July 2009 Issue 106
THE HOT SPELL
I won’t bother boring you with any lame excuses for the late arrival Online of this month’s issue, as by now you’ll be accustomed to my philosophy of making hay while the sun shines… which involves leaving the computer completely, and staying outside as much as possible. The only place to be when it’s warm is outside all the time, camping… but this was not to be, as Andy’s been searching for ages for an awning to go on the van, with no luck. Finally, we think we’ve found one – just as the hot spell seems to be over, or at least diminished. It did come as something of a relief though, to feel a little bit cooler, especially at night. It’s so difficult to sleep when it’s hot. Yet I think I could easily get used to living in a warm climate – no problem really, the advantages far outweigh the bad things. The warm evenings are one of the best times, where you can sit outside talking, drinking or just meditating and feeling peaceful… at those times I love being alive and being here in this life…
I can understand why Cobweb practically disappears over the summer, only reappearing briefly to scoff a quick meal of cat food before she’s off again. I was seriously considering getting Andy to put the tent up in the back yard at one point, although I don’t think he would’ve been very keen! I haven’t actually been doing very much in the way of getting out recently… too much time has been spent simply sitting around and meditating… thinking how content I would be to live in climate that was like this all the time!
THE CREEPING YEARS
I think I must be beginning to feel my age, with my longing to leave all this behind for good becoming more urgent. I’m envious of people such as Andy’s brother, Stan, who left Britain years ago for a new life in Thailand. Stan’s just been here for a visit and has now returned to his banana plantation… apparently he lives on the edge of a lake, which is 50 miles long. The house he lives in sounds amazing, because it was all built by members of Stan’s partner’s family, who all live there… so it seems to be a communal house, much like the one I’ve been talking about living in. Both Andy and I would love to go over to Thailand and perhaps travel around in a hired camper van, maybe calling in on my friend in South Korea. Does this really have to remain such an impossible dream? I don’t think so.
Still on the subject of travel: while researching for my failed bid for funding for a round the world trip, I discovered a remote island in the middle of the Pacific, half way between Tahiti and New Zealand. It was named after Captain Cook, so I presume that he had discovered it. But now I’m not so sure – perhaps he just charted a lot of the Pacific islands, while being discovered by someone else, nameless and forgotten. I’ve become quite fascinated by Captain Cook… he was killed by Hawaiian natives, did you know that? For quite a few weeks I’ve had a short story brewing in my head concerning Cook’s imaginary mysteries… perhaps I will have to go to Cook’s Islands to research. Apparently there is a Ziggy friendly cottage there, where we could stay. It’s a nice thought anyway…
But to return to reality with a great big bump, or more likely a crashing of drums. Jack’s just brought home his new drum kit; a more sophisticated set than his old starter kit. It seems that Jack has visions of becoming a professional drummer… I believe he has his first gig next week, which I hope to go to. Jack’s dreams are not so crazy – it’s obvious that he’s got an instinct for rhythm and the determination to go with it. I wish him every bit of luck in his music, which I’m sure he’ll develop quite naturally. His new drums are suitably coloured in red and black… that I probably don’t need to remind you are the colours of anarchy… need I say more?
One of my most positive reactions to the realization of the passing of time is that I’ve decided, at last, to publish my very first novel myself on CD. This major event will probably not take place until much later in the year… perhaps even Christmas.
I’m still a little nervous of making such a drastic move; I think it’s high time to allow people to read my fiction, which they’re not going to be able to do otherwise. I consider my novels to be totally different from the Ziggy Collection, and I’m especially fond of Dry Rot, which is my personal favourite. In fact, I thought the novel was so visually strong that I edited it for the screen… whether or not we’ll publish this screen version alongside the novel, I don’t know yet, but keep watching this space for more information…
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, ABANDONDED?
Although the summertime should be a time for reading in the park, I’m afraid that I’ve not been doing much of that at all. This is very frustrating to me – particularly with the French Revolution book, which has been practically abandoned after only just being started. I’m in two minds about continuing with this book, simply because it’s such a massive volume, and I want to read other things… still waiting are the biographies of Kathleen Scott and Gauguin. Although A Place of Greater Safety will probably be resumed pretty soon, just to stop me from going mad until I can think of some other way of reading books, apart from having someone else read them aloud to me, which is time consuming. It’s becoming more and more of a problem to listen to books on tape with any degree of success… any ideas from anyone would be gratefully received as I’m absolutely stuck on this one!
CREATIVE PHDRecently I had an interesting meeting with Malcolm, my old University lecturer who supervised my Wilde dissertation. By the way, on the subject of Wilde, I heard a few weeks ago from a chap in Belgium who was doing a PhD on Wilde and contemporary literature, and he wanted to see Reinventing Wilde as he thought this might be relevant to him. Of course I sent it – it’s lovely when someone takes an interest in your work and I hope it helps him with his thesis. Anyway, to return to Malcolm – he was asking me if I’d consider doing a PhD myself… I said of course I have, but wanted to concentrate on my novels. He pointed out that the two things shouldn’t work against each other… I was reminded of my sister, who wrote a stage play as part of her MA in creative writing. So Malcolm is going to send me more information about the combination of creativity and PhD studies, which should make interesting reading.
The extract I’m including, actually came as an unexpected surprise – I didn’t intent it to be here at all, but decided at the last moment it was necessary to emphasise how important the box was going to be. Also needed was more time spent on the relationship between Freddie and Ross. As I wrote this piece, it seemed natural to make their relationship slightly physical, which sounds very smutty but I don’t want it to be at all. But here was the opportunity to show the closeness of the two, while emphasising the importance of the box and the fact that it’s a secret, locked store-place.
Talking about The Space Between generally, I think I like it better than The Spark, because it’s more fictional, not so tied to historical fact. Though I’m not really sure if this is true, as the historical characters are still there, holding the fiction down to reality. Maybe it’s because of the fact that Wilde himself is dead in the second book, but I just feel I’ve got a freer reign to branch off with. As with the Pissaros – who really had nothing to do with Wilde – I’m not really sure where they’re leading the novel, but I hope it’s going to be cool. Perhaps I won’t pursue the Pissaros at all but instead develop the Scott link thorough Kathleen.
THE SPACE BETWEEN
Copyright © Nicola Batty 2009
THE STORY SO FAR
As the end of 1903 approaches, Ricketts is still trying to publish Wilde’s manuscript as a final swansong of the Vale Press. Ross has the only other copy of the manuscript, which he wants to keep safe. Now read on..
FROM CHAPTER 3 - 1903
Ross folded the letter carefully and placed it near the back of his desk, behind the stack of more urgent business to be dealt with. He noticed that the paper was torn along the edge as if it had been ripped out from an exercise book of Ricketts’s doodles, which perhaps was true. Robbie smiled to himself, leaning back in his armchair and folding his arms behind his head; it was pleasant to sit here leisurely and do nothing, this was, after all, a holiday. Turning his head to gaze out over the white rooftops he thought once again how strange it was to actually see snow on Christmas day, perhaps this was the first time such a thing had occurred… and is that significant? He got to his feet slowly, wandering across the room towards the blazing fire, which he stood in front of, rubbing his hands to warm them and thinking of Charles’s suggestion. Of course Oscar deserved to be buried somewhere more fitting than the nameless little grave in which he lay… of course he deserved the best and obviously Charles thought the same way. It occurred to Ross that Charles had been thinking about Oscar’s final resting place since he had published the manuscript.
He turned quickly as he heard a quiet tapping on the door as it was pushed open. Ross’s face broke into a delighted smile as he recognised the blonde, good looking young man who stood there awkwardly in the doorway, clutching a large wooden box in both hands.
“Freddie! How lovely of you to come round on Christmas day… come over to the fire, you look freezing.”
Taking his overcoat off, Ross pulled him toward the fire, frowning and fussing; Freddie only laughed and shook his head.
“Don’t be silly… it’s just cold out there on the stairs, that’s all.” Freddie told his friend with a laugh; but never the less he allowed himself to be led over to the blazing fire without too much resistance. “It’s nice to get back to the fire, though… I’ve just come up from the kitchen, which was really warm… they had a fire and the range on as well, cooking the Turkey and all that. They let, me have a bit with some stuffing – very nice.” Freddie rubbed his hands briskly, scrapping his long hair out of his eyes with a quick movement of his hand “Actually it was Jack’s ma who gave me turkey… I had some coins to give her from Jack for a Christmas present, because he’s gone away again and so I said I’d bring them around.” He shrugged, catching Ross’s eye and grinning. “Of course, I don’t mind, because it will give me an excuse to see you.”
Ross smiled at him, moving towards the fire and stoking it up with the poker.
“How lovely of you to say such a thing! Of course the feeling is shared between us … you’re more than welcome, a sight for sore eyes. Besides, I think it’s important that you should see Harriett and offer her some words of comfort – I think she’s missing Jack very much.”
“Yes, I know.” The young man stared into the fire; frowning briefly as his expression became suddenly more serious. “I don’t think I gave her many words of comfort, I think she was even more upset than before. She didn’t want the coins - she wanted to see Jack before he went away to America again, but of course she is too late… he has already gone without coming to see her… I told him to come before he left, but he seemed to go in a bit of a hurry… he didn’t really say why. I’m not sure… if I might have said something to upset him.”
“Oh… surely not, Freddie,” said Ross quietly, placing his arm around Freddie’s shoulders very gently, almost tentatively. He shook his head slowly, sharing in Freddie’s expression of concern. “Perhaps he wanted simply to return to America or perhaps to the sea itself. Perhaps he’s just fed up with London.”
“Perhaps.” Freddie seemed suddenly to become aware of the box he was holding, and he raised it carefully so that the silver lock on the edge glinted in the firelight. The young man cleared his throat quickly, seeming a little embarrassed. “Anyway I wanted to give you something for Christmas, seeing as I missed your birthday. He pressed the box into Ross’s hands firmly. “Here you are, I made this for you, to keep your papers safe in. See, it’s got a lock. I hope you like it.”
“This is for me? Freddie, how wonderful…” Ross turned away, examining the box carefully, opening and closing it. “I don’t think anyone’s ever given me such a beautiful gift before… not a handmade work of art, anyway. This must have taken you an age to make.”
Turning back, Ross lifted Freddie’s chin and kissed him briefly. Perhaps it was the first time… for Freddie seemed startled and stood there staring at Ross for a while. Ross himself said nothing, but simply continued examining the box.
“I shall have to keep something rather special inside such a special box… and I have just the thing. Wait here.” Freddie took the box from Ross and watched him move across to his desk. The young man still looked slightly flushed and out of breath, as if he had difficulty believing what had just occurred – and yet he clearly didn’t object to such an action of Ross’s.
Meanwhile, Ross pulled out one of the drawers after unlocking it and removed several sheaves of paper from inside. “Ah! Here we are,” he said, examining the papers in his hand. “Oscar’s story, The Portrait of Mr WH. You should read this before we lock it away, Freddie… I think you’ll find it significant for the two of us, for the particular friendship that we share.”
Freddie took the manuscript from Ross, wordlessly; read a few lines before glancing up at Ross quizzically.
“Your friend wrote this story? Is it about you? About the two of you?” Ross laughed, shaking his head sadly. “Not really… but it is based on our conversations, our intimacy… I suppose you could call it our love, love between men, that’s something that’s not meant to exist, but it does, as we know.” Standing beside Freddie, Ross touched his cheek lightly and kissed him once again, this time more lingeringly. “Anyway, read the story and tell me what you think.”
Freddie gazed at Ross silently for a long time, before turning away and going over to the armchair by Ross’s desk and sitting down comfortably. There was a strange half smile on his face, almost of bewilderment, and yet quite without confusion, he realised exactly what was happening.
“And when I’ve read this story, we’ll lock it away in the box?” he asked with a small laugh. “I don’t understand that… why?” is it going to be our secret?”Ross looked over at the young man curled up in the armchair; he clutched the words of the manuscript, and Oscar’s handwriting wandered across the page in solemn procession. Behind the armchair, the snow-covered Kensington rooftops lined the avenue… making this a Christmas day to remember.
Welcome to Andy's bit!!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JACK
It's Jacks sixteenth birthday this week, and as Nicola mentioned above he's got a new drum kit. What she didn't say was that it is ten times louder than his old one!
More next month, thanks for reading Raw Meat!