Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

September 2010 Issue 120

Nicola's Editorial


Well, even though the years are ticking by with such a remorseless sense of urgency I wasn’t looking forward to celebrating my birthday this year. In fact it turned out to be a far more enjoyable occasion than usual because I received quite a few birthday messages from various friends – some of whom I haven’t seen for ages! So this made it a very special day for me – many thanks to anyone who remembered it, your thought was much appreciated. Also, I decided to actually do something a bit different this year – so we all went to Chester Zoo for the day… it was a particularly beautiful September day as well which added to the enjoyment, and the whole experience was highly enjoyable for everyone I hope. My mum adopted a tamarind for me, as I’ve always been really fond of these little monkeys, I still remember them clearly… they had such tiny, delicate little faces and long fingers, and were covered in silver fur.


At the zoo I was particularly keen to go and see the bats, as I hoped I’d be able to feel them flying past, as they’re kept in a sort of bat room. This room, which has no windows, I actually found a bit claustrophobic, having no source of natural light, just an artificial twilight, which made it quite eerie. I knew the bats were there, flying past, but I couldn’t feel them – probably they’re much too skilful and good at navigating! The thing that struck me about the bat room was the strong smell of both fruit and… something else, probably bats. I found out afterwards that the room was about thirty feet high – which explains why I couldn’t feel the bats whizzing past, they were all overhead of course.


Andy wanted to see the giraffes, he’s a bit fascinated by them, as he says they can walk for hundreds of miles. I liked the giraffes, of course, but not as much as something a bit weirder, the Okapi. They were like a combination of a giraffe and a zebra! Another weird creature was a little dragon, without the wings. They also seemed to have quite a few rhinoceroses there for some reason, and I was struck by how closely these animals appear to dinosaurs – which they are, I suppose.


Jack didn’t come with us to the zoo because he had an interview at City College for his music production course, which he’d set his heart on doing. Well, he must have made a good impression as he was accepted right away – in fact he’ll have already have started by the time you read this. I’m not quite sure exactly what the course involves as I don’t think Jack does either, but apparently it’s the best course of its kind in Manchester, so he should enjoy it.


As the weather’s been better these last few weeks than it has been all summer, I’m beginning to feel a bit more optimistic about our camping expedition in Picardy next week. The combination of Paris and the Normandy countryside should bear fruit. Both Andy and I have a great affection for this area of France – possibly we were both northern French people in previous lives, maybe even sans culottes during the revolution. We also hope to visit Eragny in Normandy, and see for ourselves the weird triangular house which belonged to Camille Pissaro, the artist and anarchist.


Having enjoyed our ride on the Ziggy Trike a couple of months ago, both Andy and I had made up our minds to buy one for ourselves so that we can use it right away whenever we want… not to mention without the expense of hiring one! We found a couple of possibilities on the internet which were for sale by auction – both of these weren’t standard Ziggy bikes, but could easily be made suitable with a bit of work. The first was a double Ziggy bike for weddings, with a white canopy veil and seat – immediately Andy had ideas of becoming a chauffer and going into business. But we didn’t get the bike which was actually an Indonesian Rickshaw, we were outbid at the last minute. The second one was a Dutch Cargo trike – but once again we lost it right at the end of the auction! Extremely frustrating but we’re going to try again at the next opportunity… so keep watching this space.


I finally got round to reading Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest after having seen the play in June and feeling really frustrated at having missed so much of the humour in it, which I hoped to be able to appreciate more fully if Ruth and I had read it together. So that’s just what we have been doing - and sure enough it’s every bit as funny as I remember. Also reading it more closely emphasises the brilliance of Oscar’s mind, as far as working out intricate plots! I never realised before that Jack was actually pretending to be called Ernest, and that the other chap Algernon knew him – I thought that Ernest was nothing but a fictional character. I can imagine Oscar chuckling to himself as he penned the play all those years ago in Worthing… is still wonderful now. There’s another play that I want to read in preparation for a visit to The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester next month because I want to be able to appreciate this play as much. It’s Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe which I’ve never seen before, so I’ve got absolutely nothing to go on which is a little bit daunting. However, I don’t want to miss this opportunity… I’m sure I’ll be able to get to soak up the atmosphere of this massive stage classic.


Over the past few months I’ve been writing quite a few different things, some of them being completely new stories which are sort of for children but also seem to be really appreciated by adults. As well as continuing with my children’s story based on Oscar’s life Catching the Light – which will soon be finished - I’ve also been continuing with my short pieces for Writer’s Island. And continuing to receive such enthusiastic comments urging me to go on with the story that of course I intend to, as I enjoy writing them every bit as much. It makes me think that the internet has completely changed the whole writing/publishing industry… so that conventional publishers should perhaps become eventually obsolete. If you’d like to read my Alice stories for yourself you will find them on my Without Boundaries web log.


Despite my initial nerves about getting back to The Space Between after such a long break, it only took a bit of time for it all to come flooding back – exactly where we were with Harriet… and then the amazing thing was that I began thinking along exactly the same lines as I had been six weeks ago!! I mean by this that I knew ideas would develop, for I know by now which way all the characters destinies are heading, so then it was actually quite an exciting experience to resurrect these ideas, and toy around with them as much as I had been doing before I took the break. My fears of feeling at a loss and, worse still, mixed up about in which direction each of the characters was heading instantly dissolved away to nothing. In fact it was like I’d never been away, except that I just felt a new burst of energy… I may even bring into the story an idea I had, but didn’t feel confident enough to tackle earlier. This idea would involve bringing in a fictional character from Wilde’s Dorian Gray, and it would develop the opium smoking idea..

This idea of characters stepping out of books and becoming real is one that’s been coming up time and time again; one of the comments I received about my Alice stories (which have been appearing every week on my Web log Without Boundaries) compared my story to the Inkheart Trilogy. I had never heard of it, but I discovered that these German books by Cornelia Flunke (wonderful name) concern exactly the same idea – characters stepping out of fiction and confronting reality, this excited me right from the very beginning, the initial spark that became the The Spark later. It’s interesting that the prompt from Writer’s Island last week was Inception – it’s a shame that I can’t see the film, because the idea sounds wonderful, and I can and definitely will read Cornelia Flunke’s books… I’m not sure quite how popular these books were, because no one I know seems to have heard of them.


It’s the winter of 1905 and Harriet is still awaiting the return of Georges who has set sail for America, taking with him both Jack and Wilde’s manuscript which had been in the care of Robbie Ross since Wilde’s death in 1900. there is one other copy of the story, in the possession of Charles Ricketts.

CHAPTER 5 – 1905

A miserable icy sleet had just begun to fall as Harriet collected together the final pieces of washing from the line across the yard; hastily she stuffed them into the basket and returned inside, pulling the back door closed behind her with relief and moving quickly across the room to stoke up the fire. she watched all her own movements, with a strange, detached sensation, as if the wind had intruded into her heart and turned it to ice. The characters of Georges and Jack moved around as they constantly did in her mind… but they had become dim and gloomy shapes by now, flimsy, without substance. She looked up as the door creaked open, without interest, to see Wilf come in.

“Morning,” he said to Harriet as he went over to the table and made himself a cup of tea. A warm, knitted hat was pulled over his balding head and the tip of his beaky nose was beginning to glow scarlet. “Filthy weather out there. You’re best off in here by the fire… don’t go out unless you have to.”

Harriet smiled, saying nothing. She watched his quick, hurried actions, which seemed so mechanical, like a clockwork toy. The printer glanced at a few letters in his hand, then back at Harriet.

“Wait here a minute… there may be some news for you. This is from Georges, I think.”

Harriet took a step forward but stopped abruptly as Wilf began to rip open the envelope; she realised that the letter was for Wilf, not for her at all… this realisation caused her a great feeling of sinking disappointment. He had not even kept his promise to write, so that now his words came to her from someone else, made distant. She stared ahead numbly as his eyes moved over the words.

“Well, what does it say?” she asked abruptly.

“Oh… just that he’s been delayed over there in New Orleans and will be back next month. That’s all… Jack as well.”

It was a moment before Harriet could bring herself to speak.

“Why has he been delayed? Doesn’t he say?” She was aware of how bitter and harsh her voice sounded. And she hated herself for it. Wilf laid a hand reassuringly on her shoulder, sensing her disappointment. “He doesn’t say… maybe bad weather or something, I wouldn’t worry if I was you, he says he’ll be back. He says he’s sorry he missed Christmas, but everything’s alright, Harriet.”

Harriet turned her back on Wilf, staring fiercely into the fire, the flames themselves seemed to coil and writhe like trapped snakes trying to break free from their bondage in the grate. At The Freedom Press there seemed to be no escape, no real freedom.



Welcome to Andy’s bit…


Don’t you just hate eBAY? I’ve tried to resist it and managed fine without it for many years, but lately we’ve been looking for a Ziggy bike and as Nic was saying earlier we’ve been bidding in a couple of auctions, so far without success. I can see how addictive the whole thing is, especially when you spot a bargain – the trick is of course being able to convert the lead into a purchase. In the two auctions we’ve been involved with the winning bidder only arrived about forty seconds before the hammer went down, they seem to know exactly when to pounce.


As I told you last month, this month would be busy, and so far it has been. We didn’t go to Poland, but we went to Chester Zoo on Nic’s birthday, and to the Manchester Ataxia meeting on the following day. We also went down to Sutton and the green fair at Carshalton Park, where our friend Sheila has been running the circus skills stall for the past few years. This week we’re off to Southampton for a days sailing on a tall ship, with the Jubilee Sailing Trust. The day after that we take another ship, this time a car ferry across the English Channel to France.


Nic had been complaining that we never go anywhere these days and that we’d only been camping once this year, and that we hadn’t been abroad. So when the Canvas camp sites deal came through, three weeks for the price of one and granny goes free, we just had to book it. I mean we’d be daft not to, wouldn’t we? As it turns out, it’s actually cheaper than staying at home. So, Paris and Normandy here we come!


The weekend after we come back from France we’re going on the Manchester Ataxia Branch Wibberley Wobberley Walk. This involves walking round a country park near Marple and collecting sponsorship on Ataxia Awareness Day the 25th. September. If by any chance any of Nic’s readers would like to sponsor her on the day, they can pledge a set amount of money by sending her an email to nicbat3963@aol.com and she will send you the sponsorship forms by return.


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