Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

June 2008 Issue 93

Nicola's Editorial

As soon as we got our new van delivered a couple of weeks ago, Andy and I took it out for a quick spin before breakfast. When we arrived back home – disaster! While Andy’s back was turned I somehow managed to roll across the van and straight out the side door, making contact with the pavement with my usual style. It was actually quite dramatic, there was plenty of blood and I attracted quite a little crowd of curious onlookers; I’m becoming quite well known in Moss Side for incidents such as this.
The rest of the scene is pretty foggy to me: I think I was completely confused as to exactly what had happened, although I was aware of being taken to hospital and stitched up etc. Ruth and I took a bet on the number of stitches my wound would require – I suppose Ruth was closest with six, though there were actually five on the outside and two in. Imagine having stitches inside… it sounds yucky but in fact I didn’t feel it thanks to the local anaesthetic. All my bruises were quite wonderfully psychedelic at first, although they have now almost faded completely. But still the scar remains above my eye, much better than Harry Potter’s!! It was one way to liven up a mundane Friday morning I suppose!
Ever since this little escapade, I’ve been very nervous of setting foot (or wheel) in the van again… perhaps understandably. I don’t like the idea of having to put these wheel clamps on Ziggy, as is the law nowadays. I don’t think it’s necessary at all; I’ve travelled in a van countless times before with no problem concerning Ziggy sliding around, as long as Ziggy’s brakes are on. It seems to me to be more dangerous to put the damn things in place, being a distraction for the person who’s got to fart around with them!
I also get impatient with having to wear about four seat belts… which seems to me to be absolutely ridiculous: why can’t I just have one like everybody else. All these new “safety regulations” seem totally arbitrary, why on earth have the powers that be brought them in suddenly? It used to be so easy to get in the back of a van, but now it’s nothing but a pain in the arse. We’re still trying out different methods as there are quite a few seats available in the van, but these seem to be a bit difficult for Andy to help me into and I think back longingly to when it used to be such an easy way to travel.
However, I live to tell the tale. It seems strange to think back on the event now, a few weeks later; now that all the psychedelic bruises have almost completely faded… though I don’t think that I’ll be able to forget the incident in a hurry. In fact I had to stay in hospital for a couple of days due to my continual throwing up, which I suppose was quite a natural reaction. I remember being very impressed by the extreme patience and skill of the doctor as he stitched me up; I thought this must be a far more useful and essential job to have, rather than working in a factory or something.
Andy has suggested making another Ziggy Collection of tales of my various accidents over the years, and this one would of course be in it. But I’m not that confident about the idea… I suspect that going on and on about such catastrophes would become simply tedious after a while. This accident made both Andy and I think about our day in Paris several years ago, which involved a visit to Oscar Wilde’s hotel room, me being proposed to by a charming drunk Frenchman, and also a similar injury sustained by me in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery whilst searching for Modigliani’s grave. This day is recalled in the Ziggy collection, which is now available in electronic form on CD. The cover illustration is by my dad and the collection includes a new story called Second Sight. Should you wish to order the CD, see Andy’s column for details.
Last week we travelled down to Shakespeare’s birthplace – with absolutely no more dramatic incidents. We met up with our friend Sheila and did all the usual Shakespeare stuff; seeing the house where he was born, the Shakespeare Museum etc. The best thing about the Shakespeare Museum was that the information film took you into a room next door that had a stage where the witches’ scene from Macbeth was re-enacted by holograms. Although lots of it was lost on me I could feel and hear the special effects they used; the wind and the thunder. I was also able to see the flashes of lightening, which completed the storm nicely!
Not too far from the museum were the four statues that I remembered seeing fifteen years ago and knew that one of them was my favourite, Hamlet of course, holding Yorick’s skull. Andy and I recalled the time we had last visited Stratford to see my friend Nick, when he was performing with Kenneth Brannagh in Hamlet and staying with some other actors in a lovely old house next to the theatre. Even though I was pregnant at the time, I can’t have been too heavy for Andy to carry me upstairs where I remember we stayed. As I recall, we said goodbye to Nick on the Sunday afternoon, leaving him content with a bottle of whisky and his favourite film, Jason and the Argonauts on telly.
Being in Stratford reminded me about the biography of Shakespeare by Peter Ackroyd, which I’ve intended to read for ages but have always been daunted by its size! As I love Mr Ackroyd’s writing, I think it would be worth it; I can’t envisage it being just a dry biography of facts… it must be worth the effort, I suspect. Has anyone else read this biography and can tell me anything about it? I’m very interested to find out more about Shakespeare’s life, particularly about his relationship with Willie Hughes (Shakespeare’s boy love that Wilde wrote about in The Portrait of Mr WH.)
But that is future reading… at the moment Ruth and I have just reached the end of the wonderful Lewis Carroll’s second Alice tale, which was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it being when I first read it twenty-five years ago! The book is inseparable from Tenniel’s illustrations; I still remember most of them in detail having copied several of them myself in the old days. The idea of basing the story on a chess game is surreal; I still have an Alice chess set in which some of the pieces are characters from Alice in Wonderland such as the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit, and some are from Through the Looking Glass like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the White Knight etc. I used to be a good chess player… I wonder if it would still be possible for me to play a game of chess without my sight? It’s an intriguing idea… it must be possible to play something by touch… especially with a set such as mine where each piece is very distinctive in shape. Any suggestions?
After Alice I’ve decided to move forward a few years into the Twentieth Century; I decided to attempt to tackle Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man once again, having been very impressed when I first read it many years ago. I’ve just received the tape of it and so feel I should give it a go, even though I have misgivings simply because it’s not really an easy read for anyone, and particularly difficult for me maybe. However, my Dad has lent me a guide to the book, which I’m finding pretty useful so far. To be quite honest though, I’m not enjoying the book quite as much this time round, though I’m not sure why… much of the beauty of the language and striking visual imagery doesn’t come across as strongly. It seems like very hard work… and I just want to read some fiction!! So we’ve started John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, which is a much more enjoyable read. Its opening chapter is particularly striking for me; the idea of everybody waking up blind is totally terrifying… I remember well the black and white film scaring me witless!! Neither Ruth nor I have read the book before so it’s a bit of a new experience… a first step into the world of science fiction.
I’m going to wind up this issue with a bit of good news. It concerns our cat Cobweb, who’s been missing for a week. We’ve just received a phone call from a cat sanctuary in Buxton to say she’s been found, safe and intact! I’m intrigued to know what she was doing in Buxton, which is twenty odd miles away!! It makes you wonder…

Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
As if I foresaw the coming events of this month and knew that I would be otherwise occupied with getting my head stitched up etc, I prepared this piece for inclusion several weeks ago. I’m going to ask you to give me some feedback on this piece; I’m pretty worried about it, simply because it’s a fairly complicated idea from one of my other novels and as nobody will be familiar with the story I’m afraid that what I’m trying to do won’t work at all. The idea of swapping sexual identities is one that I used in The Turn Of The Century Party; I’ve always been pretty fascinated by such ideas and wanted to refer to it again in The Space Between but I don’t know if this has worked in practice. The original intention was to make The Turn Of The Century Party available on CD in the near future, so that people can read a fuller explanation of the Gustav/Suzanne story if they want but I don’t know if this will come to fruition. So if you could just send me an e-mail or leave a comment and let me know if it’s bloody confusing as it stands, or whatever… and I can take it from there.
Although I think I’d be prepared to scrap the Suzanne/Gustav idea, I’d be quite sad to do so because I do think it’s quite an intriguing one… and also leads on into Gustav’s character further. I’m quite taken with Gustav, I’ll admit; he’s absolutely charming and wonderful to write about but I don’t trust him an inch!! I’m not quite sure what exactly he’s going to do… but I feel sure that it’s got to be underhand in someway! Perhaps George will also be involved as I also think he deserves more of a look-in in this novel, simply because he’s quite a wonderful character and much more trustworthy than Gustav, particularly in his relationship with Jack which I think could be developed.
Despite all my struggles to keep the relationship between Robbie Ross and Harriet as credible as possible I do think that in the end you just need to take a bit of an imaginative leap! To have an employer talking to his servant about transvestism is a bit far fetched perhaps… but there you go, such is the beauty of fiction and I can see that The Space Between is going to be a little less concerned with realism and history than The Spark… although I still want to use history from time to time as a basis, I also want to bring in my own fiction – I’m not talking about my own novels here but rather fresh ideas to work into history. I’ve got several historical characters that I don’t really know that much about, their lives are like Freddie’s in that they’re missing gaps that are crying out to be filled in. this is what I’m trying to do with The pace Between and I hope it works!
We’re still in the process of going through The Spark; we’re about half way through now, having just reached the end of 1895. Most of 1895 has been concerned with Wilde’s arrest etc and I suspect that I’ve gone too far into this and pieces need chopping… but I’m also afraid to do so because it may be alright after all! I think I’ll have to ask other people to give me some feedback before I do any slashing!!! I’ve also got no idea what to do with The Spark as regards publisher’s etc as it’s obviously very un-commercial and appeals to a specialised market – which is not to say that it’s no good of course… it’s just that I don’t really know where to start. I’m trying to get in touch with The Oscar Wilde Society but so far no luck. Andy’s suggestion of bringing the novel out ourselves on CD is quite a tempting one… although I’d still have the old problem of not knowing how to go about selling it!! This side of writing is one I don’t wish to get involved with at all – I think I need a business manager, rather like Rickett’s with his bookshop. And don’t talk to me about agents as I can’t get any interest from them… let’s face it, I just don’t know what to do. Any ideas??
More Raw Materials in RM#94

Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2008
It’s now 1901, and Robbie Ross has just returned from France, where he was with Wilde when he died in Paris. As far as we know the manuscript of The Portrait of Mr WH is still in Paris. The following scene takes place in Ross’s house where Harriet is working as a house maid.
The following extract is from Nicola's work-in-progress-trilogy and may be very different from the finished work.
“So tell me about yourself, Harriet. It seems unbelievable to me that you’ve not changed at all since I left. Surely Oscar’s death must have touched you… as it has touched me?”
Harriet didn’t answer for several moments; she sat down carefully on the very edge of the sofa, her hands clenched together in her lap. She drew in her breath very slowly and released it, feeling the air tremble as she did so.
“Of course. I felt Mr Wilde’s passing before anyone had told me of it. The moment of his death was as clear to me as if I had been present in the room with him… does that make sense to you, Mr Ross?”
“Certainly it does.” Ross leant back against the cushions, still munching on his toast. Almost imperceptibly, his gaze shifted from Harriet’s face to the rooftops of the stately houses opposite, outlined against the blue sky behind her head. He continued to speak in a low voice. “You know Harriet, I can’t forget that moment, when his spirit rushed from him on his last breath… it’s still fixed in my memory after all this time, and will remain so. I can recall every second that passed, so clearly… even though it was all so confused that I don’t know if all that happened really took place at all. It was so strange Harriet; the daughter of the hotel owner was there… and this was actually Suzanne, the same Suzanne that Oscar mentioned in his letter. As Suzanne and Oscar were quite close in those last few weeks… I don’t know exactly why but there seemed to be something they shared between them that drew them together. Anyway she seemed to be a great comfort to him and so…” He gave a dismissive flick of his hand. “And so I needed no further explanation. It was clear to me that this woman was far from real, yet I found myself accepting the disguise without question, because that’s exactly what Oscar did and he needed her beside him just as he needed me beside him. Oscar always feared dying alone… isolation terrified him. I only wanted to help him, to reassure him.” Breaking off with a sigh, Ross suddenly buried his face in his hands; Harriet watched him nervously, unsure what to do or say. She waited patiently as Ross removed his hands slowly from his face, turning his eyes directly to Harriet’s. She was not surprised to see that they were wet with tears. “One moment we were the watching him die… and the next, Gustav was gone… quite gone, vanished… along with his disguise, because Suzanne also was gone completely. Her dress was the only part of herself she left behind… so that we all knew they hadn’t been a dream, but had actually existed.” His frown deepened as he recalled the details of the night. Harriet listened, spellbound. “I saw Suzanne being stripped away and revealed to be the sham that she was, just a disguise. Gustav’s disguise… because he and Suzanne were the same person – two faces of the same coin. Gustav was real, and he stood in her place… I saw him but only briefly… then he was gone and nobody saw him again.” Catching Harriet’s eye, Ross smiled apologetically and shook his head. “I’m sorry Harriet… this must all sound quite absurd to you. And it is absurd; it makes very little sense to me.”
Harriet cleared her throat very softly, raising her hand slowly to tuck back some stray strands of dark hair behind her ear.
“But… what happened to him? To Gustav?”
Shaking his head slowly as if to clear it, Ross got carefully to his feet and brushed some crumbs from the front of his shirt.
“Nobody knows, as I said… he was quite gone. I would’ve liked to question him further about his disguise but… that, I rather think, will have to remain a mystery.”
Smoothing down the creases in his trousers with a sudden air of impatience, Ross shrugged once again and it seemed to Harriet that he was shrugging away all the vivid recollections of the night when his friend had died.
“But Mr Ross… all this is so confusing to me. I’m not sure that I understand it, I’m afraid,” said Harriet, feeling a sense of panic rising inside her, almost as if she were drowning. Awkwardly, she got to her feet. “I can see why you thought the whole thing was a dream.”
Gazing at her levelly, Ross drained his cup of coffee and returned the cup to the tray.
More from Nicola's work-in-progress-trilogy in RM#94

Urban Scrawl!
Welcome to Andy's bit...
The new van is fantastic however, a bit of the shine was taken off it with Nicola's accident happening on the day we got it. I had really been looking forward to driving the thing and then of course after what happened I couldn't get exited about it anymore and everything has become a bit of a chore. Anyway..
I know what Nic means about the seatbelts, they are a bit of a pain to rig-up, there are six in all. Four of them are floor clamps to hold Ziggy down, then there's a big belt that goes round Nic and Ziggy and finally there's a normal seat belt that holds Nic in place. It takes a few minutes to set up but once everything is in place Ziggy and Nic are rock-solid secure. No matter what Nic says about just having one belt etc. she really needs all of the stuff if she wants to travel in the van in Ziggy, otherwise it's just too dangerous.
There are of course other seats in the van and Nic can easily travel in one of them if she so desires although she does say that Ziggy is more comfortable for her. I'm not to sure about that, the front passenger seat is a swivel-seat captains chair with double arm rests and it's really comfy. We went up to Boggart Hole Clough (a Manchester park) today and on the way back Nic travelled in the front seat. I think she liked it!
Nic's cat Cobweb was kidnapped and held to ransom! Unbelievable but true. Yesterday we got a phone call from a cat sanctuary near Buxton in Derbyshire which is twenty odd miles from central Manchester where we live. How did Nic's little cat travel so far by herself? we asked. The answer was that she was brought in as a stray cat, some person had taken it upon themself to 'rescue' Cobweb from starving to death.
Cobweb Batty is a very slim cat but she is certainly not starving. Yes, she probably was hungry at 7.30 am after a hard night out on the tiles, but she was just waiting to be let in for her breakfast at 8am like she does everyday when Jack leaves for school. So, to whom it may concern: PLEASE DON'T FEED OUR CAT!
CD WHAT? 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!MORE FROM URBAN SCRAWL ANDY IN RM#94

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
on CD in Digital book format is now available!
For further info please contact Andy at : properjoes@aol.com
Thanks for reading RAW MEAT..
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