February 2009 Issue 101
SNOW AND ICE
I don’t know about Scott of the Antarctic, but I’m heartily sick of such freezing temperatures! While the snow might look quite pretty when it’s fresh and untouched, in the city it rapidly degenerates into a yucky slushy mess, which is not at all aesthetic. In fact, the whole of January has been made more bearable to me by an application making to a trust fund, which is inviting wild travel ideas, well not really too wild. They all have to be carefully budgeted and researched but as the limit is £5000 which includes a helper as well. The idea opens up a lot of wild destinations and gives dreams a possibility of turning into reality.
I wish I met this chap before he died in 2007- I’m sure we would have had loads in common. Though he was fairly young, the list of countries he visited is very impressive and one in the eye for anyone who thinks that being in Ziggy means that you can’t travel!! His friends and relatives raised the dosh for the memorial fellowship… and what a great idea for a memorial, to help living achieve their dreams while making yourself remembered. I hope that my friends and relatives do the same for me when I die… it’s a truly practical way forward. It’s also really nice being discriminated for instead of against, as is per usual for people with FA. In order to apply to Mr Far’s fund, you need to have FA. Which means that there won’t be that many applicants as only about 1000 people have the disease in this country. Hence my excitement…
Of course I had no trouble at all deciding where my dream travel destination would be, not least because of the artist Gauguin’s travels and burial there. Initially I wanted to sail all the way from Marseilles to Tahiti, just like Gauguin did in the 1890s, but this idea was quickly blown apart when I discovered the price of a cruise. From all my research it seems that cruising anywhere is a very expensive way to travel, and I’m not convinced of how much I’d actually like it… this might sound a bit stupid, but I’d feel pretty useless being stuck on a boat while everyone else did the actual sailing!! It could also be quite boring for me, not being able to see, and as the ship would be too big to be able to feel the sensation of the waves etc I’m not sure of the wisdom of cruising. But still, I wanted to be able to smell the sea and also take my time passing by all the various places as Gauguin did, I didn’t want to just get in a plane and magically get out in Tahiti! Still, if this travel application all had to be carefully thought out and budgeted, I might not have much choice.
I was very excited when we found out about a little cruise which went round the small islands surrounding Tahiti. Presumably this would include Gauguin’s final resting place, as he left Tahiti for one of these smaller islands a couple of years before his death. The cruise boat is called The Gauguin; I suppose it will be loaded with rich Americans, but I was willing to ignore this for Gauguin. But the travel firm told me that The ship was inaccessible to Ziggy… I wanted to know why I couldn’t stay on board while it stopped at the various islands, if I couldn’t get off into the little boat that takes you to the shore. I never discovered the reason why… probably just some safety rubbish… however, nothing could really dampen my enthusiasm for the south seas at this point… just being in Tahiti would be quite amazing.
I’m really into Gauguin’s paintings and life at the moment, undoubtedly because of the Tahiti connection. He was actually a stock broker who lost all his money when the market crashed and so decided to pack up and leave his wife, five children and France and sail off to Tahiti, which he’s visited before and fallen in love with. He wanted to get back to basics. I suppose nowadays Andy would call this “the simple life” (Andy’s always going on about the simple life). I still remember a few of Gauguin’s paintings because of his crazy use of colour. Without hesitation he would paint trees purple and make everything different shades of red or yellow, including people’s faces! I recently saw his self portrait, and he actually looks more like a boxer or a thug than an artist!! Nonetheless, I’m still haunted by his abstract colours, which seem to me to go hand in hand with the tropics… that sensation of feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin is to me associated with such crazy colours. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all – I hope it does.
NEW ZEALAND DREAM
It won’t surprise you one bit to hear that one of the other destinations for my travel proposal will be New Zealand. I could go and visit my friend Kirsty who emigrated there last year… she tells me of the orange and lemon trees in her back garden, as well as being by the sea and mountains! I had a dream about New Zealand last night, and I can still remember the warmth from it. I can’t remember what I was doing exactly, but it involved listening to music outside at some sort of festival. Anyway, that’s quite enough of dreaming… hopefully I can get a cruise from Australia (another destination) which would take me all the way along the coast of New Zealand, from the ice which Suzanne told me about at the southern tip, to the greener north island. I’ve yet to research if this cruise would be accessible for Ziggy.
BOB’S PALM TREE
Still on the subject of tropical dreams, the image of a desert island - complete with palm tree and sunshine takes me right back to a massive mural in Bob Maybrick’s house. You might remember Bob from The Promised Land, one of The Ziggy Collection stories which I thought deserved more attention, as that period where I was involved with the Church of Stockport is still so vivid – some of the characters particularly need elaboration. So I’ve been writing a short story with this splendid title: Grouting for Bob, which is a sort of spin-off from The Promised Land. It focuses mainly on my sharp memories of Bob’s house, which other members of the church did up for him and his American wife while they were getting married in Pennsylvania. I may go on to do more short stories in the same vein, as the whole Church of Stockport thing is full of wonderful characters and events which have just got to be told. I seem to have been somewhat distracted from The Space Between recently, which is not to say that it’s been totally neglected but I do seem to have several stories going on at the same time. I only remark on this because it’s so unusual for me, quite a different way of writing for me in fact.
Another change of direction for me is that recently I wrote an article for The Ataxian called Getting on my nerves about my experience with new research into the nervous system/hearing impairment. While this research doesn’t seem to have reached any definite conclusion for me anyway – I thought The Ataxian might be interested in printing it. Well they are and they also asked if I wanted to get more involved with media work, journalism etc. Although my instant reaction was to say “Yuk! No thanks…” I mulled it over and thought, why not? While it doesn’t mean I have to give up on fiction totally it would make a nice change… and it’s also vitally important to spread awareness of Ataxia, which people generally don’t know anything about. I also think it’s possible to combine fiction and journalism. What do you think?
As I’ve been working on quite a few different projects at the same time so I’ve been reading several books at once, which is something I never do. Must be something in the air… Anyway I’m continuing with the wonderfully sensual Perfume with Ruth. The main character follows his nose all the way down from Paris to Grasse, which is in the south east of France on the Riviera. He doesn’t want to meet (or smell!) anyone else on the journey so he travels by night. Of course he could find his way in the dark by just lifting up his nose and smelling the sea or mountains, whatever… alongside this I’m reliving childhood memories with E Nesbitt’s The Railway Children - The edition I’ve got is a lovely children’s one with pictures. The story is just like the film so far except more detailed. Andy says it’s difficult to read, but it’s not. It’s easy to listen to it! I’m also reading Shout, a book about The Beatles, which makes a nice change sometimes from fiction.Oh - and not forgetting a re-read of The Picture of Dorian Gray, for research into a character idea for The Space Between.
The Space Between
Copyright © Nicola Batty 2009
The story so far…
The year is now 1902 and Wilde has died in Paris. Before dieing he left his manuscript with Gustave, who has now come to London and given the manuscript to Ricketts. Ricketts has shown the manuscript to Robbie Ross and together they hope to publish it as The Vale press’s final tribute to Wilde. Meanwhile Harriett and Jack were still living in Kensington with the Ross’s. Now read on…
Harriett took several steps towards Georges and took Jacks hand protectively. “What’s in that letter?” Georges gazed at her for quite some time; it was impossible for her to tell whether or not he recognised her after all this time… the familiarity was there, if not the recognition.
“ It’s from the captain of my ship, giving permission for Jack to come with us. I will keep an eye on him, so don’t worry,” Georges told her soothingly, folding his arms “you must be Jacks mother, I presume.”
“Yes, that’s right,” she said firmly. She felt suddenly panic stricken, as if everything were slipping away from her, “I want to know more, will jack live with you near the dock?”
Georges opened his mouth to reply but before he did so Jack interrupted.
“No! I’m going to live with Freddy!” There was a brief silence. Finally he turned around slowly and opened the gate.
“I’ll still keep an eye on him… So don’t worry please. And Jack make sure you give the letter to your head master alright? I’ll call around again before we leave” and with that he was gone. Unable to move or speak, she watched the wooden gate swing back and forth long after Georges departure. Beside her Jack’s hand squirmed out of her grip and he danced away from her, holding the letter up before him triumphantly.
“This is it! I’m going to sea! I’m going away from here!” he cried, laughing and grinning.
Harriet watched him numbly as he disappeared thru the kitchen door. Very slowly she picked up the empty washing basket but found herself unable to return straight to work; too much had happened in to short a space for her mind to be able absorb it all. To her, everything felt spiky and jagged nothing seemed to fit in. She sighed heavily and turned her face away from the bright sun, which was dodging between clouds as if playing some sort of Game with her. She smiled gently, knowing that to return to work was the only thing she could do now. Shifting the basket to the other arm, Harriett forced two steps back towards the kitchen door.
It was much later in the day when she returned to collect the washing from the line, which had dried long ago in the sun. It was a lovely evening; the air was still warm and there was a soft chorus of birdsong, which seemed to echo the mellow colours of the sunset as is slipped below the horizon. Harriett felt much calmer now, though the memories had still touched a chord within her. Behind her, Harriett heard the newly fitted French windows open; she turned to see Mr Ross standing there, watching the sunset. It seemed very odd to her that he should just come out merely to watch the sunset; but he had obviously already noticed her for he walked up to her taking a seat on the low brick wall which had separated the two of them. Taking out a cigarette he glanced at Harriett and smiled apologetically. “ Good evening Harriett and it’s a beautiful one is it not?”
Harriett smiled and nodded awkwardly, waiting for him to go on. After several moments he did.
“I’m glad I managed to see you by yourself, actually … I wanted to apologise about this morning. Harriet… I’m very sorry. Charles came round unexpectedly.”
Harriet smiled and looked away.
“That’s quite alright sir. Charles is… Charles is in the past now.”
Ross nodded but his troubled expression remained.
“Well, that’s very philosophical of you… but I’m afraid that Charles may be coming round here quite frequently over the next few months. You see, he’s made rather an exciting discovery and wants me to help him publish the manuscript he’s been given… it’s one of Oscar’s stories which I’ve been looking for ever since his death. I told you about it, I think.”
More from The Space Between in RM#102
copyright © Nicola Batty 2009
I must admit to being in two minds about whether to include this particular piece in this issue as not a lot really happens here, I feel the extract should be a lot more exciting and dramatic at this point. I’ve been putting a lot of thought and mulling over various ideas for the novel, and have become a little bit excited about it generally; therefore it seems that I’m not doing it justice by including such a bridging sort of extract – even though it may be interesting! I’m keen on spending more time with both Jack and Freddy, developing their relationship… and particularly Jack as a character, he’s got to be filled out. So that his leaving should be felt more. Also I thought that I could use the manuscript appearance in rickets hands to give him an excuse for coming over to Robbies house and meeting Harriett once again. I wanted to be careful how I handled this – it could be too melodramatic or sentimental – only Jack holds them together as a memory. While Harriett may still hold some feelings for Ricketts, I don’t think he feels anything anymore – my decision may not line up completely with fact, but non the less I think Ricketts fling with Harriett was his last physical contact with a woman. This may not go along with all I’ve read in Ricketts biography, which seems to point towards him being a totally gay character, if you see what I mean! But I’m not too worried about altering biographical facts to fit in with fiction, as there’s nothing to say that a relationship with a woman didn’t take place… and so I’m free to interpret my own way.
I was also very happy to bring Robbie Ross back into the story at this point, because I think he’s going to become an essential character – particularly when he meets Freddy. I’m not absolutely convinced how far Harriett will be affected by this, so I’m going to just let the novel write itself!!
I have a lot of sympathy for Robbie… I feel as if I know him quite well, I think he was a very cool chap who I’d wish I’d met. Non-the less the light in which I’m going to show him is not altogether a positive one… I feel quite sorry for him because he became the victim of events really of which he had no control. Although he was undoubtedly a hardheaded businessman above all things he did have soft spots; especially as far as human boys were concerned! As with Rickets, I had to be very careful in handling this… especially as it’s not really a subject I’ve got much experience of. The whole business about Jack going off to America is one which I’m still undecided whether to develop or not. While it’s quite tempting to elaborate on Georges home life in Louisiana with his wife and daughter, it would involve an awful lot of research as I know next to nothing about early twenties American life. I don’t know whether this is worth pursuing… I may just leave it completely and keep the action in London, perhaps just catching glimpses of Jack when he returns home briefly I’m not sure if this’ll work. When I began this book I was quite keen to develop the Louisianan swamps I don’t know why, but I’m really fascinated by the swampland. But I don’t know if this is really going to fit in… I may well have to give the swamp lands a miss and concentrate on the Antarctic!! I suppose the only thing to do is to wait and see how things come out in the wash...
Welcome to Andy's bit...
Hi everybody, my time has been taken up recently doing the childishly simple poetry form that I have named NaisaiKu.. It's really easy and anyone can do it. If you'd like to find out what I'm blogging on about, simply clink-the-link...
More from Urban Scrawl Andy in RM#102