Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

July 2008 Issue 94

Nicola's Editorial

No more dramatic accidents to report in this issue… my life - and face - seem to have resumed near enough their normal shape. I can travel quite happily in the van now, though I prefer to get out of Ziggy and into the passenger seat, which is okay but frustrating, because the whole idea of getting the van was to enable me to travel easily in Ziggy! Although Andy doesn’t mind lifting me into the seat, this won’t be possible forever. So what’s to be done? I wish we could go back to the old ways of travelling in Ziggy, without all the so called “safety regulations”, which are such a pain. Speaking as an anarchist, I wonder if I can’t take the responsibility for my safety upon my own shoulders and travel without all the wheel clamps, safety belts etc. Andy says that he’d get prosecuted if we had an accident, but can’t I take the risk myself? That’s the whole idea of anarchism, that individuals are responsible for themselves.
At the moment everybody seems to be having their birthday: Ruth, Jack next week, Brigitte the week after and also my friend Kirsty, who’ll be leaving for New Zealand soon. While I must admit to being a little bit jealous of her for making such a dramatic change to her life, I also feel very sad because I doubt very much whether I will get to see her again!! Although I would love to go to New Zealand one day, I can’t imagine it being practical… it’s so far away! Jack’s going to the theatre for his birthday to see a one-man version of Star Wars… which I can’t imagine! I’m very curious, and I hope Jack will give me a detailed description of it, though I some how doubt he will, as he seems to have adopted the usual teenage silence, at least as far as communication with his parents goes. The summer seems to be a particularly popular time to be born in… I wonder why this is? Can there be any relation between the warm weather and the increased birth rate??
We’re continuing to read and greatly enjoy John Wyndham’s classic The Day of the Triffids. Although some of the ideas in the story seem quite dated, other bits are really scary… particularly the idea of nobody being able to see, which actually seems to have nothing to do with the appearance of the triffids themselves, though I always thought that the two things were connected. I must admit to having some problems taking the idea of walking plants seriously; although I wanted to watch the old film again, I some how suspect I would fall about laughing… in which case I think it’s probably just as well I can’t see it! I think the triffids would have been much more scary if Mr Wyndham had made them simply glide along, rather like JK Rowling’s dementors. But I can’t visualise groups of triffids marching or chasing people… perhaps this is just my problem, having grown up on a diet of Monty Python.
From triffids to train travel… a few weeks ago I went with Brigitte, one of my helpers, to stay with a friend who lives near Newport. It was Brigitte’s first outing into Wales, so she was quite excited!! It was a first for me as well – a first time for travelling by train without my sight. Although this gradual loss of sight has been going on for years, it’s recently come home to me that I have to rely on other senses to realise what’s happening around me. It’s amazing how much you can tell about where you are simply by smells and sounds… this is particularly true with trains, which are full of station sounds whenever the train stops and it’s also an enjoyable sensation, the motion of the train. So the entire journey wasn’t half as nerve-wrecking as I though it would be, in fact it was quite fun!
Deborah and her husband actually live just outside Newport in a village that has a fantastic Roman amphitheatre in it. Deborah has an electric Ziggy and so she managed to go round the amphitheatre and the village by herself, which was just as well! Although I loved the old amphitheatre, it was difficult to reconcile it with the sounds of traffic outside… I was very aware of not being able to see it!! I kept thinking of scenes from The Life of Brian, which also didn’t help me take it seriously. In a different part of Caerleon there were statues of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere… I wondered what the link was between the village and the statues, and Deborah said it was something to do with the round table. I was a bit mystified; Andy and I saw pieces of the round table on the walls of a castle in Winchester, so I’m not sure if Deborah meant there were actually several different legends connecting Caerleon with the round table.
Just before our trip to Wales, Andy and I went to see a production of Romeo and Juliet in Heaton Park. Although I enjoyed the very rare experience of being out with Andy (!) I found it extremely difficult to follow the action of the play without my sight… because it was an open-air production, it was extra difficult for me. I was trying to listen out for music between scenes, and things like sword fighting and people screaming… but there was none of that! Although the production did have swords, there was also a Volkswagen van on stage and most of the actors wore jeans. According to Andy, this mixture of times worked well – though it bothered me when he told me about the play afterwards. What I would really love to do is to see one of Shakespeare’s tragedies at The Globe theatre… surely you must be able to feel the age of everything. Still on the subject of Shakespeare… I’m still considering whether or not to tackle Peter Ackroyd’s massive biography of the bard. I’m very temped to, particularly in relation to The Portrait of Mr WH and Mr Ackroyd’s reading of it.
You may remember me telling you that I had finally received a new Ziggy and was trying it out. But it actually seemed to cause more problems than it solved… so we took it back to the Ziggy clinic and asked if they had any alternative ideas. A simple foam wedge underneath the cushion was suggested as an alternative to having a completely different cushion that didn’t allow much movement. Well, I like the foam wedge much better, in this case Andy’s favourite saying is true: the simplest ideas are usually the most affective. I’ve also ordered another cushion, filled with gel, which should be more comfy, as the last gel cushion I had was. This last one came to a sorry end when the sack of gel somehow exploded and it all began to leak out, which was pretty messy! However, we’ll try again, and better luck this time.
Apologies for the lateness in the arrival of this issue. There’s no excuse really, apart from a general laziness, which always comes about in summer. Talking of RAW MEAT, I suppose that it must be its birthday fairly soon… can you imagine, almost one hundred issues have been written and – presumably – read?? It seems very strange because I can still vividly remember writing the first issue, which is like the memory of a very old person seeming to become sharper the further back it goes. Anyway, I’ll finish this issue here… (which seems filled with me going on about problems with my sight!) But I hope you’ll forgive this, it must just be a gradual realisation that has come upon me… if that makes any sense.

copyright (c) Nicola Batty 2008

Because I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to go thru and edit The Spark, I have sort of given it up for a while and turned my attention instead to carrying on writing The Space Between, which is a welcome relief! The situation as it stands is really frustrating… I know that The Spark needs careful editing and altering, but I’ve come to a point where I am unable to do it myself. So what do I do now? It’s a big question and I don’t really know the answer… there must be one. There is absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t go on writing… it’s just going thru the damn stuff afterwards that is a pain in the arse! So to keep myself from becoming to disheartened by all this I’ve taken up where I left off with chapter one of The Space Between… and it’s going fine, there is no problem with that. Writing is the easy bit!

It was really nice to bring Ricketts into this new novel and pick up old threads of story that are still unfinished. The Vale Press is still struggling along but on the way out… and I want Charles to be aware of this, in fact, he sort of brought it on! The exchange between him and Ross now comes quite naturally, as though I feel I know them by this stage. I am still unsure whether or not to leave Ricketts completely after the Vale Press is finished… I am tempted to keep him in the background but I don’t want to go against historical fact, which shows him to have lived happily with Shan. But this doesn’t make good fiction and it’s the same problem with the Pissaros.
Talking of dramatic incidents, it seems that Charles Shannon had a pretty good death; apparently he fell off a ladder whilst hanging a picture… quite a suitable end for an artist don’t you think? But the story doesn’t actually end there - Shannon lived on for a few more years in some sort of asylum; when he fell he damaged his brain, but to what extent I don’t know. Presumably Ricketts was still able to communicate with him at the end, but the Internet doesn’t tell me that much… so there leaves another space to be filled in future.

Taking up advice from another Wilde writer, I recently got in touch with an Irish literary agent who are interested to see The Spark… so fingers crossed! I’m still not totally convinced of the necessity of agents for writers, particularly because I wasn’t impressed with the last one I had 20 years ago. I’m aware that some writers manage quite well on their own but I feel that it’s particularly difficult for me, both because of the editing difficulties I’ve already mentioned and also because of the specialist nature of the stuff I write, which does not appeal to a large readership. Also I’ve found that more and more publishers only accept manuscripts through agents and whether I approve of this situation or not is irrelevant, if I need an agent initially to make the break into the publishing world then so be it. While I’ve got absolutely no intention of selling out on my principles, particularly regarding Ziggy… I still don’t want him (Ziggy) to interfere in any way with my writing, even though that seems pretty impossible sometimes! Anyway, I mean that I accept that I might need some help to get started or at least to become a published writer. Whether or not this may involve an agent is debatable… but I am quite willing to do whatever is necessary.

copyright (c) Nicola Batty 2008

The year is 1901 and Wilde has recently died in Paris, supposedly leaving his manuscript in the care of Ross. The following conversation takes place in the garden of Charles Rickett’s house in Richmond, which he shares with his partner Shannon

CHAPTER 1 – 1901

“Excellent Cognac, Robbie… from Paris, I take it?”
“Of course. And I brought some other things of Oscars back too…some manuscripts, you understand? I was wondering if perhaps the Vale Press would be able to publish anything? I was thinking of a short story, as a sort of tribute to Oscar’s memory. What do you think Charles?”
Charles studied his friend’s expression, remembering his own reluctance to become involved with such a project several years before. He also felt vaguely uneasy; the flames eating up the manuscript of Oscar’s story seemed to be physically threatening his mind, gnawing at the edges until they killed. He cleared his throat very softly before he spoke.
“That would be a fine thing for the Vale Press to do, though it comes rather too late, I’m afraid. You see, the press hasn’t fully recovered from the Ballentyne fire… I fear it must end soon.” Charles shrugged, draining his glass and putting it down sharply on the table. When he turned back to Ross his smile was apologetic. “And so you see Robbie, that we’re not in a very good position at the moment.”
“Yes, I see that,” said Ross carefully, “but this last publication could be a sort of swansong… a quite fitting tribute, I think.” He paused, sitting forward in his chair and clasping his hands on his knees. “You could make a beautiful edition of The Portrait of Mr WH, couldn’t you? You still have the copy I left with you all those years ago, don’t you?”
Charles folded back his shirtsleeves with very careful movements; his throat felt suddenly dry and he avoided Ross’s eyes.
“I rather hoped that Oscar himself would’ve kept a copy,” he said finally, “and that it would’ve been amongst the manuscripts you brought back.”
“Ah…” Ross sat back against the velvet cushions with a small sigh. His eyes filled with a great sadness, a great emptiness. “That’s what I hoped too, but I searched his room and could find no trace of the extended manuscript, which I handed over to him myself some years ago. I can only presume he must have given it to someone… which seems a very odd thing for him to do, knowing how careful he was about his own writing. Still… I thought that you might have the old version in your possession.”
Stepping forward, Charles seized the bottle and filled both of their glasses, using the movement to distract himself from the confrontation. But he had to face it… sooner or later he had to face it. Looking directly into Ross’s eyes over the rim of his glass, he spoke in a low voice, his words measured like medicine.
“I’m afraid I lost the manuscript. It’s gone… gone completely.”
“Gone completely?” Ross repeated. “Whatever do you mean?”
“I mean that I destroyed it, Robbie. In a moment of weakness, I destroyed it.”
There was only the sound of the night around them, enveloping them within its gentle folds. In the distance a church bell tolled mournfully and from Richmond Park, beyond the garden fence, there came the sound of the river meandering by. Charles listened to the peaceful sounds around him; they all seemed to gather and conspire against him, for there was no peace for him. He clenched his hands, shifting his weight restlessly from one foot to the other. Turning away from Ross, he went over to the railings and stared over the garden fence, into the park. After a while, he forced himself to speak, though his words were strangled within his dry throat.
“I’m sorry… but you understand… I was frightened by Oscar’s arrest… you see that, don’t you?”
For a while, Ross made no reply, simply raising his glass to his lips and draining it slowly. Stretching out his arm, he put down his glass beside the candle and stood up, carefully smoothing out the creases in his trousers.
“Don’t worry Charles… I understand perfectly. That original manuscript would be of little use to me anyway, it’s simply so frustrating… I had the new version at my finger tips in Paris… so near and yet, it slipped beyond my grasp…” His words trailed away into nothing as he sighed wearily and rubbed his face as if trying to wake himself from a bad, persistent dream.
More Raw Materials and another extract from Nicola's-work-in-progress-trilogy in RM#95

Welcome to Andy's bit...

Things are settling down nicely now and the weather is back to normal, which means that in this neck of the woods it rains about half the time. The other half I must say, is absolutely fabulous! The sun light really seems to make a difference to the way we/I view things, even when it isn't possible to go outside and enjoy the weather, just being able to see the sunlight through the windows makes everything seem okay.
I read that Nic (in her editorial) is still banging on about seat belts and floor clamps for Ziggy and such stuff. She thinks that all the modern regulations are unnecessary and that as a good anarchist she should ignore the law of the land and ride in the back of the van without any safety harness whatsoever. - Well I'm sorry Nic, but the floor clamps are needed and the seat belt is too. If we did have a bump, it really would be curtains. Spending a couple of minutes at each end of a journey, is all that it takes to be safe.
Phew, is it that time of year again? Sometimes, time seems to fly by and this year is going so quickly for me. I don't know what happened to Easter and Whit? But all of a sudden it's Jack's birthday and the school holidays are just about to start and Nic wants to go camping and her helpers want to take their holidays and Glastonbury is already over...
More from Urban Scrawl Andy in RM#95
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