Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

January 2009 Issue 100

Nicola's Editorial

Welcome to issue 100…
I suppose there should be a trumpet fanfare in the background along with a hailstorm of applause of course. Supposedly this issue should be in suitably striking colours… I wonder what colour scheme Andy has gone for?? Maybe it was a mistake trusting him as far as aesthetics go… we both decided not to include a paper hat or free whistle with this issue but to settle for the first issue included. This could be sort of interesting if only as a comparison… look how far the Newsletter has come on since it began on a single sheet in 1999. Anyway, I’ll leave all that to Andy - the computer is strictly HIS department.
Once again Andy’s taken the tree outside and replanted it… I hope he remembered to remove the decorations first!! It doesn’t actually feel to depressing because I’ve always hated the presence of the tree after Christmas. To me that seems far more depressing than to just get rid of it altogether!! Jack’s been back from China for a week now, and he went back to school yesterday so everything is well and truly back to normal… or at least as normal as we’ll ever get in this house. Jack’s actually said very little about China… though this is not unusual for him, as he so rarely says more that a few sentences to us nowadays anyway… but from what I gather his stay was mostly in hotels and involved a visit to a kite factory and eating scorpion in a posh restaurant! He described scorpion as tasting like crispy prawns… which sounds rather nice! Perhaps this is as close as I will ever come to eating some, whether or not in a posh restaurant! Actually, I don’t feel too jealous at the moment because Andy’s promised that we’ll go to Tenerife next month… though I know his promises by now, so I’ll believe it when I see it! He’s got lots of ideas for exciting things to do this year… I think he must be feeling his age.
I’m not sure how much this has to do with the dawning of the new year… but recently I’ve been overtaken with a creative drive to such an extent that I’m dying to get on with The Space Between… I even have vague hopes of getting it finished by the time the year is out!! Though these are very vague… I doubt it very much, even if I do get cracking with it. I think maybe I’ve just been thinking about The Space Between for too long… now I want to get the ideas down on screen before I forget them. I also want to finish the novel because I want to get on with other things… like more autobiographical short stories, perhaps even a development from The Ziggy Collections. I’m still wondering whether to go on with this autobiographical stuff, because although it’s easy to write I don’t feel satisfied with it as quality writing if you see what I mean… so I’m not sure whether to steer away from it completely. I also feel concerned that it may be to self indulgent, that I’m NOT truly creative. It’s completely different to writing The Space Between… and I don’t want to mix the two. Hence my desire to get on with writing while its still winter - and it’s the best thing about it being so freezing, its good writing weather! I wonder if Scott shared this opinion in the South Pole? Possibly not…
I’ve just remembered that just before Christmas Andy and I went to see Bootleg at the Manchester Apollo, but this seems such a long time ago now! I must admit to being slightly dubious about this Beatles tribute band… however I feared that they would do a simple rendition of the early Beatles stuff and be quite boring. But I was very impressed… they covered the entire Beatles career all the way through, tackling complicated things such as “All you need is love”, “Strawberry fields” and “Eleanor Rigby” without hesitation. Although it would have been pretty impossible to get the sound exactly like the Beatles did in the studio Bootleg did an admirable job… the songs were recognisable, and they had an entire string and brass section on stage with them all the way through. Andy told me that they changed costume to match the stage of the Beatles career they were going through, complete with false moustaches and beards!! They were amazing anyway, well worth seeing. Still on the subject of music, I’m very much looking forward to going to see Elvis Costello in a few months… unbelievably he’ll be playing at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with a string quartet!!
While I’m talking about things that happened before Christmas, I’ve remembered going to a Manchester Ziggy group Christmas party held at someone’s house in Droylsden. This house was quite amazing because it was on a little square, and all the houses nearby were part of a community set up by immigrants from Russia (Moravia says Andy) who had fled to escape religious persecution. I can’t remember the name of them… probably Andy will tell you. (They’re called the Moravians, says Andy) Anyway, the house was very old… 1785 I think, and part of it had been converted from a coach house. The woman who owned the house was called Olga - though this had nothing to do with being Russian because she wasn’t! Both she and all her sisters were named after Chekhov characters, because her Mum had been obsessed by the Russian playwright! Olga told me that there was a banana tree in the back yard, which they kept warm in winter by covering it with a sleeping bag… beats a greenhouse I suppose. Although Andy and I didn’t manage to win a hamper in the raffle this year, we did manage to sell twelve more copies of The Ziggy Collection… which was much more important!
Although I’ve not been doing much reading over the holidays, I started this book by Patrick Suskind just before Christmas… I’ve read it before but was so impressed with it I wanted to give it another go! I also wondered if it may have special significance to me since I’ve lost most of my sight, as I remember it being so evocative of eighteenth century France in terms of not sight but smell. All the way through, the book is heavy with the sense of both of the country and the city… the unwashed citizens reeking of sweat, the slaughterhouse, the markets… there’s a lovely scene where a woman gives birth in a corner of the fish market. Everything is described by smell… though we’ve only just begun the book I want to get on with it as soon as possible! I think Perfume was written in the mid eighties… it has a beautiful cover, which is really sensual. I think that the publishers should have made each page with a different smell! It makes me think of the theatre in France which was set up around the eighteen nineties; apparently each play was accompanied by relevant smells which must have been wonderful… except for where the play was set in a sewer or field of cows. I think this theatre was closed down pretty soon after, needless to say.
Another book I am really looking forward to reading is the children’s classic by E. Nesbit, which I remember from the film version with Jenny Agutter. I was amazed to discover that the book was actually written in 1906, making the action of the tale contemporary… I had always thought it was written in about the nineteen fifties. To me, it brings back such memories of childhood… I can’t remember how many times I watched the film - maybe hundreds!!! I wonder if the book will recreate the Edwardian era as vividly? I hope so.
100 TO YOU
This month my Mum celebrates her 70th. Birthday – so therefore it’s completely fitting that I dedicate this special 100th. Issue to her. Here’s to you Mum have a great birthday and thanks for always being there!!
copyright Nicola Batty © 2009

The story so far..
The year is 1902; Wilde has died in Paris and his manuscript has disappeared with him. Although Robbie Ross has searched for it in Wilde’s hotel room he can’t find it and returns to London without it. Meanwhile a certain Frenchman by the name of Gustave has been telling Esther Pissaro, at whose house he’s currently staying, about his friendship with Wilde just before he died, and he showed her the manuscript that he claimed that Wilde had given him.
Now read on …

“So you’ve come over from Paris, did you say?”
“Yes, that’s right,” answered Gustave. “My father owns a hotel in the Latin quarter… that’s where I met Oscar Wilde.”
Charles gave a slight start and glanced quickly into Gustave’s sea green eyes.“You knew Oscar?”Gustave nodded slowly, smoothing down the front of his white shirt. He was aware all the time of Charles’s eyes flickering over him, drinking in every detail of his appearance. He didn’t mind at all; in fact he basked in the man’s attention.
“Oh yes… we were great friends just before he died. In fact I have something of his here which he gave me…”
Charles took the portfolio from him at once but made no move to open it. He continued standing as though transfixed, staring at Gustave without smiling. Eventually he cleared his throat and spoke in a dry, choked manner.“Oscar never mentioned you - what is this you have?”
Gustave smiled easily and just shrugged. “Why don’t you open it and see?”
Taking the portfolio over to the table, Charles laid it down carefully and opened it. He leafed through the papers inside, touching every page with the utmost care as though afraid it would disappear or crumble to dust beneath his fingertips. When he finally turned back to face Gustav his own face was as pale as the papers themselves were.“Where did you get this?” He asked in a strangled whisper.
Gustav flipped back his long fringe with a casual movement of his head, giving a slight shrug. “I’ve told you, Oscar gave it to me. I thought… I thought you may wish to publish it as a memory of him, perhaps.” He paused, moving over to the table beside Charles, where he stood so close that the contact they both felt was so real… and yet they didn’t actually touch each other. The manuscript before them shivered as though with the air itself, even though all the windows were taped shut on such a cold April day as this. Gustave watched Charles’s fingers pass lightly over the surface of the script as though he were a blind man reading the letters by touch; the entire room seemed to be charged with electricity which ran between the two men, they both felt it and they both knew it was real. “I know all about your company, the Vale Press you see… Esther Pissaro told me,” continued Gustav lightly, “to come and show it to you”
“How do you know Esther Pissaro” he asked sharply.
“Oh yes I know both Esther and Lucian… I’m staying at The Old House with them you see.” Taking a few steps across the room, Gustave dropped his jacket lightly on the sofa where it lay in a crumpled heap, curled up like an animal. Gustav stared at it for some time in satisfaction before turning back to Charles and moving in towards him with the utmost care and precision. He was aware as each second passed of his own youthful beauty shining out from within, and he was in perfect control. “she thought you might like to publish it for Oscar.”
Nothing was said, but Gustave could feel Charles nodding slowly as he took in the young French mans explanation. For several more long seconds Gustav allowed the air to slide between them, drawing them ever closer without needing any sort of body contact. When Charles spoke at last, some colour had returned to his face and his voice was slightly more level.“Well Gustave… Esther was right, I am interested… very interested indeed”
The two of them stood so close that they could feel static crackling between their individual arms; it pulled them closer so that the contact was already made, the promise was already made. Charles glanced very briefly at Gustave… it was almost unnecessary. “But…tell me, Gustave… if all that you’ve said is true… what do you want in return?”
MORE FROM NICOLA'S work-in-progress-trilogy in RM#101
Raw Materials #100
Ever since resuming work on the Space Between, there’s been no looking back… in fact the ideas are coming so thick and fast I just want to get them down on screen – you’ll notice that I don’t use the term ‘on paper’ any more… a true creature of the twenty-first century!! While I wouldn’t like to say I hope to finish the book this year I… nevertheless I do feel confident enough to say that The Space Between will take a much shorter time to complete than The Spark. I think this has had a lot to do with leaving myself more room for manoeuvre within a historical framework. It’s not really fair to say that history died along with Wide… but I get that sort of feeling with The Space Between, though this doubtless has more to do with the other characters I’m choosing to focus on at the moment – of course my own fictional ones. Gustave is one of my favourite ones from The Turn of The Century Party, it was really exciting to bring him into the story at this point. The Space Between begins just about where The Turn of The Century Party leaves off so it’s natural for Gustave to appear as himself, and so his story progresses.I didn’t really plan that any sort of relationship should develop between Gustave and Ricketts that just happened as I wrote it. This is still one of the most exciting things about writing - where the ideas completely take over by themselves and I’m simply the empty brain to be used!! Though it’s still true that once the idea is there it has to be handled extremely carefully – of course I’m talking about Gay relationships, particularly when it’s between a fictional character and a historical one! I definitely don’t want to sound smutty or anything like that so the only thing to do was to leave it unsaid but hinted at pretty heavily… but not too much. Moving away from Ricketts, I was thinking about what to do with the Pissaro’s … I couldn’t find out much about their lives in the early twentieth century and so, was quite delighted as this meant I could virtually make it up!! I had thought of tying in Gustave’s addiction to opium with the Pissaro’s – but Andy warned me to watch what I was saying about them as the family is very much still alive. Well I actually don’t agree with Andy on this one – I mean, that’s the whole point of The Space Between, mixing up history and fiction, of course there has to be a compromise to avoid hurting people. In this case, I think the compromise will be by making my opium addicts fictional characters. As I’ve already used characters from my own fiction I thought it would make a nice change to bring in some characters from Wildes fiction. Of course Dorian Gray seemed the natural choice. I wanted to go for one of the lesser known characters… which will mean some rereading, though I’ve got ideas already it was Ruth’s suggestion to bring opium into The Space Between … simply because it was so prevalent around that time and also something which I was fascinated about. Its links with the creative imagination are well known and so I thought it would fit in rather nicely.


Welcome to Andy's bit...
Many many congratulations Nicola on reaching the big 100!
This Newsletter started out as a paper publication in 1999. The very first issue was a single sheet of A4 paper and if I can find the one library copy that we still have I'll scan it into this machine and share it with you.
MARCH 2008
Of course the centenary of this publication could/would have been way back in March last year, apart from the fact that there were several months when Raw Meat became a bi-monthly while Nicola was doing her MA at Manchester University.
The first issue we put Online was in September 2006 and by January 2007 we stopped printing and mailing the paper publication.
So Nicola, here's to the next 100! All my love Andy xxx
Just to let you know, that if you clink-the-link at the top right of this page to Nicola Batty's profile you will find that there's an old picture of Nicola with me (Andy) and Jack about ten years ago. You can just see the Granada TV weather map in the background. It was of course taken at Albert Dock in Liverpool. this is the same picture that is on the back of Nicola's E-book:
The complete Ziggy Collection! e-mail Nicola for further details of how to get your copy of this publication.
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