Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Monday, April 05, 2010

April 2010 Issue 115

Nicola's Editorial


Already it’s Easter weekend… it’s strange, after both January and February taking so long to go by, March seemed to go past quite fast. It’s odd how the pace of life alters so dramatically, even though nothing much has been happening round here lately. Who decides exactly when Easter’s going to be, if it changes every year? Andy tells me it’s six weeks from the start of Lent well then, in that case who decides where Lent’s going to fall? Surely not the church? Or the Prime Minister… or the people? – Is it put to the vote? I wonder… I’ve a rather sorry tale to share with you about my tooth, which seems set to become an ex-tooth shortly.


A few weeks ago I went to the dentist complaining of toothache, and was told there was nothing wrong with my tooth and the pain was due to me tensing my jaw and grinding my teeth at night, which apparently I’d been doing for years. “Well, okay,” I countered, “if I’ve been tensing my jaw for years, why’s it suddenly started to hurt now?” Her reply filled me with horror: “Just your age.” I couldn’t believe it… had it come to this? Dry rot set in already… decay, and me only forty six!! I was filled with depression – I’ve never felt so ancient. However, the dentist turned out to be mistaken - my tooth ache continued, and eventually a bit of tooth fell off… too late really, because now the tooth may have to come out. The Dental Hospital may use a sedative for the operation, which I’m quite curious to try. Ruth tells me, with the sedative you stay awake but don’t remember anything about what actually happened. Which sounds a bit freaky. I wonder if they use opium in it??


One good thing came out of this fiasco with my tooth… I was so struck by the dentist’s words about my jaw tension (and grinding my teeth) that I decided to write a poem. I asked Andy for his opinion of it and together we decided to produce a collection of poems around the theme of stress… quite naturally called The Stress Collection. This should prove quite an interesting idea because both our styles are quite different, but I think the two styles of poetry side by side should complement each other. It’s nice to be actually creating something together for a change!


At the moment I’m struggling to overcome the drowsiness brought on by all the antibiotics I’m taking to combat my tooth infection, so I think I may have to give up for the moment. This infection may spread to the root of the tooth… I’m rather annoyed about the whole thing, because it might have been avoided and seen to then and there. While all that stuff about ‘grinding my teeth etc.’ may well be true, I don’t see it as a great problem, it’s just a sign of stress maybe which loads of people do and it’s not a problem. At least I don’t see it as one.


Ruth just left yesterday on her cycling jaunt to Spain, which is going to take a few weeks at least. I expect by now she’ll be camping in Paris… maybe in the snow, as I believe snow has been forecast in Paris. It seems a bit cold for my liking, although Ruth was quite excited about the prospect of camping in the snow! It reminds me of Harry Potter, mind you his tent was a magic one with a fire inside. I was remembering our drive to Venice ten years ago, the first few nights camping in northern France were absolutely freezing, after that it got better. I was afraid that when I woke up one of my toes would be missing… fallen off because of frostbite!


Before Ruth left we managed to finish our book about Modigliani Into the Darkness, Laughing . I was struck once again by this dream tragedy of the story, even though I’ve read it before and so knew that Jeanne threw herself out of her window after Modigliani died of TB. But what I didn’t realise before is that Jeanne’s suicide was in fact not a spontaneous reaction to his death, drawings done by her were found in the studio afterwards depicting different methods of suicide. She was completely aware of the fact that her lover was dying, which only makes the whole thing a lot more tragic I think. I also didn’t realise before that Modigliani and Jeanne already had a baby daughter – confusingly enough, also called Jeanne. Little Jeanne grew up in France and Italy, eventually dying in the 1980’s. I’ll have to tell the full story of Jeanne and Modigliani in my collection, Still Lives soon, before I forget or lose the inspiration!


Another one of my Still Lives I began work on while I was taking a break from The Space Between was the one I’ve had in my head since summer – working title, Hervey’s Island. I wanted to begin writing this story so much; I’ve become quite fascinated by Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery around the South Seas, although I didn’t get far with writing Hervey’s Island for a couple of reasons. Firstly I realised that I needed to do much more research on Captain Cook’s second voyage, which will provide the background against which my story will be set… and I don’t feel I can handle doing this research right now. Secondly, I became overwhelmed by feelings of depression and impending doom as I began writing it, as they connected to my physical ability to undertake this research.


Earlier this month I had another hearing test organised by the cochlear implant team, who are still trying to find out if my hearing problems will be helped by the insertion of a cochlear implant. I told the tale of my nightmarish experience with the ear pricking torture – the essential test to discover my suitability for the cochlear implant. I was dismayed by the results of the test – they showed deterioration of my hearing over the past few years. Of course I was totally pissed off about this – although it was no great shock to me as I’ve been aware for some time that things were getting slightly hairy as far as reading and writing went. And these are the only things I’m worried about as far as my hearing goes, and of course conversation, speaking to people which is essential to me. So you see why I have been so concerned about what’s going to happen to my hearing.


But I called the whole thing off, and so… it’s still not certain if I will benefit at all from the implants, because no other FA person has tried them out before. I believe a baby in Manchester did have the implant – but it was unsuccessful for some reason I’m not sure why. And so the cochlear implant doctors are trying their best to find out if I’d be suitable material for them to go ahead with the operation. I’m not sure how I feel being used as a guinea pig, particularly as I still have some hearing and it would be affected by the implant – it would mean removing the cochlear from one ear, making me totally deaf in that ear. I feel sorry for the FA baby they tried the implant out on, as now it will never experience full hearing.


Just before Ruth left, I used her computer skills to assist me with creating a facebook page, of course putting links to my website and Raw Meat so everyone can read it! Although initially I felt a little dubious about the facebook idea – the whole thing sounded so American!! But still, it’s a good way of communication, making friends and also of letting people know about my books and what I’m working on at the moment and spread Raw Meat around as much as possible, and also perhaps Dry Rot… copies of this are still available by the way, just say the word. If anybody would like to become my friend on facebook please don’t be afraid to get in touch!


Right at the last minute I remembered seeing a play earlier this month which disturbed me very much. Initially I was quite nervous about following the play version of 1984 at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, as it’s many years since I studied George Orwell’s novel for ‘A’ level. But fortunately the play stuck pretty closely to the book, basically a really simple structure which adapted quite naturally for stage I thought… Just 3 parts really, before the torture, the torture itself, and life afterwards, showing the way the torture divided Julia and Winston. Of course I had to wait quite a bit until Brigitte described the play to me in much detail afterwards.


It was easy for me to tell when the torture sequence was on by all the very bright lights and screaming! I was told afterwards that Winston had been strapped down naked to a table, and a cage supposedly filled with rats (you could hear them squeaking) was held to his face. What made the whole thing more horrific was that Winston’s screams were muffled by the cage which made the whole sequence fairly silent, and all the Party members stood around watching the torture – well, it was really scary! It was hardly surprising that Winston and Julia could hardly speak to each other afterwards and also very sad because that was the end. I don’t think George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of the future has become at all dirtied even though 1984 is well past – the big brother thing is still totally relevant to us nowadays, as is the use of psychological torture – perhaps even more a real threat to us now.


I’ve been taking a bit of a break from The Space Between, simply because I felt like I was getting a bit jaded with it and needed some space… but I’ve returned to it now in time to complete chapter 4 and also to put an extract in here. I felt Harriet had a bit more to say before closing the chapter, as she’s part of the dramatic conclusion to the book. I’m thinking very much about the shape of the entire novel at the moment and can see clearly how it will end with some degree of confidence, I’ll stick to my hope of finishing The Space Between before the end of the year. I only want to cover a few more years, and then to leave the drama with captain Scott and Kathleen’s marriage. I think this will be a good way to introduce Captain Scott if he’s going to take the manuscript to the South Pole, which I’m pretty sure about. I’d like to make the next novel slightly different, in that the action will be split in three different places – the Antarctic, America and London. I think I’d like to bring Georges’s wife and daughter into it later, though my thoughts are not completely gelled at this point.

I wanted to spend more time with both Georges and Harriet, I didn’t want their relationship to become too lovey-dovey, because it’s a sure way of losing people’s interest… not to mention my own, as I can’t stand sentimentality, and yet it’s essential to get the reader involved with what’s going on between the two characters, and so to feel more sympathy towards Harriet and understand the drama of her reaction. It was also quite a pleasure for me to spend more time on Georges as he’s one of the few characters I’ve been continually going back to, simply because I really like the chap!

I’m still not quite sure what to do with Jack. The original intention was to have him spend some time in America, so that he could develop his American accent to fit in with the role he was originally going to adopt – that of Jack from the film Titanic – but as I explained in the last issue, that has now been shelved, so there’s no need for Jack to come back into the novel at all, with or without an American accent. So I’m not sure whether to just leave him in America where he can go off somewhere and become an artist, or continue sailing… whatever, he won’t need to be in the novel any longer. It’s amazing how hard hearted you have to become to your characters.



Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010


It’s the Autumn of 1904 and Wilde’s short story has supposedly been left with Robbie Ross, his literary executor. But Ross has given it to his boyfriend Freddie to keep safe in a special box, only the box has been stolen from Ross by Harriet, who thinks it should have been given to her son Jack, but Jack doesn’t want anything to do with Freddie anymore – he and Georges throw the box into the Thames before leaving the country themselves. Georges has the manuscript with him, having removed it from the box, he hopes to sell it in America.


CHAPTER 4: 1904

She sat there in silence, watching the grey clouds being torn apart by the wind and sent scudding across the sky. Rain was occasionally thrown against the window, causing Harriet to start from her reverie and look up quickly. Slowly the rooftops of Whitechapel re-established themselves, and she became aware once more of muffled sounds from upstairs… but these sounds still seemed to be so distant from her that she doubted their reality. The only thing that was real to her at that moment was the tin cup she was gripping tightly. The cup was still half full of cold coffee; exactly how long she had been sitting here with it she didn’t know. She heard steps and turned her head as the kitchen door was pushed open.

“Alright, that’s everything, I think,” said Georges, as he looked around the room, searching for forgotten objects. He pulled on his jacket hastily, resting his eyes on Harriet and pausing for a moment. “You’re sure you want to come to the gates. You don’t have to, you know.”


Harriet got up abruptly, helping adjust George’s jacket so that the ship’s emblem was clearly visible. She lightly ran her fingers over the stitching, and she was taken right back to the first time she had ever done that, in a Whitechapel brothel. So much had changed since that day, yet here she still was, in Whitechapel. She swallowed quickly, feeling suddenly icy cold, even though the fire was still burning nearby.

“I don’t want you to go, I feel as if you won’t come back,” she said in a rush, her words tumbling over each other, so that she was not sure if they had made sense. Georges took her hand, enclosing it completely in his own. Both his smile and his gentle brown eyes upon her, were so tender that her confusion was only increased. Why must he go?

“Don’t be silly… I’ll be back in a few months,” he said, kissing her lightly. “Maybe for Christmas. And Jack too. Come on now, we really must go or I’ll be late.”

She continued to stroke the emblem on his pocket, unable to let him leave like this.

“I still don’t understand… why you’re leaving and going back to your wife. It’s like you have a different life in America,” she said flatly, aware of how much like a complaining wife she sounded herself. “And you just want to keep me here in London… just for London, never all the time.”

Georges sighed, bending and picking up his canvas kit bag.

“But Harriet… you know the situation, and that’s exactly what it is. One life for London… and one for America… that’s how it’s going to be I’m afraid.” He paused before opening the door, wanting to meet her eye directly before leaving. “I’ll be back before you know it, anyway. Hey, I could write to you now, put our lessons to the test… just a few words?” Harriet smiled thankfully, reaching for her shawl. As she wrapped it around her, Jack appeared in the doorway, looking unrecognisably smart in his uniform.

“Alright then, I’ll wait for you, Georges.” There seemed nothing more to be said; in silence all three of them left the house together, walking quickly, almost touching each other. All the buildings on Angel Ally were virtually unchanged and yet now they all seemed to be completely different to Harriet as they walked along it. Nobody spoke apart from Jack and Georges’s few exchanges of practical instructions. Still the rain continued to be blown into their faces in fits and starts as the clouds increased… and yet the light held out. As they passed the prostitutes on Whitechapel High Street, Harriet gave a slight start, thinking that she recognised some of them from years ago. But no… as she looked, their faces seemed to shift, growing brittle and falling apart, collapsing in upon themselves, like her life seemed to be at the moment. A dull pain seemed to overwhelm her, isolating her from the two men as they walked on.

MORE FROM The Space Between in RM #116



Welcome to Andy’s bit..


As Nic already said above, she’s joined facebook, and so have I. We joined up really because the Manchester Branch of Ataxia has started a page there. It’s one of those things that you completely hate the idea of joining but when you do, you wonder how you ever got by without it.


Nic, as many of you already know, has entered a travel competition and she hopes to win a trip to Tahiti and Hiva Oa, (where Gauguin is buried). I wish her all the luck in the world, as guess what? She needs a helper to travel with her and my name’s in the frame.


Another thing that people love to hate is NaPoWriMo, which is of course an American thing and stands for National Poetry Writing Month. I suppose serious poets don’t need a special month to write poetry in, as they are already committed to their work. But for really bad poets like me, it acts as a challenge, and because I’ve signed the pledge to write a poem a day for the month of April, it stretches me to produce innovative stuff that I wouldn’t usually write. Last year, for example, I came up with the idea for The American Sandwich game during the poetry month. Anyway!

MORE FROM USA (Urban Scrawl Andy) NEXT ISSUE!!!

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