writing the final Ziggy Story for the new collection. I wanted to write it in the first person but also to make it about characters from The Space Between. Okay, so far so good, BUT disaster struck when I began writing… it turned out to be just like a diary; totally boring drivel!! So I quickly decided to start again; this time the ‘I’ would not be me but someone else. Sounds confusing… but it worked really well and I enjoyed writing it. You should be able to read it for yourselves when you get The Ziggy Collection E-book on CD. This is due out in April, but with everything that’s going on We’ll have to wait and see.
I suppose some people might not see Second Sight as autobiography at all, but I think it is, in a way. I suppose it’s about bringing historical characters back to life and this is the most important thing about writing for me! A friend once said to me that they loved it when I wrote about people like Wilde, Keats or Shelly because I infected them with my excitement! This was something that came to mind with Second Sight… I hope that it succeeds in passing this excitement on to the reader.
I mentioned in the last issue the article I’d just written for Intentions, the Oscar Wilde Society publication… I wanted to make this available to more people so I decided to put it on my website! I thought the site was due for some changes anyway. I was amazed to discover that I’d made no mention of The Space Between there before, so that was hastily put right. Although I suspect that most RAW MEAT readers will already be familiar with the progress of The Spark, I did feel people may be interested in reading about my plans for the trilogy over all. Do take a look and feel free to send any comments or suggestions my way.
I still intend to devote a whole new page of my website to the Ziggy Collection on CD. I want the page to feature the cover illustration, perhaps with some blurb. Although you’ll be aware of my general hostility towards the computer and all things technical, I must say that publishing your book on CD does have advantages – particularly in the case of a collection of short stories such as this. It means you can print off one or two of the stories to read on the bus or train, which seems quite a good idea! Or I suppose you could print out the entire book if you wanted… I think I’d do that myself. So please do keep an open mind about the whole computer thing, and I say this most of all to myself, of course!
I was overjoyed to read the comment I received telling me about the Sherlock Holmes film I was trying to remember in last month’s RAW MEAT. The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes - of course! I remember it now… and I also remember Christopher Lee starring in it. I’m surprised that I didn’t remember him before; with all his vampire connections, he’s a favourite of mine. It was also amazing just to get such feedback, so big thanks to the reader who left the comment!
Having come to the end of Gyles Brandreth’s Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders, I have picked up the last Harry Potter book again, which I never managed to finish with Jessica. Fortunately Ruth is something of a Harry Potter expert and so she can fill me in on any particularly complicated plot twists. I think I’ve already criticized the novel in these pages, as being too complicated for the average reader! Though this is not to say that it isn’t totally addictive, it is! I’m greatly enjoying reading it with Ruth… and also listening to it in the evenings on CD!! Total obsession maybe…
Talking about my one time helper, I was delighted to see her the other night. She seems to be enjoying working at the nursery, which is something she always wanted to do, to work with children. She doesn’t even complain about having to get up at six in the morning – which is amazing!! A couple of RAW MEAT readers have asked me how Jessica’s sister is doing with her hair… if you remember, it was falling out. Anyway, apparently the disease (or whatever it was) seems to have stopped, hopefully for good.
This is only the first week of February and already Jack’s breaking up for half term on Friday! This seems absolutely absurd to me… even if Easter is particularly early; it seems to make no sense. Why does Easter change around so much anyway? Can’t they decide on just one date every year?? To have it swapping around is very confusing – and I’m sure not just for me. It feels wrong to be celebrating Easter in March for a start, it’s always seemed like a spring festival. I suppose that spring does officially begin at the end of March but even so, it’s not time for Easter eggs until April. But there it is.
As Andy is not driving at the moment, we’ve been thinking of alternative methods of transport. Of course, high on Andy’s list is a bike… he told me there’s a Ziggy-bike shop in London, which we must visit. While I totally support the idea of a Ziggy bike, I envisaged it as being like a tandem where Ziggy and I go behind the cyclist. However, Andy describes it as Ziggy being stuck in front of the driver! I can’t work this out, as surely the driver won’t be able to see around Ziggy…?
Just one last story to share with you, involving a new Ziggy which at last I’m going to get. This is quite unbelievable as we’ve been trying for quite a few years to get me a Ziggy with more back support to help me sit straighter. The new Ziggy should be ready soon – even though it’s taken a long time to get the cushions especially made and fitted. It’s all a bit of a pain in the arse - quite - literally, involving going back and forth to the Ziggy clinic to get various bottom and back moulds made. The idea of a bottom cast is absolutely delightful – surreal in the extreme! I hope it’s all going to be worth it… the new Ziggy should be with me soon.

Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
Initially, I was a bit dubious about including this extract because it seems so unexciting compared with the last piece! But it’s the only bit of The Spark that I have actually done this month so it will have to do. Anyway it is important in a way, because it shows Freddie’s transition from being a purely fictional character to becoming a historical one. Although I always knew that Freddie was a real chap from Robbie Ross’s biography, so little was actually known about him it’s easy for me to feel as if I’d made him up! But now he’s beginning to become more substantial as a character, I thought it would make sense to sort of introduce him to Ross…. at least distantly, a mere chance meeting as it were!
It’s really difficult to imagine the conversation between two young Victorian lads…. what the hell would they have talked about? Having to keep in mind all the time the fact that they were relatively uneducated and yet talking about Shakespeare! This felt very odd and difficult to write, but Freddie would have been interested in this sort of stuff by now, I think. I’m sure that just because kids lacked a good education they wouldn’t have been happy to remain ignorant of such things as drama and poetry ect. This much has become clear to me in my reading about Oscar’s life and Oscar’s trials and especially his relationships with his rent boys.
Although I have already decided that most of this chapter will be concerned with Wilde’s illness and his subsequent death, I thought it would be quite nice to further develop the relationship between Jack and Freddie. If the split between them is going to work as a dramatic device, I have to make it clear how close they are. Already I can feel Jack’s adoration of Freddie… which could be useful to me in future! At the moment it’s the transition period between the two centuries… and so perhaps this explains why I feel so undecided about what exactly is going to happen next. Of course I’ve got vague plans, but these are quite open to alteration; I know Gustave’s going to come in soon, but I don’t know when exactly or in what context. Likewise, I know Wilde’s going to die… but how should I show this? Perhaps through his letters to Ross? I don’t know. Probably, instead of dithering about all these things, I should just go ahead and write the ending of this part without hesitation!

Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008 All rights reserved.
Please note that the following extract from Nicola's work-in-progress-trilogy may well be very different from the final published version.

The story so far…
The year is now 1900, and Wilde is living in Paris - he has his manuscript with him. Back in London, Harriet is working as a housemaid for Robbie Ross; this following extract takes place in the back garden of Ross’s house in Kensington.

CHAPTER 10, 1900.
The two boys worked the earth in silence for some time, relaxing in the easy presence of each other. Finally Jack asked, “Are you still at the shop?”
“’Course I am!” Freddie sounded a little shocked, as if for him to do anything else was unthinkable. “I work there every day, now Mr Hall’s opened the new shop next door and I’m in charge of that, sort of.” He paused, glancing quickly at Jack. “In fact I think Mr Hall wants me to take over the shop when I get married.”
“What!” Jack was aghast. The idea of Freddie getting married seemed extraordinary to him. He felt frightened also; he searched Freddie’s face quickly for some sign of reassurance. “You’re not going to get married yet, are you?”
“Not yet, no.” The elder boy gave Jack a long, gentle look that was both tender and calming. When he continued, his voice seemed almost unrecognisable to Jack. “But I’ve made a new friend at the acting group. She’s called Jane and she’s beautiful. She’s a wonderful actress… in fact I think I saw her on stage at the Music Hall when I went for my birthday last week. I’m sure it was Jane.” He broke off and shrugged his shoulders, looking slightly puzzled. “Anyway, I’d like her to be my wife one day. Though maybe not just yet,” he added hastily, seeing Jack’s concerned expression.
For a moment both boys worked on in silence. Finally Jack stood upright, brushing soil from his hands and glancing at Freddie quickly.
“I’ve never been to the Music Hall,” he admitted hesitantly. “What’s it like?”
“It’s great fun… you should come with me next time. You’d like it… some of it’s very funny.” Freddie paused in his work, leaning on his hoe in the manner of the gardener he’d just seen as he’d walked through St James’s Park. “I’ll tell you what… I’ll take you next month, when I get paid, if you like. Would you?”
“Yes please!” cried Jack in delight, gripping the sleeve of Freddie’s jacket.
The older boy laughed gently and went on, speaking half to himself. “When I went before, my favourite bit was right at the end. it was a scene from Romeo and Juliet. Do you know that play, Jack? It’s by Shakespeare.”
Jack shook his head at once, his eyes fixed intently on Freddie, drinking in his words.
“Romeo and Juliet are madly in love, and the balcony scene is where they pledge their love and vow never to break it. It’s my favourite scene, and especially this one because I’m sure it was Jane playing Juliet. She looked very beautiful with a silver band around her head and her long white dress… if it wasn’t Jane, maybe it was her sister. She’s an actress too.”
“Oh,” was the only thing Jack could think of to say. He felt distinctly uncomfortable; Freddie was definitely growing away from him, that much was clear to him quite suddenly. He tried to pull himself together and change the subject completely. “Uh… did you say you walked here from the park?”
Glancing at him, Freddie nodded and cleared his throat.
“That’s right, from St James’s. Why? Do you fancy a walk?”
“Yes, come on.” Jack took the hoe from his friend and began to move towards the back door. “I’ll just tell Ma where we’re going, wait here!” he called back over his shoulder.
Freddie stood there beside the vegetable patch with his arms folded, waiting. A movement at one of the windows near the top of the house caught his eye, and his attention. There was a young man there, staring directly at him. Smart, neatly dressed… absolutely nothing remarkable about him. But still, there was something in his vague expression that caught Freddie’s eye. Who is he? Very slowly the man in the window raised his hand as if to wave but then he simply combed back his short dark hair and gave a brief smile before turning away and disappearing further into the room. Freddie lost interest and looked away towards the back door, waiting patiently for the reappearance of Jack.

Jack's Page!
Nicola has submitted a poem to Jack's Page.
The poem is about Andy!

Like a little boy
He rubs his eyes and cries
Making a panicky face through the glass
As the doctor shines a light into his eyes
And says, it’s nothing to fear.
We think it’s right – there’s nothing there…
No, not even a growth.
Like a surgeon, he tests the blade edge
Making sure it’s nice and sharp for the operation
He waits for his moment and watches them
Crack the skull open like an egg
To reveal the growth.
In a second it’s cut out and lies bleeding gently in the surgeon’s palm.
He stares at it without remorse
And tips it into the incinerator and then it’s gone.
Leaving nothing behind, just an empty space.
Nicola Batty (c) 2008


Welcome to Andy's bit...
Urban Scrawl!!!!
Well, it's business as usual in this part of Bohemia. I haven't been driving recently 'cos everybody was worried about my eyes. However, I went to the opticians today and got the all clear. That is for the next three weeks 'till I have to go back to the Royal Eye Hospital for another field test. But, the good news is that my vision is no worse than it was a year ago and my prescription has stayed the same for the last twenty four months. I just need reading glasses for reading and computer work and distance glasses for driving. Phew!
I started an Online Novel a couple of weeks ago but with recent events I haven't been able to give it the attention it deserves. However, I do intend to make things right and settle down and do a bit of work on it each day. The Novel or perhaps, Novella as it may well turn out is called Space Invaders! and Yes! it is named after the popular arcade game. I originally wrote Space Invaders as a play in 1984 or thereabouts at Withington Library in Manchester. I used several different coloured pens and pencils, each character had his own colour. I found the original script the other day and when I get the chance I'll ask Jack to scan it into the computer so everyone who reads www.my-work-in-progress-novel.blogspot.com can see a little bit of history!
Subscribing to the Raw Meat mailing list is still a bit of a hit and miss affair, the majority of people who sign up for this Newsletter never actually make it onto the mailing list because when they sign up they don't respond to the follow-up e-mail that is sent to them to complete. This is not really their fault or our fault it is just one of those internet things. Also, there is the problem with spam and junk mail, when we send out an e-mail link or Newsletter to anybody, their internet service provider or their web based e-mail company may well mark it as Junk or Spam so they never see it. One thing you can do of course is to BOOKMARK THIS PAGE and then you can return whenever you like!
Go To College Online