Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Friday, March 06, 2009

March 2009 Issue 102

Nicola's Editorial!


A miracle has occurred… Andy’s actually got his act together and booked for us to go away to Tenerife next week!! It’s a long over due promise - ever since last September he’s been putting it off. But now… maybe the advent of spring has infected him to such a degree to actually take action. I don’t doubt that the long, cold winter days have got something to do with it- the winter seems to go on far to long in this country. So we’re off to get some sunshine and actual warmth, which will be unbelievable after England. No crazy plans - probably we’ll just take it easy and wander round the resort which we’re staying in - Los Christianos. Apparently this place is supposed to be very Ziggy friendly with lots of accessible walks along the promenade which I feel a bit dubious about… I hope it’s not too much like Blackpool!! I suppose the main thing is, it will be a good deal warmer than Blackpool…


We’ve just returned form spending a weekend down in Plymouth for my Granddad’s 95th birthday celebration. Hardly surprisingly, he’s getting a wee bit frail now so it was a fairly quiet do, but none the less it was lovely to see all my cousins and my mum’s sister once again. It was also lovely to be by the sea, very nostalgic - that salty sea air smell always brings back such memories. In a way I’d love to move back to Plymouth - or at least to be by the sea after all these years away from it in Manchester. I suppose I’ve never really felt settled here - I wonder if at heart I’m simply a Devonshire lass?? I would never have believed it… yet walking along the sea front with Andy was great. As for Granddads age, I can’t imagine being that old… he was born on the year the first world war broke out; of course he has no memory of that, but his tales of growing up in the twenties in Plymouth and going out in the cart with his dad to catch fish to sell are wonderful.


At the moment I’m considering doing a parachute jump with my friend Sue from Manchester Ataxia. I stress the word “considering” because I’m absolutely in two minds - that falling sensation must be an incredible one, but on the other hand it’s a really scary experience. Perhaps especially for someone without their sight; although I tend to think my lack of sight is nothing but an advantage in such situations. If I had my sight there’s no way I’d ever consider jumping out of a plane - and yet without it, makes you rely on the sensation of falling, which must be an incredible one. The very last thing that concerns me is the landing… apparently Sue says you have some sort of special harness to keep your legs out of the way so they don’t get broken!! But it’s the actual moment of jumping out the plane that scares me… I can’t really just close my eyes and think of England because it won’t be any different! So I’ve yet to make a decision.


Still working on my round the world travel plan… the latest thing is a stop in Brazil for a trek through the rainforest - including catching alligators and fishing for piranhas! Sounds pretty cool. I’ve always fancied a trek through the jungle but have thought it would be impossible in Ziggy unless Ziggy had special tires or something to avoid running over snakes etc. In Brazil, we would stay in a hotel actually in the rainforest, which sounds incredible. I think the hotel is reached by boat, which only adds to its remote, surreal quality. As the travel application has to be completed by the end of the month it’s all beginning to come together now - I just have one more place to work out - Tahiti, which is the main focus of the trip for me. So I definitely want to experience Tahiti in the best way I can, probably by camping and simply walking around which shouldn’t be too expensive! Of course I am going to keep a travel diary of my round the world experiences - if I get it! I believe most people with FA are applying, so… we’ll see.


Before leaving the subjects of the round the world trip, I’ve just found out some interesting information concerning the highlight of my tour - of course Tahiti, in the South Seas. I’ve been longing to visit this particular island for years, long before discovering that the artist Gauguin is buried there, which only adds to its fascination for me. I was very pissed off when I discovered it wasn’t going to be as easy as I hoped to camp there; this seemed a natural thing to do in such a place - only the campsites seemed inaccessible to Ziggy. I couldn’t even think about staying at a hotel or anything - I was imagining the western idea of a hotel - Andy said the buildings would in fact be more like grass huts. Of course they would be, how stupid of me! I wouldn’t mind at all staying in a grass hut - it would be perfectly suitable in such a place as Tahiti. My next problem was how to get to the smaller island where Gauguin’s grave is, because I’d hoped to get a boat there but that looked very dodgy. However I can get a small plane there, which sounds great fun… I imagine it would be quite different from the planes I’m used to! I’d like to be able to stay in Hiva Oa for as long as possible… in fact I don’t think I want to come back! Maybe I’ll stay in the South Seas and be buried along side Gauguin… sigh, what a way to go.


But to return to Manchester, life seems to be quiet at ours… that is unless Jack’s having a band practice as he does during the holidays. I haven’t told you much about Jacks band - there’s just three of them, Jack plays drums and the others play guitars and sing. Apparently they all write some of the stuff, I suspect Jack writes mostly lyrics but maybe has a hand in the music as well. He’s very into the band these days… he has a mentor called Dave who is also a drummer and so gives Jack advice, as well as having useful contacts in the studios. His mentor is one of the best ideas the Arts Council has recently come up with - and I’m sure Jack would agree. It’s essential for him to have somebody who knows about the business to talk to. Jack’s band have been doing some recording at a studio, so far they’ve done two songs but Jack says it would cost too much to make a complete album. Hopefully they’ll be doing their first gig presently… so look out for the band called I’m Sophie’s whore - a terrible name, I think but there you go.


We’re continuing with this book by Patrick Suskind, which is set in eighteenth century France. Out of curiosity I recently looked up the exact whereabouts of Grasse which seems to be the main perfume city or town. Anyway it turned out not to be where I thought - in the Ardeshe Mountains, but in fact next to Nice on the French Riviera. If the main character, Grenouille has just walked from Paris to Grasse, then the mountains he describes are most probably the Alps - maybe even stopped in the Jura Mountains, where we once camped! I’m particularly fascinated by this part of the book; Grenouille discovers a tunnel inside one of the mountains, and he goes inside and stays there for seven years!! Whether or not this is realistic- surely he would have gone blind if there was no light? But that doesn’t matter… the idea of living in total isolation with only your own thoughts for company is an intriguing idea, and when he eventually emerged he scared everyone with his appearance - his shaggy hair and beard, which had grown so long. And this entire part of the novel contains hardly and dialogue; its mostly just Grenouille impressions and so seems completely detached from reality.


When we go to Tenerife we are going to take with us Steven Fry’s autobiography “Moab is my washpot”. Both Andy and I want to read it so this seemed an ideal opportunity… though I’m still not totally confident that Andy will have the patience to do so!! Oh well, we shall see… the book concentrates on the first twenty years of Mr. Fry’s life, dealing with his various relationships; he gets his intriguing title from Mr. Fry’s Jewish origins - Moab being a biblical place. More about this, later.
The Space Between

copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2009

The story so far…. It is 1902, two years after Wilde’s death in Paris. Although he is believed to have had the manuscript with him at his death in fact it has turned up in London in the hands of Gustave, who has taken it to Ricketts to publish at the Vale Press. Meanwhile in Kensington Harriet is still working as a maid for Robbie Ross , who is helping Ricketts with the publication of the manuscript.

“May I have my muffler Harriett I think winter is on it’s way… thank you.” Charles took the striped muffler, which Harriet handed to him and he wound it around his neck, careful not to trap his bushy red beard within it. Harriet watched him buttoning up his overcoat and began to turn away.

“Wait.” it was a command; there was no way of ignoring it. Slowly, reluctantly, she dropped her hand even as it reached toward the door handle as she turned around she raised her eyes to his and felt them once again pierce through her, searching for something, she didn’t know what. His expression was a strange one she didn’t recognise – half smiling without a trace of humour. Harriet stood there awkwardly with her hands clasped in front of her and waited; the room seemed an unfamiliar and threatening place. Harriett stood there, watching his nervous fingers still fumbling with the buttons of his overcoat, again she began to turn away towards the door. Then Charles spoke

“I suspect you will be relieved to hear that I wont have to come here anymore, Harriett… I have my own studio to go to,” Charles told her this with hardly a trace of emotion in his voice. “So we wont need to come here to work. I’m sorry …” he gave a little short laugh as he pulled on his gloves, “this has not been an easy situation for either of us”

Harriett kept her eyes lowered staring intently through her lashes at a small area of gold in the carpet, which was slightly faded. She allowed a very vague smile to wonder across her face without it becoming settled there.

“Yes,” she said simply.

Charles pulled on his gloves very slowly; it seemed to her that he was measuring the time, counting the seconds as they passed. Prolonging her agony, maybe… that’s how it seemed, anyway. She wondered if she dared to make a dash out of the room, but he reached towards her and touched her wrist lightly, stopping her making any further movements.

“Actually Harriett, I’ll take this opportunity to ask you something,” Said Charles, speaking quickly as if afraid of being overheard. She glanced at him and saw that his eyes were fleeting around the room restlessly. He cleared his throat several times before continuing trying to create an easy passage for them. “I wondered if it was possible for me to see Jack before I leave… I would like to do so very much. It has been quite some time since we last saw each other… I’m sure you understand”

The gold colour in the carpet turned red around the edges… the scarlet crept over the gold edges until they disappeared. Harriet didn’t answer for several minutes but allowed some control to come back into her voice before she dared open her mouth. She couldn’t explain her anger; where had it come from?

“I doubt very much that Jack will want to speak to you… he has nothing to say to you anymore.” Charles was clearly taken aback with her reaction. He shrugged and seemed bewildered.

“I hope that’s not true, Harriett… we have a lot to talk about, you know we do. You should let me see him.”

Raising her eyes to meet his, a note of defiance came into her voice.

“That’s not possible. Jack’s gone to Spittal Field… he’s got a job at the dogs.”

“The dogs!” Charles stood there aghast. “but…what happened to all his ideas of becoming an artist? What changed his mind?”

“Well Charles, I think you had a lot to do with it” – she broke off as Ross appeared in the doorway rubbing his hands. She said nothing further but pushed passed him and disappeared along the hallway; Ross looked questioningly at Charles, closing the door after her.

More from The Space Between in RM#103


copyright (C) Nicola Batty 2009

Initially I couldn’t decide weather to put in this extract which seems to be a bridging piece leading up to the next chapter… nothing much actually happens, and so I suppose you could see it as a bit boring. But I hope you find it vaguely interesting, if only as it sort of harks back to what’s happened in The Spark. I didn’t want to keep going back over and regurgitating old bits, if you see what I mean. I was tempted to include something quite fresh here, and as I’ve jus written a piece with Kathleen and Shannon I thought that might be quite interesting – one of the immediate problems was how to refer to Shannon, obviously not as Charles (too confusing), nor as Shan (Ricketts name for him) having said all this, I decided in the end not to include it… even though I’m still very tempted to devote the last novel to the Antarctic, and so Kathleen would be my obvious bridge through her marriage to Scott. However I returned to the Kensington scenario as we haven’t focussed on that for a while, and I thought I should make it clear what’s happened to Jack. Also it leads rather nicely into the next chapter where Ross actually begins his relationship with Freddy, and so my own fiction ties in with the historical facts.

Harriet’s hostility towards Charles just came as I was writing; it seemed quite natural that she should have such feelings towards him after he buggered off leaving both her and Jack high n dry. Rather than looking back to whats gone before I wanted to prepare the way for one of my main ‘interesting relationships’ between Freddy and Ross. Historical fact says that the relationship began in 1903, which could tie in nicely with the way the book is going.

I was (and still am) slightly nervous about using Ricketts and Jack as a way of getting Ross and Freddy together. I don’t want to make it sound too contrived, and yet I suppose such coincidence do occur all the time. It’s also difficult to imagine that Rickets would actually have had a son now, after reading so many biographies and stuff which all point towards him being ‘totally gay’ whatever that may mean. How can someone be totally anything, either gay or straight or even both? It’s a dilemma I’ve never really sorted out in my mind… I’d like to think people are quite free to wander wherever they choose. So speaks the anarchist in me.

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