Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

November 2010 Issue 122

Nicola's Editorial


As we enter into this most dreary and depressing month of November, I’m well aware of the cold winter ahead – there seems to be nothing much to look forward to. Even Andy’s promises of going away to Tenerife or some such sun spot, are proving to be somewhat shaky, shall we say, as time goes on. Not even the celebration of my old hero, Guy Fawkes, can brighten up this time of year… I’m perhaps dreading the winter even more than usual this year because at the beginning of the year we promised ourselves that we’d spend this Christmas somewhere warm – either Tahiti or Thailand. Well, our plans have fallen through on both places, so it looks like Manchester once again.


There wouldn’t be much point in our going over to Thailand to visit Andy’s brother, Stan, as he’s staying with us at the moment, right here in Manchester. His presence gives our creative household an extra boost as Stan also writes, and together he and Andy have come up with the idea of re-launching a magazine of Andy’s from the eighties. I’ll leave Andy to give you more details about the magazine, which is all to do with a favourite character of Andy’s, Doktir Nairobi – who I actually believe to be an alter ego of Andy himself. I’m sure he will give more details about all of Doktir Nairobi’s theories on his page… this magazine will also involve contributions from me, the first being a piece about dreaming.


Dreams have always been a favourite topic of discussion between Andy and myself – he’s particularly interested in the vivid quality of my dreams, particularly since loosing my sight. In my dreams I can see colours and people around me… though whether I can actually physically see them or just remember and know they’re there, is debatable. I don’t think physical senses are used at all in dreams, and so it makes perfect sense to me when I dream about colours or myself walking, or more often running or even flying. Anyway I’ve written the piece for Andy’s magazine, but he says it won’t do, I need to go into much more detail about my dreams… and so read on at your peril.


Doktir Nairobi uses hypnotism to allow people to access their dreams… and so Andy’s been trying hypnotism out with me, to get me to recall the details of my dreams. While I’m quite happy to talk to him freely about my dreams I wouldn’t say that I was in any sort of hypnotic trance, as Andy claims! I was simply talking to him, and remembering the details of a few particular dreams which I’ve had recently… and it is amazing how many details come rushing back when you take yourself back into your dream, and talk about it. It is a magical sensation, I’ll admit that. Yet at the same time I was quite aware of things going on around me, like the phone ringing, feeling cold or whatever… so while I’m not sure exactly what being in a hypnotic trance is like exactly, I don’t think I was in one by any means. Yet I could feel once again exactly the same sensations I had in my dream, for instance of being tall and walking around with high-heeled boots on which made a clopping noise against the floorboards. Or, in another dream I was a formless spirit on the ceiling, just watching. Recalling these dreams takes me right back to being there, but is this being in a trance?? I wonder…


This is the wonderful name of an evening event involving poetry and art… once again, I’ll leave Andy to elaborate as he knows much more about it than I do. All I know is that we’re going later this week, despite the fact that the event takes place upstairs above a café. Someone told Andy that last time he went to this venue he saw a chap in a Ziggy there, but he doesn’t know how the chap got up the stairs… still, it must be possible. I was immediately intrigued by the name – which apparently is a Cornish delicacy involving pilchards. While this pie doesn’t sound that promising… maybe the event, run by an artist, musician, and writer friend Gary Parkinson, will be worth a try – if I manage to get up the notoriously narrow and steep stairs, that is.


It’s time to make my views on one of my pet hates known, which now seem to be becoming a more and more frequent hazard. Not only are speed bumps potentially damaging to the vehicle, but also to the people inside the car. I’m heartily sick of having to be sat up again and again whenever going over a speed bump shakes me down in Ziggy. I’m sure I’m not the only one to complain about this – pregnant women must also feel the discomfort caused by speed bumps, not to mention other people in Ziggy or even those who are old. While I was in France I noticed the absence of speed bumps over there, so perhaps they are just a stupid British invention… anyway, I’m sure they don’t do anything to stop vehicles speeding. Even if they do, couldn’t some other method be used which is less of a discomfort to people in Ziggies?



So far, I’ve been full of negative thoughts about the winter ahead, but just to contradict all this, this morning dawned really bright and sunny… so off we decided to go to Wythenshawe park. I wasn’t sure if they’d still have the Ziggy bikes there in winter, but we had a go on the same one as last time. Even Stan had a go at peddling, and once again I enjoyed the sensation so much that I thought to myself: we simply must get ourselves a Ziggy bike as soon as possible. Even without the warmth of the summer, it’s still a wonderful sensation of the closest thing to freedom I’ll ever get! When Brigitte and I had finished on the Ziggy bike, we found Andy examining a 1970’s double Ziggy bike… I wanted to have a go on it, but Andy did better than that – he actually bought it then and there! We haven’t actually managed to bring it home yet as it’s pretty big and would take up the whole van… when Andy collects it he’ll need to make some modifications on the seat, and then it’ll be ready to go! I’m looking forward to enjoying some winter Ziggy cycling round and about… the advantage of it being a double means that someone else can have a ride as well as me!


My fairy story is now nearing completion and has still been a major distraction from The Space Between, as you will see in Raw Materials. I have been enjoying writing Catching the Light so much that I am determined to repeat the experience, though I haven’t written anything very much for children before. In fact I’m not even sure if my story would appeal exclusively to children, and one of my major worries about it is that it’s a bit complicated… though I hope that both adults and children will be able to read and enjoy it. It’s extremely visual: simply full of colour, which makes me think about a beautiful cover for it – I’m hoping to get Jack interested enough to want to illustrate it. Anyway, Andy says the story is short enough for us to be able to print it… so it should be ready early next year. I do hope everyone will be as excited about this as I am myself, and will support this new venture for me into the realms of fantasy writing! Though the story’s based on Wilde’s life, there’s an awful lot of fictional characters embroidered into it from Wilde’s Dorian Gray - so the whole thing is a complete mishmash of history and fantasy, but more hopefully fantasy, because all the historical characters are things like giants, elves, people made of glass etc. The only way you’ll see what I mean is by ordering your own copy, which you’ll be able to do in the new year.


I confess to having forgotten completely about my promise to publish my novel Killing Time in the autumn… so this novel should be ready by the spring. I blame Catching the Light for distracting me… I suppose it’s a good advert for how obsessive my fairy story is. Anyway Killing Time is already just about laid out on CD format, so it just needs a cover illustration. I’m not quite sure about this one yet, as it’s such an ambitious tale in which the heroine is taken over by the spirit of a Victorian prostitute, and so I’m not sure whether to base the cover in Victorian times or not. She’s taken back to the time when Jack the Ripper stalked the streets in 1888… so possibly this feeling of the Victorian East End fog will be on the cover. Remembering the novel now makes me feel quite excited about it – although it’s nothing at all like Dry Rot, which was written just a few years earlier. It’s completely different, being based in the East End of London - oh, and Wilde appears in it… surprisingly enough. This was actually the first novel of mine in which he made an appearance, and as it’s set in 1888 he’s actually nearing the height of his success. Also this novel involves the first ever appearance of Harriet from The Space Between, the East End prostitute as she was then. I’ll say more about Killing Time nearer its publication…


I’ve been very much distracted once again by Catching The Light, which I’m finding totally addictive. As I go further with the story, it becomes more and more a fantastic tale, which seems to have no barriers, because it’s set in a magical realm where fact becomes entangled with fantasy. While a lot of the characters are based on historical ones, they’re pretty crazy… beings made of glass or fire or wood, giants and elves etc. It’s extremely exciting to write as the story moves on quickly and I don’t have to worry about explaining the logic of the situation or making them particularly credible. I simply must write some more stuff in the same vein… though nobody’s actually read it yet. I feel pretty happy with it myself, though I’ve yet to hear other people’s reaction. I’m particularly anxious to get some children’s reaction as I want the story to be enjoyed by them without it being necessary to be familiar with the historical background of Wilde’s life. it’ll be interesting to hear Jack’s comments - if I can actually get him to read it that is!

So it was a bit of an effort initially to take a break from the fairytale, but I’d already decided to put a piece of The Space Between in this issue. It’s a bit different from the last piece where the characters from Wilde’s Dorian Gray were entangled with Gustave and Lucien Pissaro. I thought we should get back to Harriet and move the story on a bit further. I’m very aware of spending too long on a single situation that doesn’t seem to change, even though this is the way things often are in reality… things go on and on in the same state, just really boring!! Yet the joy of fiction is that it doesn’t portray reality. The difficulty is making the novel progress and not become too static, so when I wrote this piece I wasn’t happy with it as I thought it was too realistic – Jack didn’t actually say anything to Harriet! I added more to the conversation and hope that this works… do send me your comments on it. the extract goes straight into Harriet’s conversation with Jack who’s just returned from sailing from America with Georges. The conversation takes place at the Freedom Press.

No matter how much I’m distracted by other things, it always all comes back to me in a minute… once you start writing a novel, you just can’t leave it – the very notion doesn’t bear thinking about!! Not only does Harriet’s situation come rushing back, but other characters too, and I’m always aware of the general shape of the novel in terms of the whole year I’m writing about. I still see this novel only going on for a few more years, though I’m still undecided exactly how to end it. I’m not too anxious though, as I’m sure it’ll come quite naturally.


Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010


Following Wilde’s death, it’s now 1905. the copy of Wilde’s manuscript that he gave to Gustave on his deathbed has ended up in the hands of Harriet, who gave it to Jack. Jack and Georges have taken it with them to America, where they’ve been for several months, though Georges promised Harriet he’d return. This extract takes place in the Freedom Press in Whitechapel, where Harriet has been staying. Jack has just returned home.


CHAPTER 5 - 1905

“So, still no sign of Georges?” She asked tentatively.

“No,” Jack said flatly. He moved closer to the fire and stood there for a while, rubbing his hands together. His expression was unrecognisable to Harriet, had he really grown so much older this past year? When finally he caught Harriet’s eye, she still didn’t feel that he was being completely honest with her. He tried to smile but it didn’t work at all and the expression collapsed. “He’s still in New Orleans. He’s not coming back for a while.”

“Oh.” Every move Harriet made seemed suddenly weighted against the incredible silence. The clink of the cups set her teeth on edge, as did the thought of Georges’ wife and comfortable home. As she handed Jack his tea their fingers touched, and she was suddenly warmed by his presence there. “Well… at least you came back – I’m glad about that anyway,” she said in a rush, turning away to hide her emotions.

“I wanted to,” Jack said after a pause in which he stared vaguely out of the window into the backyard, betraying the affection he felt for these Whitechapel streets. “This is my home, this is where I want to stay. Georges asked me to stay with him but I didn’t want to, so here I am.” There was an awkward pause in which Harriet waited for the boy to go on. Growing suddenly impatient, he changed the subject. “I’ve changed my mind, I’m not going sailing ever again! Not to America or nowhere!” He fell silent and there were several moments before he could regain sufficient control of his voice to continue. His tone was so bitter, it was not difficult for Harriet to see the boy’s closeness to Georges had been interrupted for some reason. “Don’t worry, I’ve thought about this and I’m going to keep working at the docks… but I’m not going to go away again,” he said calmly. So calmly in fact that the words seemed harsh.

“Jack… wait, what’s brought this on?” Harriet asked abruptly, “You’ve always wanted to be a sailor, why has it suddenly changed? You’ve not… had an argument with Georges, have you?”

Jack shook his head firmly, though she noticed that he would not meet her eye.

“Not Georges, no.” He gave a shrug and sighed, kicking the fender viciously with his boot. “I just didn’t want to stay there with his family, I didn’t fit in at all.” He raised his eyes to Harriet very slowly. “I didn’t like his wife at all… and it made it worse because he wanted to stay there with her. It didn’t seem fair, the whole thing, because I knew that he should be here with you. He’d told me just that before we left… that he was going to come back to London to be with you, and yet he’d changed his mind. It just didn’t seem right, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. So I think I’ll probably go sailing again, but not with him.”

Harriet stood immobile, her eyes fixed on a vague patch of damp creeping up the wall immediately ahead of her. The sinking feeling inside her seemed to become a crushing one, never to be lessened. Georges’ wife materialised in her mind – a laughing, scarlet-lipped figure with strawberry blond curls. She shook her head violently, trying to get rid of the image, but it clung on with a startling tenacity – she wanted to take Jack’s hand and pull him to her, but she knew she couldn’t, he wouldn’t let her. When she spoke it was as if her voice had been crushed and completely flattened.

“Georges wife… do you think he’ll ever come back? Maybe… do you think he’ll change his mind?”

This time Jack didn’t kick the fender, but only gently nudged it, but somehow the sharpness of the motion conveyed his answer and his feelings of the bleakness of the situation with even more drama, without making any sound. Quietly the boy turned and left the room, leaving Harriet staring at the damp patch, feeling it creeping over her entire life to consume it. she could feel the hairs on her arm moving gently as though Georges’ hand were stroking her flesh, the undulating rhythm of the quivering, tidal motion of the sea, her eyes stung but no tears would come to ease the situation.



Welcome to Andy’s bit…


Just for the record, in case you think I’ve been hypnotising Nic, let me tell you it was just a bit of fun. However, the interesting thing that emerged was that amazingly she could hear everything that I said to her during the session. I simply tapped her knees and told her that she was now in a hypnotic trance and that when I tapped her left knee again that she would be ‘wide awake and back in the room’. Using this simple ‘method’ I managed to get her to recall a couple of dreams.


As some of you may already know, I do a little blogging now and then about Doktir Nairobi. Doktir Nairobi is a fictional character, Doktir is a given name and is not to be confused with the medical profession as he certainly is not a doctor. Anyway about twenty years ago, we started a little magazine called WN Funzine and the bottom line is that the latest issue will be released in the very near future.


The next six issues of WN will be concentrating on degrees, not the type that some of you may have from University but more like the degrees in a circle. The first issue in this series will be WN 60° and this will be followed in sixty days by WN 120° and then by WN 180° a mere sixty days later. The interesting thing (to me) about all this is that WN 60° is due to come out exactly sixty days after WN 119 which falls exactly sixty days after WN 118 and if you work it all the way back to issue One, you’ll find that WN 1 came out on the first of April 1991, which of course was April fools day. The name WN Funzine started life as World Nairobics Funzine and was subtitled Space Travel for Beginners.




As Nic has already told the world, we are now the proud owners of a Ziggy Bike, well nearly. You see, we were fortunate enough to have been able to purchase an Indonesian Rickshaw from a local cycling group this week – but it does need a bit of work doing to it to make it safe and suitable for Nic. The state of play at the moment is that I have stripped it down completely and identified the things that need fixing. The biggest repair mechanically is to the front wheel axle where the thread is badly stripped causing a wobble and making the machine pull to one side a bit as you ride it. There was also a couple of nuts missing off strategic bolts here and there and a couple more that needed a good tightening, and one of the cotter pins on the pedal crank needed replacing too. Anyway, it’s an ongoing project, and I’m sure you’ll hear much more about it in future issues of this publication.

MORE FROM Urban Scrawl Andy in December.

Thanks for reading Raw Meat -

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  • At 9:57 am, Blogger Nick Simons said…

    Despite the dreariness of November, this is a rivetting edition of "Rawmeat". Full of excitement and new ideas. Thanks, Nicola & Andy & I hope to see you soon, always such a huge pleasure.Nick Simons

  • At 6:01 am, Blogger lydiannacat said…

    Hello Nic, Andy and Jack !
    What a surprise and a delight to find you online. I've thought about you all, many times over the years. Glad to see you are still writing. I'm looking forward to reading what you've been up to on this great blog.
    Love from Carol, John and our baby Tommy x x x

  • At 1:03 pm, Blogger Nicola Batty said…

    How amazing to hear from you carol! i haven't forgotten you either and in fact have simply longed to get in touch once again, but thought it was impossible - until now. I've still such fond memories of you, and also John with his Star Wars belt. do you want my email address, so we can write propperly? It's nicbat3963@aol.com let me know how you're doing these days!!

    good to hear from you too nick, it's been a while - I shall email you presently!!

  • At 3:46 pm, Blogger Andy Sewina said…

    From Sheila Heard


    Thanks! I wanted to post this message but had to have a google account or blog
    or sth. So couldn't post.

    Glad you've got the bike!! Go for it and get it fixed up. Double....can't wait!

    love Sheila xxxx

  • At 9:48 am, Blogger Nick Simons said…

    Can't wait to see this remarkable bike in action! I've vividly memories of pushing Nicola back from Manchester Art Gallery on a cold autumn evening, & Nic sliding forward
    in the chair every five minutes!
    I remember ringing a stranger's doorbell to get help to lift her back in the seat! This bike sounds sensational, Andy my Man, get it fixed for my next visit to Moss Side!!
    Luv ya all, Nick Simons


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