Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

December 2009 Issue 111

Nicola's Editorial


This December issue is rather special in a couple ways… not only does it see the publication of Dry Rot but also Andy’s just reminded me that it’s the 10th anniversary of RAW MEAT!! I can’t believe that ten years ago I was sitting at my word processor nervously dictating the very first issue to Andy… it’s quite a different ballgame now. Strange that even at that point in 1999 I had every intention of making Dry Rot our first publication with Rawprintz. This was before any of the Ziggy stories had even been thought of… The Ziggy Collection actually became a bit of a test, because I always wanted Dry Rot to be the first novel we would publish. So Dry Rot is now available to order, (as a Digital Book) so we’re just awaiting response and we’ll post out as many CD’s as are requested. Please don’t hesitate.

You can contact us at: nicbat3963@aol.com


One of the best things about Dry Rot’s publication has been that several people have been involved at the same time, which has meant that there’s been a real team spirit here. Different people helping out when needed, and this is especially vital for me, because obviously I can’t do everything… and so it’s a great feeling to know that others are willing to do what’s necessary to produce the goods! I must give a special thank you to Andy who’s put so much time into checking all the proofs right through. The thing is, that he’s really enjoyed doing the editing of the proofs… so this has been an important way of showing him that this is definitely an experience he wants to repeat with more of my work. It’s something he’s been talking about for years - working from home where he can achieve a real sense of satisfaction whilst remaining on hand to give practical help to me. Now he’s actually tried the situation out and we’ve both been quite happy with it… so we’ll take it from here!


Andy was particularly impressed with the screenplay of Dry Rot, perhaps because he’s never read it before!! It’s debatable whether it’s stronger than the novel, because Dry Rot is such a visual idea that perhaps a novel can’t possibly do it justice. Special effects are necessary to conjure up the dramatic impact of decay. I’m wondering if I just find it easier to write for the screen… having found so many difficulties with writing for the stage. Of course I’m talking about my stage play Fancy Dress, which I’m still struggling along with. It just seems so natural to me to think in terms of overlapping images, making one image turn into something else, complicated visual effects… just to have simple stage conventions is too limiting. I don’t know whether to give up on the stage play altogether and just write another screenplay! But would this be chickening out??


That creative urge I spoke of in the last issue is still upon me – though perhaps slightly less urgent. I haven’t written any more poetry… in fact I don’t know if I ever will again – I definitely don’t think poetry is my strong point! But besides that… I’m wondering again how far this creativity is linked with the winter darkness, or even night time. When I was a student in London twenty years ago. I used to stay up most of the night and write, both creative writing and essays. I formed a theory about the close link between the correct state of mind to receive inspiration and the darkness of the evening or nights. The truth of this idea is still undeniable, even though my lifestyle now makes it extremely difficult to create at night! Yet I’m still fascinated by this idea of darkness, hence perhaps my obsession with the South Pole. Six months of total darkness must have some effect on the mind – I’m thinking of the stories I’ve read about Cherry-Gerrard who apparently suffered from depression ever since returning from the South Pole. He was a member of Scott’s team, by the way… and I would recommend that you read his book, The Worst Journey In The World, if you get a chance.


It’s also time to turn my attention onto yet another different style of writing – although I’m reluctant to call it less creative, because I just see it as different, that’s all. Anyway, the Newsletter for the Manchester Ataxia Branch has to be put together this month and I have several articles in mind that I want to write. Need I say that my main piece will be on Dry Rot, as I hope that quite a few members of the group will be interested in the novel. I’ve also got an idea for another piece on natural remedies for health, which I’ve had in mind since the summer, but have not yet actually written. I was toying with the idea of putting in some of my poems, but I don’t think I will, considering how feeble my attempts are! Sue, the chairperson of the group, hopes that there is going to be more that 2 issues next year, so that perhaps in time it will be competing with Raw Meat every month!!


Though it seemed to be rather early to be celebrating Xmas, both Andy and I turned up readily for the MAB Xmas lunch at the end of November – as did most of the rest of the group. In fact the long tables were all pretty much full, so it was easy to overlook the lack of crackers or other Xmas things decorating the table. As always, it was difficult for me to feel part of the conversation as I didn’t really know anyone who was there until I actually spoke to both Sue and Olga – who I haven’t managed to speak to since this time last year! Even though I feel much more involved with MAB now through the Newsletter, I still haven’t actually met or spoken to most of them, just Sue really, who is my constant friend.


King Louis has just been guillotined in our French Revolution book. If you remember, I’m still ploughing my way through Hillary Mantel’s epic, A Place of Greater Safety. The year 1793 begins with the death of the king, which is surprisingly underplayed seeing as it was such a dramatic event. Perhaps Ms Mantel felt that the king’s death had been too much covered so she didn’t need to do the same… however, it seemed a little strange to barely mention his guillotining when it effected so many people directly. Maybe Ms Mantel thought there were too many deaths around the same time, for in the February Danton’s wife died really suddenly, which came as a total shock, because I never even knew that she had died! It becomes clear to me now why Gerard Depardieu doesn’t mention her at all in the film Danton, which is set in 1794. The way the two deaths are handled is admirable: Gabrielle Danton’s sudden death in childbirth is by far more touching, a human loss, which contrasts with the dramatic guillotining of the king. The conflict between Danton and Robespierre is just beginning… I’m glad that Ms Mantel is playing such close attention to this fascinating clash of personalities and ideals… it’s unbelievable that they were driven so far apart within such a short space of time. Reading the book is making me long to watch the film once again.


Last word of this December issue goes of course to Dry Rot. Andy’s been busy putting together the first few CDs and covers and I imagine they look pretty darned impressive!! We both had fun last week taking a photo of me for the back page; I specified that I wanted it to be creepy, by candlelight. You can judge Andy’s effort for yourselves, Dry Rot in Digital Book format on a CD ROM is now available to order, so just send me an e-mail. The CD’s are only £3.95, and this includes postage for UK orders, but for our overseas readers the cost will be a little more, which we’ll work out when you contact us. Please state how many you would like to order and do spread the word amongst relatives and friends.


The disadvantage to having so many different projects on the go at once, is it’s a bit more difficult to keep my mind fixed on The Space Between, of course. But this isn’t a major worry, because I’ll always return to concentrate on finishing this novel. I’ve come this far with it and I can’t possibly get distracted now. However, I have come to the end of this little piece of the story with Jack, Freddie and Ross… oh and now there’s Harriet come into it. But here I must leave this piece of action in Kensington, for I feel the novel needs a little change of scene before the chapter ends.

I must leave this particular piece before it becomes too obviously corny. I’d absolutely no intention of developing a romance between Harriet and Georges… it has just happened, and I’m not even sure whether to take it any further or to simply let it die a natural death and fizzle out, as it so often does in real life. On the one hand, I thought that it would create a rather nice coincidence within the novel, to have Harriet eventually find some sort of happiness with the man she had originally met in very different circumstances… I don’t know if you’ll remember when Harriet was a prostitute in White Chapel, and Georges was one of her clients. That’s really going back a bit, to the beginning of The Spark, I think. I thought it would create some sort of continuity to link the novels. On the other hand, I’m extremely reluctant to make this relationship sound soap-opera-ish… I’d rather just leave things unsaid, as is so often the way. I’m not convinced how this relationship will develop anyway, but it certainly won’t have a happy ending. I think it’s pretty obviously doomed from the start but it could come as a bit of a temporary relief for Harriet, and perhaps for Georges also.

I still haven’t really reached any conclusion about what to do with the rest of The Space Between series. I’m not too concerned about this, in fact I see it as quite an advantage, having no definite way ahead. I remain certain that the next novel will be at least partly set in the Antarctic, though I’m not sure whether to have two different stories going on at the same time – one in London also – or whether this will just become plain silly. As I said, I can’t feel that much concern about the on going process of the novel as I’m just concentrating on one little area at a time – I can’t really cope with thinking about the whole massive spectrum of The Space Between… I’ll just take it a step at a time.


Copyright © Nicola Batty 2009

It’s 1904. Wilde’s been dead for four years. The manuscript was thought to have disappeared with him in Paris, but in fact he gave the original copy to his friend Robbie Ross before he died. Back in Kensington at the Ross house where Harriet works as a maid, Ross has given Wilde’s manuscript to Freddie to keep safe in a box that Freddie has made for him. Meanwhile, Harriet’s son Jack has found out about the relationship between Ross and Freddie, and is very jealous and upset, so Harriet steals the box from Ross’s office and runs away from her job to Whitechapel, where she hopes to find Jack. For the past few months, Jack has been living with his sailor friend, Georges. NOW READ ON…


“Thank you.”

Harriet took the steaming cup of tea gratefully, relishing the burning feeling as she wrapped her numb fingers around it. the tall, black-bearded figure took her wet cloak from her and gestured to her to take a seat upon the rocking chair nearby that she pulled up closer to the fire. Slowly she felt the heat from the flames and the tea begin to spread through her; she was very aware of the box sitting on her lap, it seemed like an extra part of her body, an extension. The man sat down, removing his sailor’s jacket before he did so. “You are very kind,” Harriet added.

Georges laughed softly beneath his breath. The weak morning light fell through the window, directly onto the table where he laid down a small stack of Freedom newspapers. He looked over at Harriet for the first time, frowning thoughtfully.

“Not at all. I’m acting how anyone would when faced with a cold, wet young lady who turns up on the doorstep in the early morning.” Reaching out, he touched Harriet’s knee lightly. “Besides, I think I recognise you anyway from that posh house where Jack was sometime ago. I have a very good memory for faces. Once seen, never forgotten.”

It was Harriet’s turn to smile, though hers was a very slight one, not at all sure if it should be there.

“Well I’ll take that as a compliment. You’re Georges, aren’t you? I know you’ve been a good friend to Jack for a long time.”

“Yes, Jack’s a fine boy… you’re his mother, aren’t you?” He took her hand in his massive paw. “It’s good to see you again.” The warmth of his hand covering hers felt so welcoming after all those hours spent out in the pouring rain on the icy streets of Whitechapel, that she found the relief quite overwhelming. She could hardly believe the events that had taken place that night, it seemed like nothing but a bad dream now, despite the wooden box in her lap.

“I’m Harriet – you’re right, Jack’s ma. Is he here?”

“Ah… I’m afraid not, you’ve missed him. He’s gone to sea… to Dunkirk. A cabin boy has jumped ship suddenly so Jack said he’d go. He seemed quite glad to get away from London, to be honest with you.” As he gazed at Harriet, she noticed how beautiful his deep brown eyes were, how gentle and kind. He stroked his beard as he watched her expression. “There’s nothing wrong with Jack, is there? Nothing’s happened?”

For a moment, Harriet was tempted to tell him everything, but something held her back, told her to cover up the truth.

“No… I just wanted to see him, that’s all. I have something here for him which is quite important – do you know when he’s going to be back?”

Georges gave a shrug, shaking his head.

“Perhaps next week? I don’t know.” He sat forward, nodding towards the box. “This is what you wanted to give him? It looks quite intriguing. May I see?”

“Oh… I suppose so.” She swallowed, watching as Georges took the box and examined it curiously. Looking away, she was filled with a guilty feeling of embarrassment which caused her heart to quicken and her palms to sweat. She felt she had to give him some explanation, so she added in a wavering voice, “It’s… it’s not mine.”

“So I see,” Georges replied evenly, frowning slightly. “Who’s Robert Ross? Oh…” He caught Harriet’s eye and held it, though his look remained interested rather than probing. “Is that the man at the house in Kensington?”

Harriet made no reply but her silence made the answer plain. Georges ran his fingers over the carving on the front of the box. “I don’t understand… why have you got it? What’s inside?”

Harriet sighed, overcome suddenly with a great tiredness, as if all the events of the night had become gradually more real and were now awakening her senses once again. A heaviness washed over her as she thought of Ross and Freddie together on their sofa, it was a great feeling of sadness. She looked up at Georges slowly, shaking her head. “I don’t know exactly what it is, I took it for Jack, that’s all. I’m afraid it’s a very long story, one I don’t want to talk about at the moment. I’m sorry…”

MORE FROM Nicola’s work-in-progress-trilogy in January.

Welcome to Andy's bit...
Just to let you know, that we have been producing RAW MEAT for ten years now. The first issue in December 1999 was on a single side of paper and we asked readers to send a postage stamp if they wanted to read the next issue.
I've got a diagnostic army in my head
feels like soldiers made of plastic, tin and lead.
They are marching up and down to find my brain
and a chemical brigade invades my vein.
Ack-ack-ack, Ack-ack-attack! I'm fighting back!

Of course, when the diagnosis didn't work
they sent for the Neuro-Surgeon Doctor Burke.
Who wanted to drill a hole into my head
It's a simple operation, so he said.
Ack-ack-ack, Ack-ack-attack! I'm fighting back!

So I took my head to see another Quack
all he did was stick a needle in my back.
But hey, even if and when, they find my brain
I'll hide my mind, my soul, my memory lane.
Ack-ack-ack, Ack-ack- attack! I'm fighting back!

Next time they're going to scan me, front and back
but please, don't send me to that Quack 'Flat-tyre Jack!'
Ack-ack-ack, Ack-ack-attack! I won't come back!
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all our readers from Nic, Jack, Andy, Ruth, Brigitte and Angela.

Dry Rot HOTLINE please E-Mail me at: nicbat3963@aol.com
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