Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

March 2008 Issue 90

Nicola's Editorial

I don’t know if it’s just that spring is on its way at last, but there is definitely a more positive feeling to the air at the moment! I’m glad to see the back of winter - it’s brought us nothing but bad news and stress this year. Of course I’m talking about Andy’s brain growth, which was discovered recently and looked as if it would have to be removed by surgery soon. However, Andy’s brain seems to be really clever in this case and sorted the problem out for itself! The growth is completely harmless, but it was pushing against and blocking a vein, which was needed to drain away the fluid surrounding the brain.
So the brain has found another vein to use instead, which has taken over the job from the old one. It’s really a case of Nature solving problems in its own way with no help from surgeons or doctors or anyone. Andy says that nine out of ten people who have these types of growth live all their lives without even being aware of them. So that’s a much-needed piece of positive news!! It also means that he can stop taking the medication which is really good news, because I think this was causing more problems with Andy psychologically. I am a great believer in allowing nature room for manoeuvre!
While Andy’s incredibly happy at the moment (not surprisingly), he seems to think that his “miracle” has come about as a result of Christians praying for him… which I think sounds a bit dodgy! “Why should it just be Christian prayer that has power?” I demanded of Andy, who I suspect is something of a Closet Catholic. “There have been Buddhists chanting for you, and also people without religion thinking of you… why can’t they all combine to create a positive force which can change things?” Whatever the reason, it supports my belief in how much the mind and body are tied together - inseparable in fact.
While I remain unconvinced about Christianity; I want to make the most of Andy’s good humour by making some more positive changes in both of our lives… the first step would be to get married! As long as it’s not in a church, I said. My suggestion was of a “water wedding” which would take place in the sea somewhere warm such as California or even Tahiti. All the guests would have to wear white swimming costumes and throw water instead of confetti. Of course there would be a wedding fishcake… and maybe some under water photographs.
One of the good things about Andy’s brain news is that he’s now more open to begin work on advertising the Ziggy collection, which is due out on April the 1st. So hopefully there should appear on my website an advertisement for my CD version within the next month. I am unsure whether or not to add an update to the introduction about the new story called Second Sight. Perhaps I should allow the story to speak for its self.
I’m not the only one who has been busy on the computer recently - Jacks been beavering away on his latest short story which is something of a science fiction work. He says it should be ready for the next issue - so look out for it on Jack’s Page.
Another positive change, which has come about recently, is my changed outlook on theatre, which I’ve been having great trouble with. I used to have a great love for the theatre, but found it impossible to follow without sight… and also I have the extra problem of making out the characters words! Every time I watched a performance I feel so depressed afterwards… thinking of everything about it that I missed completely in the way of costumes, visual effects ect.
But the last couple of times I’ve been to the theatre have been quite different… I’m not sure exactly why, if this is just due to a change in attitude. I went to see Kafka’s Metamorphosis recently and got so much more out of the performance! I knew the story vaguely and could follow it by the sounds of the actor’s feet on the walls of the set, so I could visualise the man/ beetle climbing up the walls! While I still think that its necessary to know the play quite well before I see it, my confidence has grown so that I’m looking forward to going to the theatre again soon. I am greatly relieved that I’m not going to have to give up enjoying the theatre… especially as my imagination is still so strong and visual; it almost makes the visual elements of the stage unnecessary.
Still on the subject of theatre, my sister Suzanne has been working on writing her own play Blue Place. I can sympathise with her; I myself found it very difficult to confine myself within the limits of the stage. I still have ideas of rewriting Skin as a radio play… which may at first seem absolutely impossible, simply because the strength of my short TV script lies in its visual impact. Still, losing my physical sight has taught me that all is not lost! So much imagination can be communicated through music, sound effects and just words. I want to begin work on radio skin as soon as The Spark is finished… which will not be too long.
Another show I saw recently with Brigitte and Jack was slightly different - an exhibition of dead bodies, Andy called it. I myself was extremely dubious about such a thing… it sounded suspiciously tasteless and macabre, to have a lot of people paying money to grope at dead bodies! I couldn't’t get the idea of Victorian freak shows out of my head… nevertheless we went to have a look for ourselves. The bodies weren’t particularly horrific - they were interesting, because the skeletons had their skin removed so that all the muscles were visible. Brigitte described the muscles as looking like lumps of raw meat, white and pink. I felt some of the muscles - I don’t think that you were meant to, but they had been coated with an invisible plastic skin to protect them so I guess no harm was done. I was relieved that there was some point to the exhibition, and it was not simply a lot of stupid people ogling at death!
At the moment I am using my new helper as typist - the trusty Brigitte, who is here while Ruth is away in the Caribbean, would you believe? It’s alright for some… both Brigitte and I are well jealous. She’s flown off to Barbados for two weeks in the sun, sailing along with about 60 other people. Apparently each person gets a go at sailing the boat, and also helping out with the maintenance and running of the vessel. It sounds great fun… if a little strenuous for my own lazy nature! Still, I love the thought of those Caribbean beaches with white sand and gentle waves lapping…
I don’t want to be over-optimistic about my forth coming appointment with the Ziggy clinic next week, because I know from experience the speed of the NHS. Nevertheless, maybe the new Ziggy will be waiting leisurely…

copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
The main trouble I had with selecting an extract from The Spark for this month, was choosing which one, because there are quite a few at the moment to pick from! The year 1900 is flashing by fast and furious – now that all the various threads are beginning to come together I just want to keep on writing before I forget whichever idea is in my head! It’s continually exciting and also a bit nerve wracking, although I’ve roughly worked out the ending, I’m still hoping that particular threads are going to work out without making the novel seem contrived. It’s very important for me to keep the plot sounding natural with the characters developing almost by themselves, so that things that must happen according to history can seem to come about naturally! Does this make sense? I’m not so sure myself… but I’m sure you get my drift.
So, the bit I didn’t include wasn’t really important in that it brought together many of the major themes of the Spark. It was a scene between Ricketts and Shannon, which I thought was necessary after their argument in the last chapter, showing that they were still very much together. Although the Ricketts scene didn’t actually say anything new, it did bring out the two men’s closeness and happiness, which I thought was pretty vital to show at this stage. In his diary Ricketts described those years at Richmond as the happiest of his life and I wanted to spend time on this… and I also wanted to use the two artists to demonstrate my ideas of ‘the space between’. I was delighted that Ricketts himself was speaking the words. The conversation between them also touched upon major themes such as time, and especially the new century beginning. This is of course a favourite theme of mine that I return to again and again; it fascinates me, the idea of standing on the boarder of two established marks in time, centuries or whatever. Spaces to be filled in. This scene came about by mere coincidence; I didn’t intend the piece to exist at all! It was one of those last minute flashes of inspiration!!
After going on about that Ricketts scene, it may seem deliberately obscure of me to choose a different extract… but believe me, there are reasons as well as spending more time with the two boys. I wanted to bring out their closeness and also Jack’s longing to return to Spitalfields. These elements will become significant later on… so you must just bear with me now.
I’m beginning to find the two boys easier to deal with as I get closer to them and become more familiar with the characters. There are still old troubles about how they would have talked to each other but I’m not so concerned about keeping it constantly authentic at this point. The difference between the boys’ ages still bothers me a little bit… the 5 year gap seems much greater when you’re young. It’s also difficult to imagine Freddie’s outlook on life as a working, fifteen-year-old… surely there must have been some childishness left in him? But I like this scene because it brings out Freddie’s lovely protectiveness towards Jack, which I imagine, formed the basis of their relationship. As I’m writing more about Freddie’s character, he’s becoming more real to me and this was brought home recently by an article we read in Intentions about a dinner held for Robbie Ross in 1908. There was a guest list for this dinner included in the article, which we searched for the name of Freddie. We came up with F Stanley Smith, which must be Freddie!! I can’t explain why I was so gripped by this – it was like a mere character I’d made up, had come alive and stepped out of a history book. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying writing about Freddie at this stage. He’s becoming more real and substantial, not only because I’m spending more time developing his character but also because he’s just about to begin his relationship with Robbie Ross.

Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
The story so far,
It’s now 1900; having being released from prison, Wilde is living in Paris and he has his manuscript with him. Meanwhile, back in London, Harriet and her son Jack have moved to Kensington where Harriet is working as a maid for Robbie Ross. Jack and his old friend Freddie have gone out to the park one summer’s day. Freddie has been working for the past few years at a shop in Spitalfields.
Now read on...

CHAPTER 10 – 1900.
“Hey now.” Freddie patted the young boy’s shoulder reassuringly, smiling. “Don’t get upset… you can always come back there you know. You’ll be starting work in a few years, won’t you? What ever you do, you can come and live with me above the shop… I have my own room now and you can share it with me. So don’t worry.”
Jack looked up, brightening at once. The furrows across his brows seemed to be smoothed away like magic; his body relaxed visibly as he responded to Freddie’s protective warmth.
“Do you mean it? Can I truly come back with you?”
Freddie nodded slowly, that gentle smile still lingering.
“Of course, if that’s what you want… only I thought you liked it at your big house in Kensington. Don’t you?”
“Oh… I don’t know,” Jack said impatiently, with a sigh. “It’s alright there, I suppose. I like Cook and Mr Jameson and living in that big posh house is fine. But …” He broke off suddenly and got to his feet, turning away. “I don’t like that new school… I’ve got no friends. I don’t like anyone there, they’re all horrible!”
Freddie gazed at him helplessly as Jack kicked a stone sharply across the path. Though the elder boy’s expression remained calm and smiling, he was unsure how to handle Jack’s obvious unhappiness. Finally he shrugged and lent back on the grass once again. Propping himself up on his elbows.
“Well, it can’t be that bad… anyway, you only have to go there for a few more years, then you can go to work… on the docks if you like,” Freddie nodded encouragingly watching Jack wonder slowly across the path towards the lake. The elder boy’s eyes followed him carefully. “Hey Jack… whatever happened to your boat?” Freddie got to his feet, taking several long strides towards the water’s edge. “Where’s it gone? Oh, look, it’s over there. Let’s get it back!”
Jack came alive at once and began scanning the water for sticks with which to reach the boat.
“We’re too late, we won’t get it now… I think it’s too far out!” he exclaimed, but the cry was resigned, a simple statement of fact. He gazed at the wooden vessel bobbing on the water, without saying anything for quite a while, seeming almost lost in the lingering sadness of his situation. Beside him, Freddie began to take off his shoes and stockings.
“I’m sure I can reach it with this branch,” cried Freddie excitedly. Jack continued to stare ahead of him, shaking his head.
“No… it’s no use, Freddie. I don’t want it back anyway, I just wanted to watch it sailing on the water, that’s all.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” said Freddie, beginning to lace up his boots once again. He glanced at Jack, clearly unsettled by his silence. “Tell me what you’re thinking about, Jack.”
Jack gave a little laugh of embarrassment.
“Oh… I was just thinking about that sailor we met, Georges. Do remember? It was years and years ago. He came from America, I think.”
Freddie shook his head apologetically.
“I don’t remember him at all… you must have a better memory than me. What made you think of him?”
Jack continued to gaze at his lost boat and sighed heavily.
“Oh… he was an artist. He drew you a picture that you gave to me. Don’t you remember the swamp monster? He told us these monsters live in America… and he said I could become a sailor on his ship and sail back there with him.” Turning slowly to face Freddie, Jack suddenly clasped his hands before him. “Maybe I’ll become a sailor like him… maybe that’s what I’ll do. And I can draw pictures as well. What do you think Freddie?”
“I think you should wait and see what happens.” Freddie smoothed Jack’s shoulder, feeling the fabric of his shirt sticking to his back. He was aware suddenly of the afternoon’s heat, even here by the water. He raised his hand to his face and wiped away droplets of moisture from the bridge of his nose impatiently. “Look, it’s getting a bit hot here, don’t you think, maybe we should go back now and get a drink a water.”
MORE FROM Nicola's-work-in-progress-trilogy in RM#91


Welcome to
Jack's Page...
Jack has drawn
a Superman picture
for this issue of
Raw Meat..

Welcome to Andy's bit...
Okay, call it a miracle or what you will, I don't like talking about these things but as Nicola has already told you in her editorial, I'll attempt to expand a little here. Yes, I was worried sick for a time, firstly I thought I was going to lose my eyesight, then I was told I would have to have an operation to remove a growth in my head. There was nothing I could do, I was left with no choice but to pray to God! I realised that I was asking for a miracle, but I also knew that God was in the business of answering prayers.
I prayed, believing that I was healed and straight away my sight returned. I went to the opticians and had him check my eyes and my field of vision. He gave me new reading glasses and new distance glasses, the same prescription I had two years ago. Next I went for an MR scan at Salford, the scan was so the Neurosurgeon could plan his operation. I prayed again, 'Please God', I said. 'I really don't want to have an operation, there must be some other way to cure me!'
When I went to see the surgeon he showed me the scan results, a parellel vein had started to do the work of the vein that had been blocked by the growth. Amazing! he said, You're in no danger at the moment, you can stop taking the medication! I resisted the urge to tell him that God had cured me..
I now have to go back for another scan in six months time and a check up. So, many thanks for all of your prayers, I know that people were praying for me in many different countries and I even had Buddhists chanting for me. Yes, I've still got the growth and it's still growing and I still might have to have the operation someday but it's a great feeling to know that there's no immediate threat.
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