Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

July 2010 Issue 118

Nic on the Ziggy Trike with Brigitte.

Nicola's Editorial


We’ve just arrived back from a fun-packed few days camping near Worthing, that’s why this issue is somewhat late. I’m not too sure if we were particularly lucky with the weather… at the campsite the sun was shining all the time which makes a rather nice change from grey Manchester. By coincidence, we had just been to see Oscar’s play The Importance of Being Earnest the night before, which put me in the correct frame of mind for our trip to the resort where Wilde actually wrote it. As always, I had difficulty keeping up with the play… my memory of it has faded as it’s been many years since I’ve seen it… but I remember seeing some cracking performances which were really funny, so maybe it’ll be worth reading the play all the way through later. Lady Bracknell was played by a man in drag apparently, and I heard the audience laughing all the way through – so I presume it was a pretty funny version… even though it was a very traditional Victorian one, with no great surprises.


So, with my head still full of Oscar’s play, I travelled down to the campsite with Brigitte and Andy, to find it wonderfully sunny even though it was by then evening. Though the campsite was pretty basic - just a field really - as long as you have warmth and sunshine, what else do you need for a holiday? Andy didn’t find it to much hassle setting up the awning on the van, which initially he was pretty nervous about. I took a real liking to the campsite, particularly when it got to the weekend and more and more tents joined in. I found the field very atmospheric, particularly after Brigitte saw a bat just outside our tent! It was really exciting just being outside all the time, and being able to smell all the different flowers, plants, barbeques etc. It was so warm we didn’t seem to be in England at all – as if in fact we’d been magically transported abroad. We went to Brighton and did all the usual touristy things like eating ice cream and fish and chips. I managed to visit my friends in their beautiful seafront art house in Worthing and even went paddling in the sea. We searched all around the surrounding area for a Ziggy bike, but had to give up - Ziggy bikes seem to be pretty few and far between. Still, we walked through some beautiful woodland past a lake - so it wasn’t a totally wasted day at all. And of course the sunshine remained over the weekend, right up until we had to reluctantly leave the campsite. It had been a wonderful few days away from horrible grey Manchester… I wish we could move down there, but…


On our final day in Worthing we travelled up to Sutton, to visit my friend Sheila who took us to the most amazing smelly field I’ve ever experienced!! Apparently near the town are a few fields, one of which is filled with the most beautiful smelling lavender – and I suppose it must look quite amazing as well. But the smell made me think that it must be a wonderful place for insomniacs to come, for that feeling of peacefulness and tranquillity completely soaked the air all around. It was the sort of place I don’t think I’ll forget easily.


I mentioned Ziggy bikes, which had been on all of our minds ever since we tried one out several weeks ago. I thought you might like to hear more about this amazing experience, so I’m including an article I wrote for MAB (the Manchester Ataxia Branch Newsletter). There’s also some photos I believe, to give you some idea of the Ziggy bike.


To tell the truth, I was getting a bit fed up with Andy going on and on about Ziggy trikes… especially after trying out one at a Cycling Club and being totally unimpressed with it. I can’t understand what all the fuss was about - the Ziggy trike actually went only slightly faster than a normal person walking and pushing. I had expected something slightly more exciting than this - I was really disappointed, simply because the idea of travelling completely on three wheels sounded as if it should be slightly thrilling, if not dangerous. But at the club, the trike was simply peddled round and round a small cycle track… not at all exciting, even remotely.


But still, I decided to try another Ziggy trike at the Peak District National Park, which sounded vaguely more promising. Both my helper Brigitte and Andy came with me, so that they could both take turns in doing the peddling. This Ziggy trike was a real cycling trike… the Ziggy part of it was designed so that it was tipped on the back wheels (although you could put the front wheels down normally if you wanted to), which were big cycling wheels and then there was another big wheel on the back with a seat on which either Andy or Brigitte sat and peddled. Because they gripped onto Ziggy’s handles just as if they were pushing normally, it gave them a feeling of stability as we were all joined together like a tricycle! I also didn’t feel in the least bit unstable… but still, there was always that thrilling element of risk and speed! It was great just to be shown the Ziggy trike and given basic instructions, and then told to take it away, see you later! Not to have the usual people fussing around, saying “You can’t do this, you can’t do that - we’re not insured…” There was none of that. So Brigitte and I just got on the trike, and took it away… with Andy cycling his own bike next to us.


Now this was real Ziggy cycling!! Even though I couldn’t actually see the beautiful scenery passing, I could still feel the wind on my face as we cycled at quite some speed for a long time… I felt perfectly safe and secure though I suppose there was always that element of risk - but that’s what I love! It was well worth it, and if other people can take risks why shouldn’t I? The complete freedom I experienced for those few hours was unforgettable.

It was a wonderful sensation of speed for me… and being outside all the time increased the excitement of the whole thing. Cycling is one thing that I’d never managed to do in my life and I really regret it; I always thought that it was something I would never be able to experience but I was wrong… I’d urge anyone else to have a go as it’s not that dangerous… certainly worth taking the risk anyway!


Neither Brigitte or Andy found it at all difficult to use and it was very comfortable for me - only very slightly bumpy, in fact a lot smoother than a usual person pushing along the pavement would be. The feeling of being totally involved with the trike was great… not just something being pushed around separately like a piece of luggage! Andy told me that the track along which we cycled through the national park was a disused railway line, and there were other bikes being cycled along it - but no cars, so we had perfect freedom to go as far and as fast as we liked! We actually covered quite a few miles this time, and I have every intention of repeating the experience again as soon as possible.


Back from Worthing to the usual grey Manchester, everything seems to be quite busy at the moment with lots of people celebrating for various reasons this month. Not only does Jack celebrate his birthday, but also my mum and dad celebrate their golden wedding anniversary… amazing to think they’ve been together for fifty years, half a century, I suppose. They’ve gone away on a cruise ship to celebrate the event, not a Caribbean cruise, which wouldn’t suit my dad - he’s more a land lover, I think. Their cruise this time just goes to Norway, or maybe Denmark as well… round about those Scandinavian places anyway. Though it’s not a specific geological cruise, mum and dad will of course make many visits to the historical and geological museums, checking out the various fossils no doubt! Mum also told me that there’s a bunch of islands which are very ancient… I don’t know if they’re actually Viking settlements, no doubt she’ll tell me more when she gets back. In a few weeks time they will be having a family celebration, which promises to be a rare occurrence indeed, getting all my family together in the same spot at the same time!! Also I think my mum’s sister is going to be there, as well as… Jack!! I still remember seeing black and white photos of my parents wedding… I was impressed by the fact that my mum wore a frock which just reached below her knee - not a traditional long white thing at all. My dad looked really cool with his quiff and black and white suit - strange to think those were the days before such things as the Beatles!


As you’ll no doubt have realised by now, I used to be something of an artist - in fact Andy says I still am, in my mind I suppose. I still think in visual terms, and it’s quite true to say I create pictures in words. I was delighted to be asked by a young friend on the internet if he could see some of my old pictures… so Andy went all round the house taking photos with his digital camera. Some of these we’ve put on the internet so maybe you’d like to have a look too. It’s sometimes quite a struggle for me to remember exact details about where the originals came from, as I’ve been writing a piece to accompany each picture. Quite a few of these paintings are copied from the Pre-Raphaelites, but others are simple pencil sketches, usually portraits of various dead heroes of mine! I feel seeing them once again has made me almost inspired enough to take up the paint brush once again… though I still feel very nervous about doing that. Andy tells me reassuringly that there’s a whole school of blind artists out there… but I’m still really nervous. Maybe in time…


Despite the best intentions of returning to The Space Between and having a fresh piece ready, I’m afraid I’ve not… I wanted very much to get back into Victorian things as Harriet’s state of mind is never too far away and it deserves to have some time devoted to it, so I don’t want to just rush it to have it ready, it’ll be done next month. As always, at this time of year, everything seems to have become quite hectic, what with various people doing crazy things like going camping and having birthdays etc. I was saying to Andy that I had no time to do RAW MEAT properly, and he said, “Rubbish, you’ve got loads of things you can put in, what about all the stuff for Writer’s Island?” So here it is.

Andy told me about the Writer’s Island website quite a few weeks ago, and ever since then I’ve been writing a little piece each week on a different theme. My pieces have all been prose so far, I suppose you could call it an adventure story… sort of a children’s story but it could just as well be for adults. It’s based on Alice Through The Looking Glass with a bit of Harry Potter thrown in so far. I’ve no idea what’s going to happen, as there are no set rules. Because I’ve enjoyed writing the children’s story Catching the Light so much, I thought I’d try my hand at more truly creative ventures and see if they worked. I’ve had several comments from readers, some of whom seem to be following my web log, which is encouraging. I’ve looked at other people’s pieces for Writers Island; there seemed to be lots of poetry, but also short autobiographical stuff, but very little in the way of fiction, so I thought I’d redress the balance. See what you think and do send in your comments.


Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010


Alice has come through the looking glass and finds everything very much changed. She is startled by the appearance through the fireplace of a student wizard called Bartholomew.


Taking some floo powder from the pocket of his wizard’s cloak, Bartholomew hesitated for a moment.

“What’s the matter?” asked Alice, curiously.

Bartholomew gave a little laugh, kicking the empty grate with his foot.

“I don’t think this floo powder’s going to work here. This fire’s meant to be alight, you see. Oh, don’t worry. The flames won’t burn us if we’re using magic.” He added quickly, seeing Alice’s look of alarm.

“Well… why don’t you give the powder a try?” she suggested. The young wizard did so, but the floo powder simply lay where it fell, scattered uselessly over the grate. Both travellers looked on helplessly.

I can’t understand why it won’t work,” complained Bartholomew. “It’s never let me down before, but things seemed to have changed in this place. Where did you say we are?”

“I don’t believe I did say,” said Alice. “But we’re in the looking glass house… and so you’re right, things may be different now – everything seems changed since I passed through the mirror. Even me – I’ve changed several times since my adventures in Wonderland.”

Bartholomew stared at her for a long time, still clinging onto her hand. “I’m sorry, what did you say your name was? Or should I ask, who are you? The caterpillar, was it? I failed my literature GCSE last year.”

Alice frowned and shook her head impatiently.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know who I am any more I’m afraid. I used to be Alice in Wonderland, then Alice Through the Looking Glass… but there’s been quite a few changes since then. I’ve no idea who I am any more.”


The young wizard stared at Alice for quite sometime, a frown slowly creasing his brow.

“Alice in Wonderland… I’m sure I’ve seen a photo of you somewhere. Can we get back to your world through the mirror? Let’s have a look.” With this he took a step backwards out of the fireplace and examined the mirror above, which didn’t seem to be a mirror at all. It looked just like the back of the mirror – there was obviously no way through.

“I told you everything had changed in the looking glass house,” said Alice apologetically.

“Wait a minute…” Bartholomew began to rummage inside his cloak, finally drawing out a very small camera. “I don’t know if this’ll work, but it’s worth a try. A good way to capture your image and fix your identity I suppose.”

Alice watched him with great curiosity as he raised the camera to his face and pointed it in her direction. There was a flash of light and Alice froze.

“What was that? Have you cast some sort of spell on me?” she asked, remembering that he had called himself a wizard.

Lowering the camera Bartholomew shook his head and smiled.

“You’ve just got to wait a few minutes for the photo to come out, then we’ll have you captured.”

Alice gave a nervous little laugh, stepping over the fender to stand beside him.

“Do you really think so? Your camera might not work in the looking glass house. Look what happened with the floo powder… maybe the camera will be affected.” For Alice was a great believer in everything being logical.

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” he reassured her as he pulled the photograph out of the camera and showed her the image proudly – Alice’s image appeared to look almost as shocked as she did now. She stared at the picture, shaking her head in confusion.

“But I thought this would fix me, that’s what you said, didn’t you? Look – my image is beginning to fade.”

“So it is. You’re becoming just like a ghost. Ah well.” Bartholomew threw the photo in the empty fireplace and turned away. “You’re right, something else that doesn’t work in the looking glass house. Is the whole place like this, do you think? Maybe we can try the floo powder in another fireplace?”

Alice hesitated for a moment then her curiosity to see beyond overcame her fear.

“Alright then but you go first, she said, as she gripped on to the edge of his robes. “And I’ll follow.” So saying, the two adventurers opened the door and stepped out into whatever lay beyond.


Welcome to Andy’s bit…


Don’t you just love camping? I do, when the weather’s fine! We’ve just returned from a few days on the sunny south coast and we didn’t see a single drop of rain. We camped in a field just north of Worthing, and the wonderful weather made it a perfect time. It’s funny because we’ve done loads of camping over the years and we always had a couple of dodgy days. But this time it was sunshine from four in the morning ‘til ten at night.


A few years ago we went camping about this time of year in Devon, and we got flooded out. Everything was soaked, and a strange red sand covered and stuck to all of our possessions. I dubbed it The Torquay Mud! The same thing happened in Norfolk, we had taken Jack and one of his friends, and the heavens opened in the middle of the first night, forcing us to spend the following day in the local launderette washing and drying all the sleeping bags and soggy clothes.


Yikes! As you can see from the pictures on these pages Nic has finally been out on a Ziggy Trike! Yes, after being let down so many times she finally found one, and now she’s hooked. So, with the memory of The Peak District National Park in her head, she went in search of hiring another one in the proposed South Downs National Park, and also in Brighton and in Worthing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one this trip, but we’ve just heard word from Steve and Alison in Worthing, that a new cycle hire business has started up on the sea front, and they intend to get some Ziggy Trikes in the near future. So that’s good news!


Nic mentioned her 'young friend on the internet', but what she didn't say was that he is my nephew, Changnoi. Changnoi is an artist too, and he has his own blog where you can read his comic-strip creation Yes-Man!



Happy Birthday Jack! Our son Jack is going to be seventeen on Sunday. Phew!

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