August 2010 Issue 119
My intention was to make this issue of the newsletter a truly golden one… but whether or not Andy has been able to get the computer to comply with my wishes, I wouldn’t like to say! Still, the idea was there anyway. Last month my parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, so now I’d like to dedicate this issue to them – even if it is a bit too late!
A few weeks ago there was a complete family get-together at my mum and dad’s house, or rather in the garden, because it actually wasn’t raining for once!! It’s a rare occurrence indeed to get all my sisters and brother and Jack and Andy and even my mum’s sister together at the same time. Surprisingly there were no arguments or curt silences as there used to be on family occasions such as these… but nowadays it’s just really nice to see everyone and have a chat. There was plenty of good food and wine, even a golden gazebo tied with balloons, and lots of presents of course. I think that mum and dad really enjoyed the whole thing as well… fifty years together still seems unbelievable to me! Ah, the passing of time…
I haven’t been up to any more crazy stunts on a Ziggy bike recently… but I did go on some of the rides at a theme park near Chorley recently. I wanted to go back to Camelot because I remember so well everything about it… I hoped I could still enjoy all the medieval feel to it, even without my sight. Well, perhaps that was being slightly too ambitious… because the whole thing was extremely confusing as it’s pretty noisy all the time, so I was completely in the dark!! But I must be getting used to that situation now, because I still greatly enjoyed just being there, even if I could only appreciate it fully afterwards, if you see what I mean. I was particularly impressed by the jousting they did… two chaps dressed in armour on real horses, which must be well trained, I thought. On this particular occasion one of the lances actually broke, which must happen pretty frequently… also I thought the knights must get injured sometimes, falling off horses all the time! Presumably they must be stunt riders or actors or something, and they must be paid extremely well!! Also there was sword fighting, which was actually more like sword hitting, and a jester. I had to imagine a awful lot of the medieval background… the stripy tents, the castle façade even the horses, as I couldn’t touch them or hear their hooves. But nonetheless it was great just to be there and get the sensations that I could!
Of course I reacted enthusiastically to Brigitte’s suggestion that we go on a few of the rides. This is something I hadn’t done since loosing my sight, but I didn’t hesitate for a moment… with Brigitte beside me, what could possibly happen? Besides that, I remember the Dragon Flyer really well, and used to love the temptation of speed so much that I was just glad I could go on it again. Andy told me afterwards the Camelot staff who were around on the rides were all really cool and helpful… even if they weren’t allowed to actually physically help because of bloody insurance, which I’m well used to. Fortunately both Brigitte and Andy were there to help, so there was no problem. After the Dragon Flyer we went on the Whirlwind which was a bit confusing, not least because I felt everything going round and round, without realising that we were travelling forward at the same time along a sort of roller coaster. I must admit that I hesitated slightly before going on the Knightmare… it sounded pretty scary by the sound of it. But Brigitte said it was just like a roller coaster, so I thought “oh why not?” It actually felt just like a roller coaster… I still love that sensation of speed, going down really fast. It’s really wonderful, not half as scary as it could be… if I could see, I think I’d be much more scared. I think of all the rides Dragon Flyer was still my favourite… even outdoing the Ziggy bike for sheer exhilaration!
We’ve not been doing anything much of late, mainly because of the totally nondescript weather. Ever since we arrived back from Worthing, it’s been grey and cloudy… even rainy from time to time. Andy and I actually went to Blackpool a few weeks ago, such was my boredom with life and everything in it!! I must have been desperate, because I hate Blackpool… and my feelings hadn’t changed much, despite the fact that Blackpool prides itself on being totally Ziggy friendly. In fact that’s one of the main reasons I don’t like it – it’s all so artificial, miles and miles of promenade, along which we could cycle if we had a Ziggy bike, Andy told me enthusiastically. I wasn’t impressed with the idea though – it would be really boring without hills, countryside and speed! Added to all this, the tide was out so there was no smell or sound of the sea. For some reason all the piers were shut so the place was like a ghost town, really silent and sinister. What happened to all the summertime tourists with their silly hats and ice reams?? Andy suggested moving to Blackpool and opening a B&B… to which I made no comment!
We’ve almost finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – in fact, we’re on the last chapter. More than with the actual story, I’m impressed with the sinister atmosphere of the city following and atomic explosion… whether or not there was a war I’m not sure, but anyway San Francisco is totally unrecognisable. Of course there’s very few people actually left – most have emigrated to Mars, which must surely be overpopulated as a planet! Anyway there seem to be more androids than people… which makes Rick’s job as an android hunter seems pretty risky, not to mention pointless. The book concentrates on the relationships between androids and humans, and also between androids and other androids but still, it’s the background I find so haunting… the sinister constant rainfall, which I still remember from Blade Runner, the film version of the book.
A BIRMINGHAM JUNGLE
We made a hastily arranged rendezvous with Sheila in the depths of Birmingham, you can imagine my surprise at finding myself surrounded by trailing vines and banana trees… only afterwards did I discover that we were in fact in the botanical gardens, which I’ve heard my sister Lesley (who lives in Birmingham) talk about. I formed a new theory about the smell of brightly coloured, exotic flowers – they don’t seem to smell as much as you’d expect. It’s as if they think looking striking is enough. Outside the greenhouse there were several cages filled with a strange variety of birds, including some weird fowl, like peacocks only they had no tail. But the bodies of these monals were so striking that they didn’t really need a tail – a mixture of emerald, different shades of blue, topped with a beautiful golden crown. I’d never heard of these creatures before. They may have looked great but when they opened their beaks, a hideous squawking came out, completely shattering the illusion of beauty!
Despite my best intentions, I’ve not yet come up with the goods… so this issue won’t include a piece about Harriet as I hoped it would. Once again I’ve been busy writing other things, so more Writers’ Island pieces are here instead for you to feast your eyes on. Let’s hope you find them as fascinating as do other readers… the amount of comments I’ve received about them so far have amazed me. several people have urged me to go on with the Alice story so that’s just what I am doing. It’s very addictive to write, very much like a soap opera I suppose, only with much more scope for the imagination, as it involves magic and time travel! It’s great fun to write, very easy… Andy called the idea behind Writers’ Island, “an exercise in creative writing,” which sums it up exactly.
For the Reunion piece, I decided to name the beautiful young witch from a film I saw many years ago, which I was so impressed by that I still remember it in great detail. It was a Swedish film and the main character, Elvira, fell in love with a young soldier and they ran away together. The last few scenes in the film were wonderful… the couple are starving and they search around for mushrooms in the grass. In the end the young soldier shoots Elvira in the head and then himself. If that wasn’t enough, Andy told me that it’s a true story! I don’t think I’ll ever forget those scenes… but anyway, Elvira had to be resurrected in my story, although it’s nothing like as tragic. I don’t know where the story’s going to lead to, as I just write according to the theme each week – if something else inspires me in some other direction, then I’ll leave Alice for a while. It’s really nice having no boundaries for once, a bit of a change from novel writing.
Actually, something else has been distracting me from The Space Between, and that’s Catching The Light. I’ve been continuing with my children’s story, as I said I would, I couldn’t possibly leave it at the first chapter, especially as I had the rough outline in my head. Although it’s based on Wilde’s life, it also involves his writing, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was fascinated by something that Oscar said in a letter to a friend, about Dorian Gray being autobiographical in so far that he himself appeared split in two, the artist, and Dorian Gray himself. The Portrait of Dorian Gray can also be seen in Wilde’s relationship with Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas). Dorian actually physically resembles Bosie almost exactly, even though Oscar wrote the novel before they actually met. So I wanted to interweave all these ideas and this was the perfect opportunity, with a fairy tale involving plenty of imagination. I’m a bit worried that I’ve made it too complicated and involved… but my hope is that it’s also quite easy to read and enjoy without having to know all the Wilde background. I can see it all in my head – I think it would make a fantastic animated film.
HERE’S A COUPLE OF MY WRITER’S ISLAND PIECES
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010
Without another word Bartholomew led Alice over the fender and stepped into the ashes which covered the grate. He hesitated for a moment before closing his eyes tightly, a look of intense concentration furrowing his brow.
“I’m not at all sure this’ll work when there’s no fire,” he told Alice quickly, “but it’s worth a try anyway. I’m going to try and go back to my old school, Hogwart’s… I left it a couple of years ago.”
Alice glanced up at the young wizard uncertainly.
“What do I do?” she asked, “How can I help with the magic?”
Bartholomew shook his head, concentrating hard and clutching Alice’s hand close to him.
“You can’t do anything, I just have to lead the way and think of wherever I want to go. You just follow.”
“Alright,” stepping into the grate and being instantly enclosed by darkness, falling down… and seeing around her head spinning shreds of energy, places, people she had never met and did not recognise… still she kept falling, unaware of the young wizard clutching her hand.
Eventually she realised that her surroundings had become still. She gazed around back over her shoulder and thought at first that the room was her father’s study back in Victorian Oxford – for she was sure she could smell both the chalk dust and the age of academic books. Alice turned, eyeing curiously the bent and beautiful head of a young woman sat behind the huge dark wood desk in the centre of the room; beside her she felt Bartholomew’s grip on her arm suddenly tighten. The young woman behind the desk unwound herself slowly as she rose to her feet, her dark hair falling almost to her waist. She had the most beautiful emerald eyes Alice had ever seen in her life. the young woman’s face broke into a wide smile as she caught sight of the two figures in the grate. She moved towards them with her arms outstretched.
“Bartholomew… Bartholomew Dross? Where have you been? Come here” she exclaimed breathlessly, her arms enclosing the wizard and pulling him to her with a strength that unnerved Alice. “Come here, you errant young wizard, you! I thought you’d left me for good!”
Bartholomew shifted uncomfortably in the room he was obviously enjoying himself. “I told you I’d be back… Professor Madigan,” the young wizard said so warmly. “I couldn’t just leave you, could I?”
The beautiful witch screamed with laughter throwing back her head so that her long black hair swung out behind her.
“I’ve told you before not to call me Professor… it keeps us at such a distance, Bart… and we know each other fairly well now don’t we?” so saying, she stroked the young wizard’s cheek gently with her fingernails which Alice noticed were filed to sharp points. Alice gave a little cough; she felt distinctly uneasy. As Professor Madigan switched her gaze onto the little girl.
“I’m glad to see you once again – I couldn’t believe I’d lost you within the labyrinth of time and dimension, I knew you’d come back to me. she took a step backwards, looking at Alice coldly. “But I see you’re not alone, my dear boy. Who’s your travelling companion?”
Alice squirmed beneath the intensity of the witches green eyes – but she could say nothing.
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010
The beautiful young witch narrowed her emerald eyes as she looked at the little girl standing before her.
“Wait a minute… I’m sure I recognise you from a book when I used to teach English literature” she said thoughtfully, “Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There… I believe that’s the full title. I used to teach it before I turned to the realms of magic, and moved on to become a teacher of Necromancy at Hogwart’s several years ago. Where Bart and I know each other from… isn’t that right, Bart?”
Breaking off, she slipped out surreptitiously into Bart’s robes; the young wizard glanced towards Alice uneasily.
“Professor Madigan… don’t,” he muttered in a low voice as he shifted from one point to the other, fidgeting with the hem of his robe. “You’re embarrassing me… not to mention Alice. Remember, she’s a well brought up Victorian girl.”
“Come along now Bart – I’ve told you before that we’re on first name terms now, surely?” The witch sidled up closer to Bart, wrapping her arms around her. “I’m Elvira to you now… don’t you remember that evening in my office?” she glanced dismissively at Alice, giving an impatient tut as she turned back to Bart. “As for you my Victorian friend… I don’t know what you think you’re doing here. You don’t belong here at all do you? How did you manage to step over the boundaries of time? Is it something in the floo powder do you think Bart?”
“I don’t think so,” objected Bart quickly, “ we haven’t used the floo powder yet – have we Alice?”
The little black and white figure glanced up shyly, twisting her apron strings rubbing one grey stockinged leg with the other foots black shoe.
“Mister Dross is right, Professor Madigan I’ve not done any time travelling at all… just look around the room. What do you see?”
The witch gazed slowly all around, swivelling her bright green eyes as she took in the monotone surroundings. The vivid blue shades on her robe stood out starkly against the background.
“I see what you mean… everything is straight out of the Tenniel illustration for the book. Which means that…” she paused, tapping her teeth with one pointed scarlet fingernail. “We’re the ones who’ve done the time travelling, me and young Bart not you, Alice… we’re still in your age, aren’t we? That’s the first time I’ve ever travelled in time with floo powder, I must admit – that’s quite impressive. How do you think we managed to do that going backwards?”
Bart gave a shrug, looking away.
“It’s my first time as well Elvira. I don’t know how we managed it… something in the mind control, maybe.”
MORE RAW MATERIALS IN SEPTEMBER
Welcome to Andy’s bit…
I don’t seem to have done much in the Blogisphere lately, in fact I think the last post I made was on this very page a month ago. I haven’t put anything new on any of my blogs for six weeks or more, and I haven’t checked my e-mails. The e-mails are the thing I’m dreading dealing with as I usually get around seventy a day when I’m blogging. Fortunately most of them are comments, or more correctly, notifications of comments on my blog posts. Anyway…
Jack’s gone off to The Big Chill festival in Herefordshire this weekend, he’s taken Wellington boots with him and if the weather’s anything like it is here in Manchester, I think he’s going to need them. Although it’s not actually raining at the minute, the general outlook looks more like winter than summer, in fact it’s been like this non-stop since we returned from Worthing a few weeks ago.
Nic still wants to go camping in Normandy and to visit Paris in September, and we’ve just been invited to a wedding in Poland. I really don’t know how we can fit all these things in and go to Holland and Denmark to look at Ziggy bikes and to Southampton for a days sailing on a tall ship. Then there’s the Wibberley Wobbly Walk on the 25th of September, and the Manchester Ataxia Branch meeting and the 2nd annual knees up to look forward to and all in September. As for August we’ve still got the bank holiday weekend, the start of the football season and a hatful of birthdays to look forward to.
On the 13th of August, it will not only be Nic’s sister Lesley’s birthday or my old mate Cid Maher’s birthday, but it will also be the fifth anniversary of me giving up smoking!MORE FROM URBAN SCRAWL ANDY IN SEPTEMBER
Thanks for reading!!!!