Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

May 2008 Issue 92

Nicola's Editorial

I’ll begin by apologising for the slightly late arrival of this month’s issue for which I won’t offer any lame excuses, though I could. I could easily use the fact of the beautiful weather as a valid excuse… or the sudden realisation on Andy’s part that we needed to buy our new van imminently, or I could even use the bank holiday as an excuse... though probably none of these will wash. So I’ll be quite honest and say I’m just badly organised and probably quite lazy!
The sudden change in the weather has made Andy and I very excited about getting our van kitted out for going camping. At the moment we’re considering getting an awning to go on the side, which we should be able to sleep in. We have quite a few options to try and see which works best. I think we’ll make our first camping trip a local one… perhaps in the Peak District or somewhere like that before we try going to France, which we hope to do in the summer. Although the van is mint green, apparently Jack wants to paint it black… If he does I think he should leave a green zigzag on the side to make it distinctively ours!
I’ll just remind you that this publication is now available to order on CD, complete with a beautiful cover courtesy of my dad. Not only this, but also an extra story with the intriguing title Second Sight… so I think it’s well worth getting despite the fact you might have an old paper version. The stories themselves roughly describe the ups and downs of my life so far… I think my favourite is Woolwich Meats, simply because it’s about the years I found the most enjoyable, in a way. I also have a great affection for The Burial… perhaps for similar reasons but also for the fact that it is partly fictional. Anyway, you should read the collection for yourself and make up your own mind!
We’re just coming to the end of the book we’ve been reading, Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake. It’s such a wonderful tale that I don’t want it to end – which is the definition of a good story I think. Although the story seems to be quite separate from the preceding two parts of the Gormenghast trilogy, it’s actually become more clearly linked with the castle and Titus’s life within its walls before he left. The way Mr Peake has done this is quite subtle… so that Gormenghast itself was hardly mention for the first half of Titus Alone but has become more distinct now that everything is drawing together for a final showdown. All the characters in this book are very memorable, especially Muzzlehatch and Juno and all the weird characters from the Under river… it’s a bizarre and surreal tale which I’d heartily recommend to anyone who wants a good read!
I’ve recently been absolutely obsessed by Eric Clapton and Cream, playing the songs over and over again. Of course I greatly admire Eric’s guitar masterpieces but equally enjoy Ginger Baker’s drums. I’ve asked Jack several times to listen to some of Cream’s music and copy the drums but he’s not very keen! He says he needs more practice and is going to get some electronic drums, which can be quite silent if you plug in the headphones. The object is that he can practice by himself, without his band having to be there.
Still on the subject of music, with my new helper Brigitte I’m reading something by Debbie Curtis, the wife of Ian, the lead singer of Joy Division. Once again I’m showing my age… this band was around in the early 80s and came to a sudden conclusion with Ian Curtis’s suicide. I was interested to find out about the singer’s tragic end although I’m not actually a big follower of Joy Division – actually I don’t much like their music, but my Mum’s a big fan of theirs and encouraged me to read the book. It’s difficult for me to criticise the book fairly as it’s not very well written – very disjointed and full of stops and starts – but this isn’t to say that it’s not worth reading. I don’t feel that it’s fair to pull the book apart from a writer’s point of view because Debbie probably isn’t a natural writer at all. So far the book seems to have left a rather intriguing blank space where it comes to Ian’s state of mind in the years preceding his suicide, which I find fascinating! He was epileptic and apparently the bright lights on stage while he was performing brought on the fits, which Ian found impossible to cope with. Perhaps Debbie doesn’t seem to say much about his state of mind because he never talked to her about it, but that’s a bit difficult to believe. I wouldn’t call the book an enjoyable or easy read by any means – in fact I think the best thing about it is its title, which is wonderful! I don’t doubt that the film of the same title is better, with the man’s music of course.
Yet another one of my friends has recently decided to emigrate to these islands and I’m filled with both envy and sadness at her departure. I’ve heard many tales of the incredible scenery there from my sister, Suzanne, who went there a few years ago. My aunt who lives in Australia has told me about how amazingly clean the sheep are in New Zealand, as opposed to the dirty sheep in Oz. But apart from the sheep, Suzanne described the ice-mountains to me on the southern island, she even went ice-climbing on them!
This frozen part of the island sounds surreal in the extreme, because it exists even though the sun shines brightly which makes me think of Scott’s exploits in the Antarctic, where his team had to strip down to their underclothes because they got so hot pushing the sledges!! I’d love to go to this part of New Zealand, because I think it’s the nearest piece of land to Antarctica… perhaps you can even glimpse the Antarctic wastes from there… ahhh… dream on!

RAW MATERIALS #92 Copyright (c) Nicola Batty 2008
The piece I’ve chosen for this issue of RAW MATERIALS is about a new family, a family who really lived, the Pissarro’s. Lucien and Esther Pissarro aren’t terribly well known, and that’s one of the reasons I’m using them in The Space Between – though I’ll readily admit to having doubts about doing so, simply because so little of interest seemed to happen in their lives! But I was drawn to Lucien because of his links with the anarchist movement, though I’m not actually sure how far his beliefs went. Which is nice in a way – it leaves it open to my own interpretation of facts… the facts being simply that Lucien was the son of Camile Pissarro, who was a more vociferous anarchist and a more famous artist. Lucien’s setting up of his press with his wife was also interesting, as it seemed to follow on from much of what Rickett’s and Shannon have already done in The Spark, so this ties the two books together. Also incidental is that Lucien and Ricketts knew each other quite well, and so that could be useful for The Space Between. I’m still not absolutely convinced what will happen in the novel… I’m hoping the ideas will come! I also like the idea of Esther being totally involved within the business, as a bookbinder and she also painted a few pictures herself, as did her daughter, the wonderfully named Orivido. I think this name is actually Spanish but I’ve got no idea why the Pissarro’s (who are French) would have chosen to give their daughter a Spanish name. It’s difficult to make such a name sound natural in conversation, when you’re writing it. I’m trying to tread carefully as far as Lucian’s anarchist beliefs are concerned; partly because he doesn’t really seem to have been very committed as far as anyone can tell. But it’s open to interpretation I suppose… who’s to say how far his beliefs actually went? Particularly as far as the Old House, that’s the house they’re moving into, was concerned. I’m going to use this house as a sort of base, in a way which may not have been entirely in keeping with history, but still, fiction should be involved equally.
As far as The Spark goes, we are still in the process of going right the way through it from beginning to end… which sounds a bit tedious but actually is not as bad as that, because it’s like reading a totally different book than the one I spent years labouring over! The plot actually moves along quite fast - perhaps too fast for it to be totally realistic. So far I think I that the major draw back is going to be that I tried to cram too much into it, and so it distracts from the main point of the novel - the loss of Wilde’s manuscript. The question is, should I get rid of everything not directly related to this? I am a bit nervous of chopping bits completely out without getting some other opinions… so I am going to ask some other people to read it first! Meanwhile I’m avoiding becoming to disheartened with The Spark by returning to writing odd bits of The Space Between and also a short story, which has nothing at all to do with Wilde or Victorian stuff, so it makes quite a nice change. This story is actually called Going Backwards and is a total work of fiction - I’m not sure exactly what type of story it is, a sort of psychological thriller I suppose. Very unlike my usual stuff… or maybe not, maybe it’s just something different from The Space Between. Although I definitely wouldn’t call Going Backwards autobiographical I suppose it is based very loosely on experience…as Wilde said, you can’t separate writing from the person who wrote it. And I think I would certainly go along with this!

The following is an extract from Nicola’s-work-in-progress-trilogy.

Copyright © Nicola Batty 2008

It was a relief to stand there in the open back doorway and look out over the uneven expanse of grassland that ran down to the tiny brook. If Esther listened carefully she could just hear the soft tinkling of the water as it carried over the other distant background sounds of a Chiswick weekend. The high wall that surrounded the garden seemed to enclose and magnify the sound of the water, and for a moment everything seemed to be distinct and quite separate from life outside, as if this place was absorbed within itself. She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the gentle spring air warm against her face. She began to feel more hopeful about the house – perhaps Lucian was right to be so optimistic about it. Gingerly she rested her shoulder against the decaying doorframe, hoping that it would not collapse beneath her weight.
Standing some distance away, down near the brook, was the slight figure of her eight year old daughter, simply watching the water flow along past her as if there were magic in its ceaseless motion. The child seemed to sense her mother’s eyes upon her and she turned, her brightly coloured skirts swinging round with her. Esther watched her approach, taking a deep breath, trying to smile… she didn’t want to pour cold water upon Orivido’s enthusiasm, which she could feel bubbling over even from this distance. The little girl’s wild wavy hair was pushed back from her face in a vain attempt to control it; its thickness was something she had inherited from her father, but the gentle smile upon her face was completely her mother’s. Esther found herself wearing the same expression as Orivido drew closer.
“Mama, the brook! We have a brook in our garden – did you know that?” Orivido stood beside her mother, clutching her mother’s hands in delight. “Papa never said there was a brook here. It’s our very own. This is our own special house – I can feel it, I know it. It’s every bit as beautiful as Papa said… don’t you think so?”
Esther took a step down from the back door into the small paved area, where there were several large earthenware pots that had, at some point, contained flowers but were now either empty or broken. Deliberately, Esther didn’t look at them but looked beyond, keeping her smile firmly in place, sharing in her daughter’s enthusiasm.
“If you feel the place is right… don’t worry, I’m thinking about it,” she promised, hugging the little girl briefly to her. She was suddenly aware of the fresh breeze, lifting strands of her straight black hair back from her face; she was glad to be released from the stifling mustiness that clung to the interior of the house. Taking in another great lungful of fresh air, she stepped over the back step and stood beside her daughter, taking care not to catch her shoulder on the broken wood of the back door. Once again she tried not to look at the door but to see beyond… beyond into the garden perhaps? She could feel a smile twitching around the corners of her mouth. With careless abandon, she pulled her cotton shawl from her shoulders and dropped it on one of the earthenware pots, for the spring sunshine was warm. “We should stay out in the garden, I think – it’s much nicer.” As she said the words she heard footsteps echoing across the empty back room, sounding distorted as they carried on outside. Esther glanced over at the doorway as Lucien approached, his great, slow strides seeming even more deliberate than usual; every footfall placed carefully to avoid the loose floorboards. He stood there and ran his hand over the doorframe; with his lean, sinewy figure and thick black beard he seemed to be a creature of opposites, both the artist and the practical workman. He looked up at Esther, smiling; the smile was almost lost beneath the black beard, but still, Esther knew it was there. She was well accustomed to her husband’s little ways.
MORE FROM NICOLA'S Work-in-progress-trilogy in RM#93

Welcome to Andy's bit..
Okay, and I'm sure I've said this before but to all those that don't know yet, Nicola's latest publication 'The Complete Ziggy Collection' is NOT an audio book! No, it is a digital book, you read it on your computer monitor or down/upload it to a special screen reader type device thingy that you can put in your pocket. It (The Complete Ziggy Collection) comes in a dvd case that you can keep on your book shelf just like a printed publication. I tell/ re-tell you all this because some people are ordering it and leaving comments like "I can't wait to listen to this!" etc. I can't wait to listen to it either - sadly we don't have the technology to make it happen!

Watch this space...
This is the section of Raw Meat where you can advertise and announce your latest publications, web sites, blogs, bands etc. For further info contact Andy at: properjoes@aol.com
This section will be updated as soon as I get some copy... so please check back!

THE complete ZIGGY COLLECTION on CD in Digital book format is now available! For further info please contact Andy at : properjoes@aol.com

Welcome to Jacks Page!

Go To College Online