December 2010 Issue 123
Before we go any further I want to dedicate this issue to a friend of mine, Bob Hall, who died recently. He was a great supporter of my writing generally, and more specifically RAW MEAT, which he used to read and criticise regularly! He was always ready to give me new ideas – and it was he who suggested hiring out a Ziggy bike at the national park. I think he’d appreciate an issue of the Newsletter being dedicated to him, with all my thanks and love.
It may seem a little early to be surrounded by thick snow, though I haven’t actually been out in it! I’m told that it looks really pretty and scenic in the countryside, but Manchester itself doesn’t do much to help snow look beautiful and it mostly looks disgusting and slushy – and anyway, I don’t think Ziggy would be able to tackle deep snow in the parks. I’m reminded of the time we went to the Carpathian mountains in Romania, where my friend was skiing. We got stuck several times when we tried to go out into the countryside around about the town. Someone should design some special attachable skis for Ziggy’s wheels. All the snow may well look beautiful, but it’s too cold for my liking, I’m afraid.
While we’ve been spending so much time inside we’ve been continuing to read Eric Clapton’s autobiography… but his tales of the estate he’s just moved into in the Bahamas didn’t do anything to make me feel better about this winter weather! In fact I’m filled with envy. All his talk of a paradise island with its white sandy beaches and constant music, just made me feel really restless – I really must go to such exotic places as soon as possible. Are any of my readers interested in coming with me?
To return to Mr Clapton’s book… he’s now living with Pattie Harrison, George’s wife, which seems to be quite an open affair, she must have a thing about guitarists, because she’s actually just married Eric – though I don’t think it’s going to last as it looks pretty shaky already. Though I’d never heard about it before, his autobiography is quite fascinating to read, as it’s totally different from a simple biography which just states facts and dates without giving any idea of how the other person feels about the things that are going on around him. I admire Mr Clapton for being so honest… for instance, his obsession with a young girl called Alice when he was with Derrick and the Dominoes, around that time he was messing around with heroin and he introduced the nineteen year old Alice to it – I think that’s quite a bold claim to make these days.
CATCHING THE LIGHT
My short story is now completed and ready to print, we’re just awaiting Dad’s cover illustration – which I feel is an essential part of the book, and so I can’t feel totally confident about it being ready by xmas as I originally hoped. Having said this I know that Andy and Stan both think it will be ready in the next couple of weeks, so there you are, take your choice! Perhaps the boys will be right after all… the story actually worked out like a short fairytale, along the lines of Oscar Wilde’s – that is, filled with vibrant colour and light. It was a truly magical experience, writing it… one which I have every intention of repeating as soon as possible. Although it is intended for children, I hope that it also appeals to adults, particularly those who know something about Oscar. Having said that, I’m very keen that Catching the Light should be equally enjoyable at surface level, as Oscar himself said, the visual surface is every bit as important as the deep and meaningful! I hope that you’ll place your orders within the next few weeks, and please leave your comments, they’re much appreciated!! I can’t think of producing it without it looking beautiful – fantastic boarders etc, which will take time of course. So please be patient, It’ll be worth it.
TOUCH AND GO
Over the past ten years, the sense of touch has become absolutely essential to me. nowadays, most people realise that until they touch me I don’t know they’re there! I’ve noticed several interesting events around recently which seemed to show some awareness of this reliance as opposed to sight. Such as a theatre event we read about recently. My interest was aroused at once when we found out that Shakespeare’s Hamlet was coming soon, for this has always been my favourite – I like a nice bit of tragedy! But particularly interesting was the touch tour before hand – the brochure didn’t go into much detail, but we think it’s where blind people are allowed to go and touch the set – and perhaps the costumes? I’m not sure but it sounds like a great idea – I feel totally lost with a lot of theatre because I have no idea how the play looks until afterwards when someone describes it to me. My favourite play should become more immediate and real to me this time.
We’ve also discovered a touching safari in South Africa, though apparently there are quite a few others to choose from. They’re mostly in National Parks and involve camping as well; obviously you can’t touch the lions and tigers but the website mentioned cheetahs which are also pretty wild. I think I’m going to apply to the Jerry Farr travel fund this year with the idea of one of these touching safaris. I want to experience something like this; which encourages blind people to go out and enjoy life with other senses apart from sight.
With the snow remaining thick on the ground, it feels quite Christmassy already – though I suppose it’s not that far off! I must say I’m looking forward to the return of the warmth, especially because that should provoke Andy into some sort of action concerning the Ziggy bike!! I believe it’s currently lying in pieces in the shed – Andy tells me it’s his winter project… whatever that means. He’s confident the bike should be ready by the spring, well we shall see.
FINALLYMay I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Crimbo and New Year from everyone here at RAW MEAT
It took me ages to finally decide to return to this idea with Adrian Singleton, Gustav and Lucien… I was quite tempted to just leave it hanging but I thought it should come to some sort of conclusion. But at the same time, I don’t like definite conclusions, particularly not in this idea with Wilde’s Dorian Gray… I wanted to leave it fairly open. So in the end I decided to simply write this piece as a bit of an experiment, which turned out rather different to how I expected it to. I originally intended Gustav to find Adrian dead by his own hand. But I thought – it would be a much better mystery to leave it absolutely open, never concluded? Also, I continue to be intrigued by this idea of fictional characters stepping out into reality, even though I haven’t yet got round to reading the Inkheart books. I wanted to make my Adrian a real, solid character, and so to have him involved with opium and various young chaps, all gave added substance to him in The Space Between. It was very important to me that I should present him as quite a different character from Dorian Gray in as much as he’s become a solid character, a friend of Gustav and the Pissaro’s – to juxtapose these historical characters with my own fictional one (Gustav) and also with Wilde’s fictional one (Adrian) was exciting in the extreme! And even more so because I wasn’t at all sure it was going to work against the historical background of The Space Between… I had a strong suspicion the whole thing was going to sound extremely pretentious but in the end I just went ahead and wrote it. Well, I’d welcome your comments on it… but I myself am actually pretty pleased with the way it has worked out. To me it doesn’t sound pretentious at all, though this may be simply my obsession with Wilde and his fiction.
I must have gained a bit of confidence in writing this piece – it has made me want to go on and complete the chapter, if not the whole book. The Space Between seems to have taken on a new shape which I didn’t intend… it seems to have got tangled up with fiction so completely that I have no hesitation in continuing this embroidery into the final novel. I can now see the remaining few years of The Space Between quite clearly and I feel confident it should reach completion and most important is that I still feel excited about writing it, even after all this time!
Talking about The Spark now…which I wouldn’t blame you if you’d forgotten about completely, but I finally sent it off to this agent I was recommended by the creative writing team at Manchester University. The Spark was highly praised by them and they said it was too good for them to be able to handle themselves, and so they told me to try the agent, even though I’m dubious about the role of agents as a go between, but these days I think it wouldn’t do any harm at all to have someone else to give me a helping hand in practical matters concerning publishers, proof reading… all that stuff, so I’m waiting now to hear… even though I feel that The Spark needs much editing, which is pretty much beyond my physical limits at the moment. I’m hoping the agents will agree and be willing to help. Such are my hopes… they may turn out to be futile, but what have I got to lose by trying?
THE SPACE BETWEEN
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2010
THE STORY SO FAR…
There are only two copies of Wilde’s manuscript in 1905; one of them has travelled to America with Georges and Jack, the second has been printed as a book by Charles Ricketts and is in the possession of his friend Kathleen. In the meantime, Gustav and Lucien Pissaro have met an old friend, Adrian Singleton, who needed their help to get home as he had been taking opium. The following extract takes place at Adrian’s house, to which Gustav and Esther Pissaro have returned to some months later to check everything’s alright with Adrian. However, there’s no answer when they knock at the door so Gustav breaks in, leaving Esther in the garden. NOW READ ON:
CHAPTER 5 – 1905
Esther waited nervously, feeling Gustav’s sense of unease begin to creep over her. All around nothing moved. The silence stretched and seemed to be waiting for something. She vaguely remembered the last time she had been here, in the garden with Adrian and Lucien… had Lucien really been there? She couldn’t be sure – but definitely Adrian had sat in the same wicker chair. She remembered it clearly for a moment, and then the memory was gone. She moved slowly towards the metal chair at the back of the garden, wondering if Adrian had been sitting there enjoying the summer sunshine, perhaps reading the book that she saw lying open on the chair. The slight movement of the pages fluttering over as the breeze caught them, seemed to be such a strange phenomenon that she hardly dared to lift the book from its resting place… The book felt heavy in her hands, and she saw that it was soaked by rain so that most of the pages stuck together and was probably ruined. She wondered how long it had been lying out there in the garden, days or even weeks? Closing the book she could still make out the title in gold letters stamped across the front: The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Of course, Oscar’s novel!
Esther had read it herself some years ago, though why Adrian had left it out here, she couldn’t imagine, and the apparent carelessness with which such a thing had occurred filled her with unease. Something was definitely wrong, Gustave was quite right to be scared. Esther felt it too and she glanced back at the house just as the back door was pushed open by Gustav. He walked towards her slowly without raising his head or catching her eye, so that it as very difficult for her to read anything into his expression.
“Well? What did you find?” she demanded.
Gustav was standing almost close enough to touch by the time he raised his head and met her eyes directly. He shook his head slightly without smiling.
“Nothing there… he’s gone completely. Taken all his clothes and everything. But this is the strange thing Esther… the table’s all laid out for dinner, but there’s no one there.” He gave a slight shrug and sighed heavily, continuing in a flat monotone that was quite lifeless and hollow. “I don’t know… I don’t know why this should feel so wrong. I expected to find him asleep… or even dead in a chair, but not just gone like this… something’s wrong.”
Esther drew in her breath sharply, staring.
“Surely not dead, Gustav… don’t say such things.” She reached out towards him quickly with tentative fingers, brushing his cheek as if to dissipate such thoughts from his mind. He seemed to be suddenly vulnerable, almost like a child in need of protection. She frowned and shook her head firmly. “You’ve no reason to think like that, have you? He’s probably just gone away.”
Gustav smiled briefly and gave a short laugh that didn’t work. “No, I’ve no reason… let’s hope you’re right, he’s just gone away somewhere. It just seem’s so strange. What’s that you’ve found, anyway?” Esther glanced down at the damp book in her hand – she had almost forgotten about it.
“A book that was left out here – it’s Oscar’s novel in fact. It looks like Adrian was reading it.” She handed the volume to Gustav who leafed through its soggy pages. “Looks like it’s been rained on. Take care not to tear the pages.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever read The Picture of Dorian Gray, though it feels too familiar to me just to hold the volume in my hands and turn the pages. It’s the strangest sensation Esther. Wait – what’s this?” he drew out a small piece of card from between the rain-soaked pages. Immediately Esther noticed that it was absolutely dry, bearing in beautiful ornate letters:
From paper I have come, and into paper I shall return.
Adrian had signed it in the same flowing ornate handwriting which seemed almost to breath with a life of its own as Gustav examined the piece of card. Handing it to Esther and quickly lifting his face to receive the full sunlight upon it so that he was forced to screw up his eyes. He could feel Esther’s confusion floating across to him like waves as she replaced the card inside Adrian’s book and closed it with a sharp snap.
“You haven’t read the book, Gustave?” Esther gave a short laugh and began to move away. “There’s a character called Adrian Singleton in the story… so I can only imagine Adrian’s making some sort of joke, he always did have a rather strange sense of humour, I remember.” She took Gustave’s hand reassuringly. “I wouldn’t worry about any of this… there’s a quite reasonable explanation I’m sure. Let’s go… there’s no more we can do here, he’s gone and that’s that. Let’s take this book with us… we can come back some time. Let’s take the book with us.”
When Gustav finally forced his eyes open, he could see only bright white spots of light that seemed to dance and circle around each other. Gradually the image of Esther’s dark hair and sharp features filtered back into his field of vision and he turned his back on the sun and followed her slowly out of the garden.
MORE FROM THE SPACE BETWEEN IN JANUARY
Welcome to Andy’s bit…
I was sad to hear of the passing of fellow writer Bob Hall, I have met him on a couple of occasions and he was a true inspiration to us all. Bob used to write a column or two, sometimes a page or more, in The Ataxian his piece was titled Hall's Balls and it was always the page that I read to Nic first. Bob would come up with gems like the following: Wisdom is not age-related. (The Ataxian Issue 123 August 1998) I'm not the impetuous youth I once was, naturally, but no doubt if left to my own devices the same ghastly, often excruciatingly embarassing mistakes would be excactly repeated. It isn't wisdom that comes with age, it's caution.
Many thanks to all of you for reading Nicola's Newsletter in 2010 and please, please, keep the comments coming and if you haven't already subscribed, you can do so now for free, by filling in the Online form in the sidebar. Have a Happy Christmas!