Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 2009 Issue 110

Nicola's Editorial


As the time for the publication of Dry Rot has been gradually getting nearer, I find myself becoming more and more excited – and also anxious - about publicising the event. As I told you in the last issue, my Dad has been working on an advert, based on my own idea, making it a completely joint effort. My brother has also been called on to help with his computer skills, as the advert was difficult to transfer to my website. But finally Steve managed to successfully put the advert on, so please do have a look yourself, and tell all your friends to do likewise! www.nicolabatty.co.uk. Also, a few words announcing Dry Rot will be appearing in the next issue of the Ataxian, and I also want to write a piece about the novel for the Manchester Ataxia Branch. I think they’d be very into it and keen to support my venture.


I’m quite happy with my dad’s illustration, the whole thing sounds rather cool, especially the decaying wood of the cross. I was very fussy about making it obvious that the cross was actually being attacked by dry rot. The addition of the decaying letters was a last minute brain wave of mine. I can see it in my head, and it works well, hopefully it does also on paper, or should I say on screen? My Dad’s next job is to work on a cover illustration for the CD-ROM, which will be based on this advert design, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Andy’s just told me that the advert should appear in this issue of RAW MEAT, so you can have look and judge for yourself.


I seem to have started several new projects recently – perhaps too many, because I can only really concentrate on one thing at a time. Like Mr Wilde, I’ve been tempted to try my hand at a bit of playwriting – which is something I’ve not done for at least 20 years. Andy was so enthusiastic about the idea of adapting the final part of The Turn of the Century Party for the stage, that I reluctantly agreed to try it out and see what happened. I myself am at all sure the play will stand up by itself, without totally confusing people who haven’t read the novel. Well, we shall see… when I finish the play at some point.


Another first for me is to try my hand at a spot of poetry. I’m still in two minds about the wisdom of tackling such a thing – perhaps I should leave the poetry to people like Suzanne, my sister, or even Andy, who has much more experience than I do. But I think that poetry does work well in communicating brief memories, which would otherwise become lost within the boundaries of a short story. Also a poem can be an extremely vivid and visual work, which interests me. I think the title is the best thing about my new poem: He Took Several Goes


That Halloween night was dark and still, of course.

We looked through the darkness, you and I

Screwing up our eyes until they ached –

Searching, searching for something.

We called out our goodbyes as the door slammed shut behind us

And we left, crossing the road towards the car.

As we drove off it was clear

Something was wrong.

Andy let out a shout – “the wheel!”

The car growled to a halt, and we sat there numbly watching

As a Halloween party, deposited several characters upon the road.

It took several goes to push our car over to the kerb side

While a friendly vampire rolled the wheel before him,

He stands in the black still pockets of his cloak,

We sing a jaunty tune.

That Halloween stands still in my mind

Frozen image, the characters moving gently against the orange and black

Of a pumpkin light,



From poetry we move swiftly on to my reading material at the moment, which is still Hilary Mantel’s epic, set in the century of the French revolution, A Place of Greater Safety. Although King Louis remains alive in the year we’ve just reached – 1792 – there is an awful lot of anti-royalist feeling amongst revolutionary people, particularly followers of Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre. It’s amazing to me to think of Robespierre and Danton being allies, because in the film Danton they are big enemies a couple of years later. Gerard Depardieu plays Danton as a completely amiable character, very popular amongst ordinary people, which is absolute truth, yet there was another side to him which the film didn’t accentuate as much as Ms Mantel’s book does. Obviously Danton was a fairly ruthless character who lived out his beliefs even when they involved massacring Royalist prisoners, an action that he certainly sanctioned if not directly gave the order for. The contradiction in Danton’s character is a fascinating one, which didn’t really come across fully in the film – perhaps too many people just love Mr Depardieu too much for him to play Danton in his true colours.


My dad was telling me the other day that Hilary Mantel has a new book just out, about Thomas Cromwell, the 16th Century priest. I was confused about the identity of Mr Cromwell at first, I always thought he was Oliver’s dad! Apparently not though. I must admit that the sound of the book didn’t really attract me, but my dad said he thought I’d like it as it concentrates on various characters in the court of Henry the Eighth. It’s a mammoth book, which I don’t think I could face after spending so long reading this one.


I remarked to Andy the other evening, on November 5th, when he told me it was pouring with rain once again, “I bet Guy Fawkes never had this trouble – I wonder if all the fireworks will be rained off!” Maybe not – because after all, gunpowder may not be affected by rain – but surely all the people watching the display wouldn’t go if it meant getting soaked to the skin. But this weather we’ve been having recently is really horrible… in Manchester anyway, it’s pouring with rain all the time, cold and generally miserable. A bit of a change from October, which was really mild and beautiful.


I’m quite jealous of my mum – she’s just gone off on a Caribbean cruise with her sister. Three weeks spent lazing in the sunshine on board the ship with the smell of the sea in your nostrils and the gentle sea breeze on your face, sounds not at all bad, though I’m not convinced that I wouldn’t get restless and want to explore inland a bit. Still, you can’t have everything I suppose. Anyway, it seems my mum’s been experiencing bad weather conditions so far, along the Spanish Coastline, apparently a lot of passengers have been sea sick, though not mum luckily! The ship is massive; half a mile long my mum says, so you don’t feel the motion of being in the sea at all. apart from being seasick I suppose. Apparently the ship stopped in Northern Spain and then set off again from further down – heading out into the Atlantic now, so it should be getting warmer, I’m sure. There are 2000 people on the ship and 800 crew. so it’s like a complete separate world and quite isolated, especially where the ship is now for five days. Even though my mum says there’s loads to do, I’d just like to be out on deck, so I could get some sense of the reality of being on the sea.


Although I had promised myself that this extract would be the last of the set, which has all been taking place within Ross’s house, because I felt it was becoming too much like a soap opera. But at the same time I’m finding it really difficult to just break off this piece of action still unfinished. So just one more piece before I move away from Kensington, don’t want to risk becoming boring. With concentrating so much on the Ross/Freddie/Jack thing, it’s quite a relief to bring Harriet onto the scene too and to get some of her emotions regarding the box, because I think they will figure largely in what’s to come. Now that she has stolen the box she has to get away from the house… and so where will she go? I think I know the answer, but we’ll just have to find out if it works by writing the scene. I’m being very careful of making Harriet run off to Jack with the box, as Jack now lives with Georges, the obvious thing that could happen is that Harriet and Georges will fall in love and sail off happily to America. Needless to say, I want to avoid this at all costs. I’ve always hated happy endings, all wrapped up nicely with a big bow. I want to leave it inconclusive, tragic.

I’m having difficulty leaving this piece of action but it needs to be broken, perhaps just for one extract, and then returned to. I still want to include in this chapter Shannon’s encounter with Kathleen, which will be necessary if I’m going to link in Kathleen’s eventual marriage to Scott, which I think I’ve finally decided to do after so much dithering. I want him to take the manuscript to the Antarctic – I’m not too sure of the intricate details of how exactly this is going to work – but I think the next novel needs a total change of scene. Perhaps I can juxtapose the Antarctic and London, side by side, I’m not yet certain.

I’m keen to try my hand at something relatively new in this novel, but at the same time I don’t want to leave London and risk losing the thread of the two previous novels but at the same time I’ve always dreamed of setting a novel in the Antarctic. There’s something about all those frozen wastes and glaciers… it seemed to be too much of a coincidence about Kathleen’s marriage to Scott for me to leave alone.

Meanwhile, I’ve become a little distracted once again, by writing a play script, which is another new form I’ve not tried for many years. About twenty years ago I remember writing a play about Lizzie Siddal, the Pre-Raphaelite model. I might have given this up half way through as I had great trouble writing for the stage… I found it so limiting compared with writing a screen play and I’m having the same trouble this time – the visual element is completely lost as there’s so much you can’t do on stage besides make the characters enter and leave. I was worried in the first place about tackling this play, which Andy convinced me would work on stage. It’s the last part of my novel The Turn of the Century Party, and I’m still not convinced it’ll stand up at all without the rest of the novel. Andy’s argument is that it’ll be intriguing and make audiences want to read the novel, but I think it might just totally confuse them. I suppose we’ll see how it goes, but at the moment I’m finding it quite difficult… it’s so unsettled and there’s so much that can’t be done. I just hope I can finish the bloody thing now that I’ve started it… I hate to leave things hanging.



Copyright Nicola Batty © 2009

It’s 1904 and several years have passed since Wilde dies in Paris, supposedly taking his manuscript with him. But the manuscript has turned up in London in the hands of Gustave, an acquaintance of Wilde’s. He’s given it to Rickets, who has printed a copy under the Vale Press. The original is meanwhile in the hands of Robbie Ross, who’s keeping it safe in a beautiful box given to him by his boyfriend Freddie. Freddie used to be Jack’s special friend, and Jack is very upset by the new attention Ross is giving to Freddie as his new boyfriend… Harriet is also aware of this situation, and has gone to Ross’s room secretly at night to steal the box. In the scene that follows, she’s hiding behind the sofa with the box when Ross and Charles Rickets return from a night out.


“That young dancer was superb to watch… there was something very special about him, his presence. The colours he wore… all gold and black… echoed in the set around him. It was all so beautiful, Robbie, you can’t imagine… you must go and see them for yourself soon.”

“I think I will, the Russian Ballet, you say? Which theatre will they be at next?”

A gentle glow began to permeate the darkness and Harriet squeezed her eyes shut, imagining Ross lighting the lamp and setting it down on the table… just where the box had been. She could hear her own breathing, deafeningly loud inside her head; the voice of Ross’s companion became louder, clearer… he must be sitting right in front of her, inches away.

“I’m not sure… maybe Hampstead? Somewhere in the West End perhaps? … but you must see them. You won’t regret it. We should both go this month.”

“Very well, let’s make a date. How many times have you seen them?”

When the man laughed, Harriet recognised him. She felt herself filled with an icy coldness, so she seemed to be encased within a frozen block.

“I don’t know… six, seven? But I don’t know what draws me back.”

“Would you care for a snifter of brandy before you leave, Charles? I have a little here left over from Christmas.”

Harriet shifted her weight a little, trying to ease the discomfort from where the box was digging into her body. She listened to the clink of glasses, the spirits poured into each.

“So… tell me about the Vale Press, Charles. I understand you destroyed the fonts… that seems quite dramatic. I’ve read a piece in the paper about it. Tell me, did you print Oscar’s story before? I should think you did… how many copies did you make?” There was a long pause and Harriet lay as still as she could, stiller than she thought possible. Just the one single copy, I’m afraid. I wanted to make more but Shan was dead against it… you know how it is, Robbie, he has such a bee in his bonnet about Oscar’s story. He still thinks it’s a dangerous thing to have, a compromising document.”

“Well, I suppose he may be right… though you would think that it would change things, with Oscar being dead.”

This time Charles’s laughter was grim, squeezed out between lips clamped together. Harriet could visualise his expression, even after all these years.

“You would think so, wouldn’t you? But no… so you’ll have to be content with the single copy. You yourself have the original, still, don’t you? Safe?”

It burns me… the box burns against me. Don’t drop it, you mustn’t drop it.

“Oh yes, don’t worry… I have it safe. Let me show you the beautiful box young Freddie made for me… I keep the manuscript inside. Where is it?”

NO… please don’t let him find it’s gone… please, God… please...

Then she heard the sofa creak as Charles stood up.

“I’m sorry Robbie, you must show me another time. I really should be going now… it’s so late, and I have an early appointment tomorrow. Sorry about that.”

“Oh, that’s quite alright… don’t let me keep you. We shall meet again soon for the Russian Ballet.”

Behind the sofa, Harriet lay curled up tight, so tight that the box seemed to become part of her own body… and yet it was still hard edged and wooden, still digging into her ribs. She felt the sofa move slightly as Ross stood up and knocked against it. The voices of the two men began to fade as they moved away towards the door, but still her fear didn’t melt; it refused to dissolve away long after the door had closed and the men had gone. Very slowly Harriet got to her feet, still clutching the box against her body. She wrapped her cloak over it so that it was concealed within. Then she turned and followed in the wake of the two men, defiantly down the front stairs and out into the darkness, into the cold night air and stinging rain.

MORE FROM Nicola’s work-in-progress-trilogy In our TENTH ANIVERSARY ISSUE - NEXT MONTH!
Welcome to Andy's bit...
First of all I must say that Nic is really excited about publishing her novel Dry Rot, she pends a lot of time writing and researching her novels, and this one is a MUST read. We are selling it in a CD-ROM Format in a DVD case, so it's an E-book that you can read on your computer screen, and it will stand on your bookshelf too. We are also hoping to have a downloadable version that can be read on the increasingly popular hand held readers. Watch this space.
It was good to see Nic writing a bit of poetry, and I'm glad she decided to share it with you all. Her poem was about a little event that happened to us on Halloween in 1992. We had been visiting friends and on the way home the wheel fell off my car, fortunately some people in fancy dress helped me push the vehicle to the kerbside. We then ordered a taxi, and the following day I went back and fixed the car.
Talking of fancy dress, reminds me that the stage play that Nic is writing right now, has the working title Fancy Dress. She is basing it on the final part of one of her novels - The Turn of The Century Party. It is set in Paris in 1900 and features Oscar Wilde and Robbie Ross and some other mysterious people of that era.
Here's a little poem that I wrote some time ago for my Salford Collection, I include it here as I didn't ge
t to perform it on the titalised date again this year. Anyway...
The firemen go past
here all the time.
Blue light flashing
siren sounding.
They reach their destination
drive round the block
radio in:
"It's another false alarm."
In the morning you walk
past an empty house.
The doors are charred
the glass in the window frames
has gone.
It smells like
November the sixth.
I pulled this one from the archives at StraightTalkingStreetTalkingSweet...TalkingGuy!
MORE FROM URBAN SCRAWL andy in December.

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