Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Friday, October 08, 2010

October 2010 Issue 121

Nicola's Editorial


I’m even more than usually confused when writing this issue – it feels like I’ve only just completed the last issue… time must have become buckled somewhere along the line, though I’m not sure exactly where or why. Perhaps the reason for this is that September’s been such an unusually busy month for us – not only have we been away but there’s been quite a few things going on in Manchester too. My confusion is only increased by the excessively mild and sunny spell we’re enjoying at the moment, which is most unseasonal. Or maybe it’s not, because I seem to remember quite a few really beautiful and glorious autumns, at least early autumns, maybe we should wait until November for the bleak chill and damp, as I’m sure it’ll come in time.


I’m really excited about going to see Christopher Marlowe’s play tonight. We’ve been doing a stupidly fast reading of it, which I think we should just finish in time before we go and see it tonight at the exchange theatre. Mr Marlowe actually wrote one version of the play in 1604, and then added some more bits and characters in 1616. I intend to find out more about it’s actual historical background, public reception and such things. I had an idea a few weeks ago of writing a short story based on Mr Marlowe’s actual writing of Faustus and fusing it with some of the characters from the play, including devils like Mephistopheles, though I’m not sure about Faustus himself. I’ll have to work some more on this idea.


A few weeks ago we went down to Southampton for a day’s sailing on the Jubilee Ziggy Ship as we’ve done before at Falmouth. This time we’re on a different ship from the Lord Nelson, the Tenacious, which both Andy and I instantly liked better, though we weren’t sure exactly why! the lay out of the ship seemed to make it a bit easier to get around. Neither of us minded the extremely early start for it was beautiful weather – bright sunshine and even slightly warmer!! I loved the feeling of being outside and being away from the constant traffic – the smell of the sea and gentle creaking of the sails made it necessary to be doing nothing other than relaxing in the sunshine – sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And it was – both of us would like to sail further next time, because just going along the coast, around the Isle of Wight and back is a bit frustrating.


At the last moment we arranged a meeting with an old friend of mine from Germany, Doris - who I actually haven’t seen for ten years… so I was a bit nervous to start off with. But things became even more confusing when Andy parked the van in a back street. Intrepid explorer though I may be, I was totally confused when Doris lead us from the back street through some woodland which I could identify as such by the wonderful smell of damp. When we came to a halt and continued to sit outside in the sunshine, I was listening out for the sound of a baby crying, for Andy told me Doris had a baby which actually turned out to be seven years old, hardly a baby really. This added to my complete confusion… I half suspected Doris to live in some kind of log cabin, but in fact it was a fairly straight forward house, with steep steps around the front which was obviously why we’d come round the back. Doris’s son was called Olando. I’ve never read Virginia Woolfe’s novel, but I wonder if it’s about a woman disguised as Olando? I was very sorry not to have spoken to the little boy but he was very shy, Andy said that it was a memorable meeting after all this time. I’d love to return to the woodland again, and maybe not feel quite so confused next time.


The next day we caught the ferry across the channel to France, and drove down to the campsite in Picardy - not our first choice of Normandy, but next to it which is close enough! To begin with our van didn’t have a very good journey, we had a slight mishap with another vehicle… and things got even worse… driving in France is a real nightmare, it turned out. Andy said there was just too much traffic and the towns were particularly badly laid out so that the flow of traffic was slowed down by stupid one way systems and traffic lights everywhere. So we were constantly stuck, crawling along wherever we went in northern France. In fact we never got to see half the places we wanted to, because we just couldn’t face being stuck in traffic for hours… which was very sad. We did go to the little village of Eragny, Pissaro’s hometown - we even saw his house, though it made me feel rather sad because he’d obviously been completely forgotten by the wealthy French people who lived there… They probably didn’t even know about Camille’s anarchist principles anyway,


Despite the dreadful traffic situation, we decided to brave it and go to Paris - although it turned out to be a totally unwise decision!! It took hours to get into Paris to start with, and then crawled round the city all day before finding a parking space near the Seine. Even though it was later by then it was still warm, and we strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens into Montparnasse - where Modigliani used to have his studio. Both Andy and I really wanted to go to it, but we found it impossible to get into so we simply had to look from the outside. However we did manage to see the house from which Jeanne, Modigliani’s partner jumped from after the artist had died himself. It was wonderful just to be able to spend these few hours soaking up that amazing feeling of Paris - even though we found back at the van - a parking ticket!! Oh well.


One of the best days in France was one we spent on the campsite itself, only driving a very short distance to a nearby town. There was a beautiful old castle at the town which looked like it had been cut out of an old folktale, it even had a drawbridge and moat. In the evening we went for a walk around the lakes at the campsite, which made me think of a similar campsite in Norfolk. There was exactly the same feeling of peace… it was not too cold, just slightly autumney but in the daytime it was really warm in the sun. In fact I was surprised that more people weren’t camping as we seemed to be just about the only ones there. Although I’d say the campsite wasn’t particularly wonderful - it’s very much used as a stop over place for people passing through on the way to somewhere else, it’s quite adequate Ziggy wise and this day we spent there was perhaps the best day of the holiday!


When we arrived back in Manchester things continued to be quite busy. We went for another spin on the Ziggy bike through the Peak District National Park… we took a different route this time through some woodland which was lovely. Every bit as exhilarating an experience as last time. I Still haven’t managed to get myself a Ziggy bike yet - but still the intention is there. I forgot to mention in the last issue it was Ataxia day on 25th September, but I believe Andy mentioned it. We took part anyway in the sponsored walk at Etherow Country Park near Stockport along with lots of other members of the Manchester group… most of whom just had sticks, but there were a few other Ziggy’s there leading the way! It’s a beautiful park which I don’t remember having been to though my mum tells me I’ve been there several times… it has both a river and a canal which used to have a water mill, and also a lake… lots of water and woodland. It was a great walk anyway, and good to see everyone else from the group.


As you might well be aware by now, October 16th is Oscar Wilde’s birthday and as usual the Oscar Wilde Society is holding a birthday dinner in London, the price is £69. This is a bit beyond my budget, as you’ll perhaps understand - and I’m fed up finally with constantly being unable to join in with such capitalist society events because they’re ridiculously priced! So, I’ve been thinking of starting my own The Other Oscar Wilde Society here in Manchester, which would be of interest to many other Oscar Wilde followers, but wouldn’t be quite so expensive. Although I have quite a few contacts who I could ask to give talks etc. I’m not quite sure if I feel confident enough to go ahead and actually start something… so could other readers of Raw Meat please give me more feedback on this idea? I feel that it’s very important to give people a more complete picture of Oscar - who wasn’t just pampering to the wealthy all the time, he was also extremely generous as well as calling himself an anarchist. So I think he wouldn’t have been that impressed with the Oscar Wilde Society’s extortionate demands and elitism. I’d be interested to know other peoples feelings about these ideas of mine, which are as yet just feelings. But are they to become action??


Even though I’ve not yet got round to actually reading the Inkheart Trilogy, I’ve every intention of doing so, because this ability of fiction to come to life continues to intrigue me, to such an extent that I’ve finally decided to use the old idea in a bit of The Space Between. I’ve been toying with the idea for so long now and I realised it would fit in just here. There didn’t seem to be much happening historically speaking, so there was obviously a space to be filled with a spot of fiction mixed with historical characters to create a bit of drama. I’d already decided quite a few years ago to use Wilde’s Dorian Gray characters which seemed to be a natural choice – Wilde’s novel being the best known of his writing, apart from the plays perhaps. I deliberately didn’t want to use any of the main characters as I like the feeling of being able to fill gaps left by the original writer – in this case, Wilde. So the choice of a lesser known character, Adrian Singleton, came quite naturally from Gustav and Lucien Pissarro’s occasional bouts of opium smoking. I was also really intrigued by Wilde’s brief mention of Adrian – and then nothing more, he simply disappears from the novel… so I picked up the pieces and put them together my own way! I was drawn to Adrian because I felt he was a very sad and lonely character, having been ostracised – and of course he ultimately loses Dorian himself, so I can’t see any sort of positive future for him, if I’m taking him 15 years on after Dorian’s death and I wanted him to walk out of the pictures of Wilde’s novel into mine, I’ve always wanted to do just that. Exactly how Wilde himself would have reacted to my own taking such a liberty with his work, I wouldn’t like to say, though I like to think that he’d support my own use of stepping away from Dorian Gray into my own fiction, and mixing the two together to create something new. Adrian only actually appears in Wilde’s novel a couple of times, briefly in the opium den at Limehouse – so he quite naturally fitted in with Whitechapel and as he’s been mentioned a couple of times in The Space Between already in relation to Opium, the path was paved rather nicely. Andy has warned me to be very careful in saying anything about a historical character such as Lucien, in relation to opium – but there you are, I like playing with fire! This is fiction after all.

I’m aware I’m playing a dangerous game here, trying to involve fictional characters head on with actual historical ones, for wouldn’t they be aware of the fiction at the time it was written? A further complication arises with the Dorian Gray stuff, in that Wilde was using Bosie as the basis for Dorian, even though he’d not actually met him at the time, so the whole thing about Dorian’s involvement with real life is much too complicated for me to handle, therefore I feel no hesitation about making a complete hash of Dorian, Lucien Pissarro and Gustav! Having written this piece I really want to go on with it and maybe spend more time with Adrian, which is perfectly possible for me to do at some point.

I’ve not been writing anymore bits of Alice for Writers’ Island this month, perhaps because my attention has been centred on The Space Between for a change… which actually makes quite a nice change I think, as it’s something that is never far from my mind. I’ll always return to it simply because it’s an obsession which can’t possibly be left incomplete. So though I may toy with the idea of giving up novel writing, I just don’t think that’s a realistic step to take at the moment. I might well have to change the form of the novel to suit me… but that’s ok, fiction should alter and bend to fit in. I’ve still got every intention of completing my children’s story Catching the Light – in the same way I can’t possibly just leave it at this point, when it only needs a couple more chapters. I’ve got a rough idea of them in my head, so I’m going to finish it, even though I didn’t hear anything about the competition – so I presume I didn’t win. But that doesn’t really matter at all for the ending of the story is already in sight, though I don’t want to make it too sad, it won’t be a happy one by any means!!

I also want to involve Constance’s fall down the stairs in this chapter, which is an incredible example of a metaphorical fall with Oscar becoming real for his wife, that I can’t possibly overlook it… I suppose you could say that it catches the light perfectly.


It’s the winter of 1905, and Lucien Pissarro is making a delivery to the Freedom Press anarchist bookshop in Whitechapel with his friend Gustav.


Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010

“We’ll see you next time, Wilf,” he said as he opened the door and allowed Gustav to run lightly down the front steps, for the rain had stopped by now. Lucien followed Gustav out into Angel Ally as he turned to his left towards the main road. The ally around them seemed suddenly very silent. Gustav seemed to be uncertain of what to do, as if he had been distracted by something, some feeling.

“What’s the matter, what is it?” asked Lucien, straining his eyes to see anything in the dim light of the gas lamp.

“I’m not certain,” said Gustav quietly, “I just think something’s wrong… I don’t know,” murmured Gustav, taking a step towards the dimly lit passageway that led around behind them. Suddenly there was a scuffling sound and a man appeared from the passage way – he stopped as soon as he caught sight of Gustav and Lucien, turned away and ran quickly out of Angel Ally. Gustav hesitated only momentarily before entering the passageway; ahead of him he could only just make out a thin figure half crouched on the rough ground, leaning back against the wall of the building and holding his head in his hands, which he was shaking slowly from side to side.

“Are you alright?” Gustav called as he ran up to the figure. “Are you hurt? What happened?”

The man gazed at Gustav vacantly, shaking his head all the time. His voice seemed to be as plain as his face, the words pushed out like a dying breath.

“Dorian… you’ve come back to me, at last.”

As Gustav examined the man’s face more closely, an uneasy sense of familiarity came over him.

“Wait a minute… it’s Adrian, isn’t it? are you alright?”

Lucien appeared beside Adrian and helped him slowly to his feet. Still Adrian continued to stare at Gustav, as if in some kind of trance.

“Dorian… Dorian…”

Lucien glanced at Gustav quickly.

“Adrian Singleton… I don’t believe it,” said Lucien flatly. “Still the same, eh?” he turned to Gustav, still supporting Adrian with his strong arm. “I don’t think he’s hurt, Gustav, just shaken. It’s probably the opium that’s making him so confused. He thinks you’re someone else.”

Adrian suddenly lurched forwards, half falling upon Gustav and enfolding him in his skinny arms. Gustav tried to push him away.

“You’re wrong Adrian – I’m not Dorian, I’m Gustav. Don’t you recognise me? It’s been quite a few years, I know.”

“No… don’t say that,” moaned Adrian, struggling to keep hold of Gustav’s shoulders. New lines had appeared over his face since the two men had last met; in fact, Gustav felt that he hardly recognised him at all. Adrian continued to stare at him blankly, his eyes looked strangely haunted by unreal memories. “You’re Dorian… you must be.”

“I’m afraid not… I really don’t know who this Dorian is,” said Gustav impatiently.

“I think I do,” said Lucien, his voice becoming suddenly gentle, as though he realised the pain his words may cause. He pushed the haggard-faced man back against the wall, separating him physically from Gustav. “You mean Dorian Gray, don’t you, Adrian? He’s dead, you know that… he died years ago. We’ve seen each other since then, don’t you recognise Gustav? He’s not Dorian.”

The harsh edges of pain became etched right into Adrian’s face. The memories of his vision hanging like a shroud before his glazed eyes. He continued to swing mechanically, like a pendulum, as he faced Lucien. “No… don’t say that, you’re wrong – Dorian can’t die. That’s all a lie somebody else told… I don’t believe it.”

Lucien gazed into the man’s vacant expression for only a moment before giving an impatient sigh and turning away.

“Well, it’s true, whether you believe it or not, I’m afraid. Look, I think this has gone quite far enough… can we take you home, Adrian?”


Welcome to Andy’s bit…


I’m not sure about Nic’s idea to form an alternative Oscar Wilde society. I know £69 sounds like a lot of money to pay for a meal, but for a five star hotel in The Strand that doesn’t sound too bad to me. Perhaps it’s a case of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.


What can I say about France, we had a good time camping, I often think that I like to go camping just for the sake of going camping, rather than going camping to visit Paris or Normandy or wherever. We managed to find Modigliani’s studio in Montparnasse and Camille Pissarro’s house at Eragny, and we spent a nice afternoon in the Luxembourg gardens. We didn’t go in any of the big galleries this time but we did go in the little Orangery in The Jardin du Luxembourg and had a look at the 1865 apple tree.

Finally, many thanks to all the people who sponsored Nic in the Wheely Wobberly Walk, she managed to get a few people to cough up a fiver or two, and we're collecting that money right now, as we have to hand it in very soon. So if you pledged any money, this is a reminder, and if you didn't, it still isn't too late to send us some anyway! If you want to see the pictures from the day you can find them on Facebook on the Manchester Ataxia Branch site.
More from Urban Scrawl Andy in November.
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