Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

April 2009 Issue 103

Nicola's Editorial!


Now that I have finally submitted my travel application to the memorial fund, I can turn my attention back to other essential matters… such as writing Raw Meat. I apologise for any delay in the appearance of this issue… it’s all due to having to have a major change to the travel application at the last minute, which had to be dealt with first, top priority. We discovered a couple of weeks ago that the round the world ticket was a bit of a swindle, because it didn’t include an airport tax at every stop, and also the destinations were limited. So I wouldn’t be able to stop at Tahiti, New Zealand or Africa… all of which were top priorities. So I decided instantly to go just to the major focus of the tour - of course Tahiti, and I adjusted the application accordingly. The closing date is today so it’s gone… and the best of luck to it! While I’m not totally confidant that I’ll get the award I think the ideas behind the Jerry Farr Memorial Fellowship are all wonderful… whoever wins the award will ensure that the memory of Jerry Farr will be kept alive by means of providing such a practical way of realising somebody’s dreams. So anyway, we should find out who’s been lucky in a just a few weeks… in fact I’ll be able to tell you in the next issue if I’m off to Tahiti or not… so watch this space.


Whilst doing all this Tahiti research we came across several interesting facts, which I thought I’d share with you. For instance, did you know that Tahiti is one of the Society Islands, which are part of French Polynesia? I’m not quite sure why they were given to France, but apparently loads of countries were claiming all these Pacific islands so they were just distributed in the nineteenth century. Captain Cook discovered some of the Islands… I suppose that may have been around the same time he discovered New Zealand? Although we thought originally that the Cook Islands were close to the Society Islands, which they are, but still quite a long distance apart. Though all these Pacific Islands are in the same rough area on the globe, it’s extremely difficult for me to visualise the globe from memory… I need to get hold of a Touching Globe, where you can feel the shape of the various countries and also the temperature of them - they could give them various degrees of heat. I wonder if I should patent this idea?


Still on the subject of warm places, we got back a few weeks ago from a holiday in Tenerife… with red, sunburnt faces and Andy’s head! The warmth of the place was definitely the best thing about it for me - oh, and the cocktails, and the seafood every night at the hotel. These were the best things… otherwise I wouldn’t go overboard about either the resort of Los Cristianos or the island of Tenerife itself. I missed the green trees, flowers, plants, things growing and living… animals like sheep, badgers, goats, and birds. Do you know, the whole time I was in Tenerife I never heard a seagull?? The whole island seemed to be made up of deserts and mountains in the interior, and then all commercialised resorts around the edge. So there’s no place for any wild animals to survive in.


Even in the interior it isn’t possible to camp, as I wished we had done instead of going in a hotel, but camping is generally discouraged because of the danger of forest fires. Also I think that one of the reasons for camping is discouraged by Tenerife or who is in charge of Tenerife authorities is obviously because of money. Without tourism Tenerife would be nothing, so people are not encouraged to go away from the resorts at all. Having said all this, I’m not so sure if I would like to go into the deserts and mountains… they all sound very dry and barren. However, next time Andy and I go to the island we are going to camp… we’ll bring the van over by ferry from southern Spain and spend the winter there where the sun will be. Sounds good doesn’t it??

So then, although it was lovely to be next to the sea and to be able to wander around outside and not be freezing, in conclusion I’d say Tenerife doesn’t seem to have that much going for it. I didn’t find it a particularly Ziggy friendly area despite its claims to be such a place. Should such a big thing be made out of having a few Ziggy toilets scattered around anyway?? I think not. Anyway what’s the good of having a Ziggy toilet if the bloody thing is locked all weekend? We tried to get a Ziggy friendly bus to the airport but it was not Ziggy friendly at all and Andy had to carry me onto the bus. There was a boardwalk on the beach but it stopped just before reaching the sea… I wanted to go and paddle so it was pretty frustrating. I’m sure they could treat the wood in some way to make it sea water resistant. But Andy and I didn’t find Tenerife to be particularly Ziggy friendly at all I’m afraid.


So anyway, now we’ve returned from the bright colour of Tenerife and my Tahiti dreams to the old slog… which seems very crap and dismal in comparison! It’s difficult to adjust, especially because the Tahiti result comes out in just a few weeks - I think that the Jerry Farr Fellowship must have quite a few people going through the hundreds of applications they received!


Jack’s on his Easter holidays at the moment; so far the band haven’t had any practices in our front room, but doubtless they will! I believe that Jack’s hoping to get a more sophisticated set of drums - the one he’s got is just a starter set. I wonder how he’ll manage to fit a big set of drums into our tiny house?? I feel dubious, because I’m imagining a sophisticated set of drums to be like the one used by the Australian Pink Floyd… about twenty drums, and loads of cymbals, rattles etc. I don’t know if this is what Jack wants… I hope not.


We’ve finally come to the end of Perfume by Patrick Suskin - and what a wonderful ending!! I don’t want to give it away at all, but it certainly lives up to the rest of the book, continuing on the level of the senses. Anyone who hasn’t read this book should do so as soon as possible. The conclusion of the story reminded me a lot of the Peaty Greenway film from the eighties, The cook, the thief, the wife and her lover, I don’t know if anyone remembers that? It was with Michel Gambon and Helen Mirron… it stuck in my memory because it was such a visual film, as well as a very traumatic and horrible one! Anyway I couldn’t stop thinking about that film while Ruth finished off reading the book. Someone told me afterwards that it had been made into a film… I was very sad because I wish I’d seen it!! Although I do think Perfume would be better on stage, and then the audience could actually smell the different smells - which are essential to the story. I suspect that these would have been lost on screen.


So after Perfume we started the book I’ve been meaning to read for ages - Steven Fry’s autobiographical Moab is my Washpot. To be quite honest I’m not that impressed with it so far - although it’s mildly amusing and interesting it hasn’t grabbed me!! Public schools and his experiences with the boys is not something I feel very interested in… I’m just unsure how much longer we will keep reading it, because I’m really keen to start on Gauguin’s biography as soon as possible! I don’t want to give up on Mr. Fry, so soon, because I do think he’s a very funny chap and deserves a fair hearing. So maybe Gauguin will have to wait.


Tomorrow we are going to see Macbeth at the Royal Exchange, which I’m both looking forward to and quite nervous about! As I’ve said before I find plays extremely difficult to follow simply because it’s such a visual medium - you need to be able to see both the costumes and the set to be able to tell which time it’s set in. For this reason I often enjoy the play more afterwards, when someone else can describe it to me. Although with Shakespeare it’s a little different - hopefully I’ll recognise some of the speeches, and so get some idea of where exactly were up to!! It’s all a bit of a gamble. The thing I like best about the Royal Exchange is that it’s set in the round, with the audience sitting so close to the stage that nothing is lost. Luckily I remember the story of Macbeth quite well, so I should be able to get by!


Raw Materials is copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2009

It’s really good to be able to give some attention to The Space Between, which I feel has been sadly neglected for this Tahiti application. Of course the novel's been at the back of my mind all the time, and I’ve got quite a few ideas for what’s going to happen in this next chapter - 1903. As I said before, one of the major things I wanted to spend my time on was the relationship between Jack and Freddy, which has to be developed, and if the intervention of Ross was going to be credible. As Jack is a totally fictional character, I can almost fit his reaction in with the story… but they have to be believable of course. It’s very difficult for any one to understand exactly what it was that drew such an apparently mismatched pair together … yet I think that it was obviously because they both shared a common interest in theatre – or at least that’s how I’m taking it!

Jack's jealousy was pretty near impossible for me to get across convincingly – I didn’t want to make his relationship over the top and laughable at all, but it had to evident. His emotions are in a pretty fragile state, what with the sudden appearance after all this time of his father, and so I hope that his dramatic fit of temper is credible. I still haven’t decided exactly what to do with Ricketts… I’m tempted to write him out of the story because he has served his purpose, and nothing else relevant to my fiction seems to happen in his life, apart from Shannon’s fall, of course which is a wonderful story and deserves more attention elsewhere. I’m going to devote an entire short story to it in Still Life which if you remember will be a collection, my next book perhaps. I’ve already got several interesting stories about historical characters such as Swinburne and soon will have Ricketts. This is just an aside because I’ve said all I want to say about The Space betweenmore next time.

An additional note - back on the subject of The Space Between: I just surprised myself greatly by discovering that the word count of the novel is 26,000 words, much more than I thought!! This actually means that I’m about half way through, even though I’m only on chapter three… I can only conclude that The Space Between will in fact only cover a few years - there’s so many stories going on at the moment that I can’t imagine it spanning many more years. This is not really such a surprise I suppose, because I seem to have been working on this novel for over a year so far. My only anxiety is about the third novel… I don’t know whether to keep on with it based in London or whether to move it to the Antarctic! Your thoughts would be appreciated…
The Space Between
copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2009

The story so far …… The year is now 1903; Oscar died in Paris, and apparently his manuscript has vanished with him but it has been discovered in London found by a Parisian friend of Wildes who has given it to Ricketts to publish with the Vale Pres. Meanwhile Ross has taken Ricketts to visit Jack, who is Ricketts son by Harriet. Ross is keen to see Freddy who lives with jack in Spittalfield.

Jack stood in the doorway as Freddy’s voice rang out loud and clear.

“You are keen my lord you are keen you are keen!’”

“Oh… I see ,” spluttered Jack, as he caught sight of Ross standing by the window with an open book in his hand. Ross gave an awkward laugh as he walked across the room.

“Our rehearsal has come to an end. I was just helping Freddy with his lines, although I really don’t think he has any need to worry. I think he will make an absolutely charming Ophelia when he gets the part”

Without hesitation Jack strode across the room and snatched the copy of Hamlet from Ross’s hand glaring at him fiercely, Ross took a step backward surprised.

I thought I was being hamlet! Jack turned his eyes completely towards Freddy, only smiled faintly and looked away. Unnerved by Jacks uncharacteristic hostility towards him, Ross tried to calm down the situation in his usual manner.

“I’m sorry… I was only standing in for you to give Freddy some practice, he’s quite anxious that he wont be ready for the performance – that’s all, don’t get annoyed. Ross moved back across the room to retrieve his overcoat from the sofa.

“I don’t think that Freddy needs to be anxious he is already quite ready to take on his role next month – did you say it was next month, Freddy?

With a casual movement of his head Freddy flicked back his long fringe; his eyes were still fixed on Ross. Jack rolled his eyes to the book in his hand, and very carefully folded back the cover.

“Like I said, the performance is at the end of the month” Freddy said slowly his voice seemed almost unrecognisable to Jack, changed in some way.

Behind Jack he could feel the presence of his own father standing like an unwanted ghost in the doorway. “So do you truly think I’ll be ready to act? I want to be perfect.”

Despite Ross’s laughter the awkward silence and hostility remained in the air.

“Well, I would like to come and see you… if I may, Freddy?”

Jack continued to stare desperately at his book, feeling that he was slipping away beneath the water.

“I should like that very much, Robbie,” answered Freddy softly, his voice echoing through the icy blackness. Charles cleared his throat carefully.

“We should go, Robbie… I have an appointment elsewhere” He said flatly, avoiding meeting Jacks eye.

“Of course,” Ross answered at once, turning his sleeve as he passed Freddy he stroked his arm gently, and it was a promise. “ I shall see you again, Freddy.” The two boys stood there awkwardly for some moments, listening as the footsteps on the stairs died away slowly even though Freddy smiled at jack as he moved towards him, Jack knew that he was slipping away, down to the depths.

More in RM #104



Welcome to Andy's bit!!!

Don't you just hate buses! Only when they don't run on time or when they refuse to let you on. Not the buses of course but the bus drivers. We waited for an hour to get the last possible bus to the airport in Tenerife the other week. The nice lady in the bus station office at Los Cristianos had already reassured us in three languages that the airport bus was accessible for Ziggy (Nic's wheelchair) but when the bus arrived it was an ordinary green thingy with narrow steps at the front and there was no way that Ziggy could get on board. "Manyana" said the driver and started to close the sliding doors. "Hold on a mo' " I said, shoving two big bags on the front seat, "I'll have to leave her here, I've got a 'plane to catch!" The Spanish bus driver didn't know what to do, he just sat there revving the bus up impatiently. Luckily there were some old school Brits on board who came to our rescue, as I hauled Nic up the steps and plonked her in the front seat they helped fold Ziggy up and stash him in the luggage compartment underneath. We finally reached the airport with twenty minutes to spare.


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