Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

February 2010 Issue 113

Nicola's Editorial


In typical February fashion, the rain is falling outside and seems set to continue all day. But I shouldn’t moan too much, as it gives me a good chance to start this issue of Raw Meat. And I wanted to start the ball rolling before we went down to Plymouth for my Granddad’s funeral - the dear old chap finally gave up the ghost quite peacefully last week, aged almost 96. Though his death came as no great shock, it was none the less very sad to see him go after all these years. I’d like to dedicate this issue to his memory, which I hope to keep very much alive… in the same way as my Mum is trying to do with this funeral service. She’s going to read out a piece about his life, which is usually fairly much forgotten at funerals, where the funeral should be a celebration of the life rather than the death. It’s easy for people to just remember Granddad during the last few years, when he was very old, not so physically capable and emotionally sad… he missed his wife who died ten years ago and really just wanted to be with her. But there’s so much more to Granddads life than these few years – and this is what my mum wants to remind people about.


It was always amazing to think that my granddad was actually born in 1914, just before the first world war began. He was also around at the same time as Charles Ricketts – though not surprisingly, they never actually met. He used to tell me about when he was a child, and his dad took him out night fishing, and he had to go to school the next day smelling of fish! I always remember him gardening at Torpoint in Cornwall – that was about twenty years ago – and we used to eat fresh vegetables from the garden all the time. There was an old grandfather clock in their house which I always remember when I think of Granddad, because it used to tick really slowly and steadily… not to mention loudly, and I was always aware of it in the background at that house. As he always lived around Plymouth, it was inevitable that he was a gunner on a ship during the second world war. He was completely devoted to his wife, and used to describe her long auburn hair, which sounded beautiful. Towards the end of his life he just wanted to be with her once again, and that’s what’s going to happen as they’re both going to be buried in the same place. While I wouldn’t like to be more specific about what exactly happens after death, I’m quite confident that both of their spirits will be entwined.


As I say, my thoughts about what happens after death are quite hazy – it’s very difficult to imagine such an existence! Although I am quite certain that the spirit lives on in some form or other… as for where this spiritual plane is exactly, I wouldn’t like to say! But it’s there… maybe even within ourselves, I don’t know. I definitely don’t believe in any sort of heaven or ideal place, but I don’t think of death as the end of life at all, certainly not. Spirits can last for centuries and keep touching living people, communicating with them freely. This life, a few decades spent on earth, is only a very small part of the spirit’s existence… and so when people die, that’s not the end by any means. There you are, that’s my philosophy in a nutshell! And so, Granddad’s funeral is not going to be a sad and mournful occasion for anyone.


Leading on from such catastrophic subjects, we’re just coming to the end of Hillary Mantel’s A Place of Great Safety, and things are looking pretty hairy for poor old Danton! He was such a popular chap, much more in touch with the ordinary Parisians than was Robespierre, it’s really not surprising that they fell out. It’s interesting that there was such a division amongst members of the Committee of Public Safety regarding Danton’s arrest; one of them, Robert Lindet, even refused to sign the warrant. Danton himself couldn’t believe that he was being arrested… he thought that his popularity amongst the people would save him… but his whole trial was so fixed – San Just has just told the chief prosecutor, that unless he finds Danton guilty, he himself will be arrested!! It’s appalling, I can’t believe the way they got away with it. Even though I know the ending, Hillary Mantel is telling the tale with such energy and feeling, that I’m completely engrossed and don’t want the book to come to a close.


I’ve had all positive reactions so far from those who have read Dry Rot – there’s probably no need to remind you that it’s available from us now. My first novel’s publication has spurred me on to continue publishing more of my novels, so Killing Time should be the next. It’s interesting that the novel version of Dry Rot has been generally better received than the screenplay… personally, I felt the novel was incomplete without the visual effects! But having said that, the screenplay cannot possibly be read alone… so I think the pair should be read together, as a compromise!! Please do just get in touch to order your own copy, as soon as possible.


Recently I went to the Manchester Museum on Oxford Road, and was excited to discover that amongst their collection of stuffed animals were some live ones! They had several tanks which housed striped monitors, tomato frogs, poison dart frogs, green tree snakes… such creatures as these. Wonderful stuff. I was really enthusiastic about a sponsorship scheme I had come across many years ago at Chester Zoo. I used to sponsor a leopard gecko (a type of lizard) there and I asked the museum if they had any such scheme for their creatures. The chap said no, but that it was a wonderful idea… he shared my enthusiasm, and hopes to get such a sponsorship scheme going at the museum soon. I think other people would also be keen to get involved – it would be almost like owning your own lizard or frog! It is really good to know that someone else shared my vision, not to mention my enthusiasm, and is taking my idea forward.


Just when I was getting really fed up with the winter, I discovered some great news – that the Jerry Farr travel award is open again this year. This was totally unexpected to me, because I thought the award was just a one off… but apparently not, maybe until the money runs out. Anyway, I’m going to apply for my Tahiti expedition again, only this time, making it a shade less ambitious by sticking just to Tahiti!! I’m ruling out flying round the world!! Hopefully I’ll have more luck getting in touch with the campsite. I thought briefly of completely rethinking my travel plans… perhaps Tahiti was just too far, and I should go for somewhere in Europe, a bit more realistic. But why should I ?? I’ve always dreamed of going to the South Seas, and with my particular obsession with Gauguin, Tahiti’s still my first choice and it seems perfectly realistic so far… so why not aim for the top, and dream? Better luck this time.


I’ve been putting quite a bit of thought into the novel as a whole, become it seemed that a few different threads weren’t working out the way I’d intended – some pretty drastic changes had to made. Initially I was panic stricken by the thought of forgetting the whole Titanic idea, which I’ve had since the beginning of the Spark and have been working towards the whole time. This was where I got the character of Jack from originally… I wanted to involve characters from the film Titanic, which came out in the 90s, into my novel. This was why Jack was going to be a sailor and get the manuscript over to America on the titanic, but this idea has come to look pretty shaky as time’s gone on, for several reasons. Firstly because of the timescale in The Space Between, not working out as it should have, and making it impossible to involve the ship’s sinking in 1912. the way The Space Between was working out made it clear that the book would reach until about 1905 or 1906, long before the intended dramatic climax, as those of you who’ve seen the film will know that Jack goes down with the ship. After all this time spent in the company of Jack, I’d inevitably grown rather attached to him and so was a little reluctant to lose him… and so this made losing the whole Titanic episode a wee bit easier because it meant I could keep Jack alive, even though he won’t be in the novel anymore.

Ok, so I was going to lose all the Titanic stuff which was my original method of getting the manuscript over to America. But I’ve got some other characters who I think could do the job, and something else will work out, I’m sure. It was this bloody box that was giving me so many problems, it just didn’t seem to be working at all. I still can’t imagine Jack wanting to have any reminder of the relationship between Ross and Freddie, and Jack himself solved the problem for me by saying what he intended to do with the box, although this meant a slight change in direction for The Space Between, it’s not a major disaster by any means, as it was pretty obvious that the box thing wasn’t working and I had to get rid of it.

And what would become of Harriet?? As she’s been a major character in both the books, she had to reach some conclusive ending. I was considering her going back to being a prostitute, or even returning to a relationship with Charles. I toyed with the idea of Charles keeping her as his bit on the side in Whitechapel… but no, this seemed too far fetched, but you know how much I hate predictable happy endings, so to have her sailing off in to the sunset with Georges was equally out of the question. I’m still not quite certain.


Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010

It’s now 1904, Wilde has died several years ago and his manuscript has supposedly disappeared with him in Paris. But Wilde gave his manuscript to Robbie Ross, who has in turn given it to his boyfriend Freddie as a gift. Freddie has made a special box to keep the manuscript safe inside of, but the box has been stolen by Harriet. She wants to give it to her son Jack as a reminder of his friendship with Freddie.

CHAPTER 4 - 1904

Although the day had begun with a promise, clouds quickly grew over the sun to obscure it completely. Harriet came out into the tiny back yard and squinted up at the black clouds. April showers, I suppose. She collected together the tea towels she had left over the wall to dry in the sun; she paused for a moment to listen to the faint sounds of music which drifted over from the street some way off. She smiled to herself – strange, that music seemed to remind her of Georges, though she didn’t know why. She hadn’t seen him for several weeks now, and she noticed his absence… they had become so close since she had left Kensington.

As she turned to go back inside the house she caught sight of the small figure standing beside her, having only just entered the yard while her back was turned. She stared at the boy for several minutes without speaking, hardly seeming to recognise him, although he hadn’t really changed so much in appearance. Still the same short fair hair and serious expression… but he seemed touched with something more than that, something she didn’t recognise. She felt her own face breaking into a great smile.

“Jack! Come here…”

She embraced the boy awkwardly, aware of the stiffness of his sailors jacket; he took a step away from her, looking slightly confused.

“What are you doing here? What’s happened?” He asked abruptly.

“Ohhh…” She shrugged and sighed. “It’s a long story… I’ve left my job. I… couldn’t stay there, not with Mr. Ross, not like that. I wanted to see you before you left for America, anyway. Do you have any idea when you’re going? Georges says it maybe in the summer.”

Jack began to follow her inside as the first drops of rain began to fall. Inside the room, he kicked a pair of boots aside to allow the door to close properly.

“I don’t think Georges knows… maybe the end of the summer, and…” Picking up a small jug from the table and turning it over in his hands, he studied it with an intensity that unsettled Harriet, who watched him with a growing air of unease. Eventually, raising his eyes to her once more, he went on in a small voice. “I don’t know if he’s mentioned this, ma… but I might not come back for some time. I’m not sure yet… but there’s nothing for me here in London. I just don’t want… you understand, don’t you?”

Harriet sighed, beginning to clear some plates away automatically. Freddie’s box glared at her from the table, as she touched the edge of it by accident it seemed to accuse her of something more than theft.

“Of course I understand that, Jack… though Georges hasn’t mentioned it, but that’s the feeling I got anyway.” She paused, pushing the box towards the boy. “I just wanted to give you this before you left… I think it’s something you should have to make you think of Freddie always… and you should have good memories of him.” She watched him as he stared at the box silently, touching it lightly with his fingertips as though it may explode. Eventually he raised his face to her and shook his head dully, his face drained completely of emotion, white, like a death mask.

“I don’t want this, ma… I’m sorry, but I don’t want it. I don’t want anything to remind me about Freddie. I’m sorry… maybe you should give this back to Ross. And get your job back.”

She stared at him blankly, feeling as though she had been struck across the face. For a moment she couldn’t speak, she could only stare.

“I… I’m … yes, I know you feel that now… but please… give it time. Please, Jack, for my sake, be patient.”

Jack shrugged, turning away abruptly and beginning to walk across the room towards the door. Harriet watched him, feeling a great sense of panic washing over her as if she was loosing him, he was slipping out of her grasp. He turned back as he reached the door and smiled gently at her for the first time.

“Thank you, Ma… I know you only meant well, but I still don’t think you should have done that, and lost your job because of it. But… what ever happens now, Freddie didn’t make the box for me… so you should give it back to Ross. That’s where it belongs.”

“No, Jack, don’t say that, you’re wrong. This doesn’t belong to Ross… you should keep it to remember Freddie by.” Her heart struggled to keep her voice under control, for she was breathing hard and fast, as though running. “Leave it for a while… just take it with you on the ship when you go. You should take it with you to have some reminder of Freddie’s friendship.”

With a great sigh, Jack shook his head and turned away, pulling open the door as he did so.

“All right then, just leave it there.” The boy left the room without another word, leaving Harriet feeling empty, as though a part of herself had been torn and snatched away quite suddenly.

Welcome to Andy's bit...
We've just returned from Nic's Granddad's funeral in Plymouth. I think everything went very well, and it was a good send off for him. Nic's Mum, and her Aunty Margaret spoke at the service, and the stand-in Vicar recalled his time as a Clippy on the Corporation Buses when Nic's Granddad was an Inspector. Happy days!
Nic is dreaming of going to Tahiti, and is planning to win a trip there in the Jerry Farr travel competition, which is now in its second year. She also tells me that she wants to go to Thailand to visit our Stan and his banana plantation. Oh yes, and she wants to go to Paris in the spring and to Roma and Napoli before August. I think there's somewhere else she's dreaming of too... Me? I just want a simple life, camping in Wales would be fun!!
I've joined facebook, mainly because Nic's Ziggy group, Manchester Ataxia Branch have started a group page there, but I've also discovered some new relations and re-discovered some old friends on the site. Anyway...
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