Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

January 2011 Issue 124

Nicola’s Editorial


I must say that it comes quite naturally to me to refer to this new year as twenty eleven after calling the previous year twenty ten. And anyway, don’t you think twenty eleven sounds much better than two thousand and eleven, which is a bit of a mouthful? I’ve noticed that everyone around me also calls this year twenty eleven… so maybe my way of thinking is catching on. It always seems to me that we should change the calendar to fit in with the seasons, it makes no sense to begin the new year right in the middle of winter while everything is still dead or dying. January is still so very cold and horribly dark and dismal… why don’t we just skip the rest of winter and go straight into spring and begin the new year then? This would be much more natural, to wait for all the animals and plants to begin to come to life once again. Instead we have yet more snow to cope with… I’m still waiting expectantly for our long awaited trip to Tenerife to materialize – if it’s not too late.


One of the most exciting things for me this Christmas was being involved with the creation of the cover illustration for my new story, which my dad is at the moment working on. He’s actually drawing it using the computer, hence I could choose every colour for each character. According to my dad, the characters are all on either side of the Palace Beautiful… it sounds absolutely wonderful to me, and I can’t wait until it’s finished!! Dad’s also done a simple border design for the inside pages, which I feel is essential as I want the book to look like a complete work of art… certainly not your average paperback. Dad thinks that the cover should be ready by February, so I hope you’ll be ready to order your copy then – I know we missed the Christmas rush, but Catching the Light should be worth waiting for.


Over the cold, dark Christmas period I’ve been doing lots of reading, continuing with Eric Clapton’s autobiography. Several weeks ago we read about the sudden death of his five year old son – and ever since then the horrific story has been playing on my mind to such an extent that I just can’t get rid of it. The whole story of Conor’s fall from fifty two floors up seems to me to be absolutely unbelievable… how could such an accident have occurred? Apparently the apartment Conor shared with his mum had floor to ceiling windows which the young boy must have smashed right into and fallen… I think it sounds as if Conor was in a state of some excitement, as he was expecting his dad to come and take him to the zoo. Reading such details in Eric’s autobiography seem even more horrific… even though I remember my mum telling me about it in the early nineties, reading Eric’s side of it brings home how traumatic the whole thing must have been to cope with. I listened to Eric’s song written for Conor, Tears From Heaven, which I had never heard before. It must have been extremely traumatic for Mr. Clapton to write such a song without making him feel that he was cashing in on Conor’s death… which I’m sure he wasn’t.


Still on the subject of Eric Clapton, another thing that strikes me about his autobiography is his fascination with psychology… a fascination which he shares with another hero of mine, Peter Gabriel. I don’t know if there’s any link between being a famous musician and wanting to develop the mind, but Eric’s just bought a plot of land in the Caribbean and hopes to build his own sort of retreat… which is vaguely medical but more counselling etc. I remember reading in Peter Gabriel’s biography about his strange experiences of taking part in some research into Sensory Deprivation at a psychological centre. He was made to lie in a warm bath in a darkened room, so that you simply floated with no other sense around… Mr. Gabriel found the experience absolutely wonderful and said he lost all sense of the passage of time, but I think it must have been pretty scary as well, having no light or sound, or even being able to touch anything.


Time for a total change of subject now. I went to the Natural History Museum in Manchester recently and decided to check out the live animals they have there. You might remember me telling you about the collection of frogs and lizards they had at the museum last year – this year it has been improved slightly by the addition of another sort of frog, a horned frog. Brigitte described this frog as absolutely massive, and it actually sounded pretty fierce with teeth – though I don’t know whether or not they were pointed as the frog kept it’s mouth firmly shut. The designs on the frogs back sounded beautiful, wonderful patterns and colours, which perhaps were intended as an additional warning to other creatures. My favourite frog is still the tomato frog, who inflates like a balloon when it’s threatened and is an amazing scarlet colour. Along side these frogs was another interesting addition, a chameleon… although it’s colours weren’t particularly exciting, because his background wasn’t either! I remembered my intentions last year of sponsoring one of these creatures… I still don’t know if the museum have introduced such a scheme yet, but I’m sure other people would also be interested in taking part.


Another total change of subject… I don’t know what it is about this month’s issue, perhaps this says something about the state of my mind at the moment. Anyway, I’ve just begun writing a short story about my old favourite, the axe murderess. However I wanted to make this story quite different by not concentrating on the fateful day in Fall River, when Lizzie supposedly slaughtered her father and stepmother… I thought that I had written quite enough already about that. I rather wanted to show the old Lizzie, for it fascinated me that she went on living in Fall River, with her sister, for the rest of her life, within sight of the house where the murders took place. She surely must have been haunted by memories of that day, though I don’t believe she and her sister talked much about it… the fact that it was mostly unspoken between them made it no less real. Though Lizzie was taken to trial for the murders, she was acquitted – perhaps due to public opinion – the very fact that a nicely brought up woman, such as Lizzie Borden, could have possibly done such a thing as butcher her parents with an axe was unthinkable, and so Lizzie’s case was hastily dropped. Although it’s quite difficult to avoid using all those wonderful images of blood and axes, I thought that it would make the story much more powerful to simply concentrate on the two elderly sisters… leaving all those horrific memories far behind but never quite forgotten.


For several months now I’ve been considering beginning writing a story and putting it on my blog for people to read and comment on – hopefully I should get some feedback as I believe I have quite a few followers! I have ideas in my head for several stories – the one I’ve chosen to start with is an old title, Discovered… I hope that readers of RAW MEAT will have a look at my blog Without Boundaries to follow the story, I’m not quite sure at this point how many instalments it’s going to stretch to – maybe only a few, but then maybe I’ll go on to a different story. Ever since Andy and I spent the day talking about Plato’s caves, I’ve been determined to use Plato’s ideas for a short story called The Light Fantastic – simply because I love this expression. I haven’t actually written Discovered yet, but it’s coming soon so keep your eyes peeled


I particularly wanted to set the following extract during the space between Christmas and new year, as I thought this would make a nice circle … I don’t know if you’ll remember that far back to the beginning of The Spark where Jack was born during the space between Christmas and new year. It seems important at this time to be thinking about the two novels as a whole work instead of just a string of unconnected fragments, especially now that I have a pretty clear idea of the events leading up to the end. Although I’m quite sure now about the two main dramatic events that will occur around the same time in 1908, I’m still uncertain about the exact order to put them in… I’m still always conscious of not distracting from other bits of stories that are happening.

I decided to include this piece about the relationship between Freddie and Ross, both because I felt it was important to show the intimate friendship they had at the time, which was much more than a brief affair… the couple lived together for quite a few years, despite their difference in ages. This is why I wanted to draw the comparison between their relationship and that of Bosie and Oscar. I also thought it was important to show the tireless work that Ross was doing on Oscar’s behalf as regards publishing his work… which naturally arouses doubt about the whereabouts of the missing manuscript – of course I’m talking about The Portrait of Mr WH. I imagine that this was a question that was constantly plaguing Ross, especially as he practically held the manuscript between his fingers at one point, before it was stolen from him. I think that Robbie must have felt a special responsibility towards the manuscript, a special extension of Oscar entrusted to him as Oscar’s literary executor.

While I can see clearly the ending of the novel and feel the electric energy tingling through me, I wanted to make use of this, and get the damn thing finished now… but that makes it sound like it’s an arduous task to be completed, which it’s not at all, though it’s a time consuming and laborious one, to be sure. But now that this initial drive has filled me I intend to complete the task however laborious it may be .


Copyright Nicola Batty (c) 2011


As 1905 draws to a close, there are only two remaining copies of the manuscript – the original has been taken to America by Georges, who thinks that it may be worth some money. The other has been printed by Ricketts and Shannon and given by Shannon to Kathleen Bruce as a gift. The following scene takes place in Robbie Ross’s room at his mother’s house, and the conversation is between Ross and his boyfriend Freddie.

Now read on -

CHAPTER 5 - 1905

“As I said before, we should look for somewhere else to live… I think we deserve some privacy after all this time. Think about it Freddie, wouldn’t it be rather nice to live in our own house together, with just each other?”

Freddie looked up sharply and caught Ross’s eye.

“Do you mean that? Would it really be possible?”

Ross shrugged slightly and turned away.

“I don’t see any reason why not. We should think about it, anyway.”

Getting to his feet also, Freddie began to tidy up the desk, pausing as he came across Ross’s copy of Wilde’s De Profundis – the book seemed to shine newness, so that Freddie doubted if anyone had ever touched it before.

“That certainly would be nice, to have no interruptions… we’ll keep our eyes open. This book… did you say you wanted to give it to your friend?”

Ross took the book from Freddie.

“Yes, that’s right – I’ll take it with me now. I’ve been talking for ages about Oscar’s prison letter, I think we should just give John a copy – just to prove that I have published it, like I said I would.” He turned the pages absently, running his eye over the words and frowning, as he always did when reminded of Oscar’s attachment to Bosie. “You really should read this, Freddie – I hope it will show you some things to avoid. I never want our relationship to end up as theirs did, to degenerate…” Continuing to turn the pages, Ross tried to keep his eyes on the book – it was clear that his mind was elsewhere. “Even when Oscar was dead Bosie could show him no respect, though he deserved it so much… I saw Bosie at Oscar’s funeral in Paris, where he made such a show of himself by pretending to be so grief-stricken that he almost fell into the grave –”

Freddie gave a sharp snort, which could have been mixed with laughter, though it was definitely a strangled sound. He raised his hand to his mouth, smothering it hastily.

“I’m sorry… did he really do that?

Ross nodded slowly.

“Oh, it was disgusting, Freddie, the whole thing. I was furious… how could he act that way, making such a fiasco of the occasion. Did he have no respect for Oscar?” He snapped the book shut, shaking his head sadly before meeting Freddie’s eyes directly and smiling. “I suppose there are certain similarities between Oscar’s friendship with Bosie and our own… but I definitely don’t want ours to end up like theirs. I hope there’s a much greater understanding between you and I, Freddie. I think with them there was too much passion and far too great a chasm between them, an unbridgeable gap, in fact. I hope this’ll become clear to you when you read the book. It’s not all pleasant reading but you should read it nonetheless.”

Freddie paused, his eyes fixed on the book in Ross’s hand with a startling intensity.

Aren’t you – aren’t you afraid, of what Bosie will do? I don’t think he’ll like that letter being printed, will he? Aren’t you worried he’s going to cause some trouble?”

“Yes I am, Freddie… but I feel it’s much more important that the truth should be known. Oscar deserves that, even if it does come a little too late.” Ross stared at the book in his hand absently, turning it over; his thoughts became absorbed by the memory of Wilde, all entangled within the pages of his writing. “You know, Freddie, all this I’m doing for Oscar’s writing now may all seem to be too late, but I don’t feel it is – it’s so important that he should be remembered in the right light, as the great man he was. That’s why I tried so hard to publish all his work, like The Portrait of Mr WH –” he sighed heavily, “which disappeared suddenly… and I think will never be seen again.”



Welcome to Andy’s bit…


Twenty eleven is with us already, and things are starting to get busy here. Nic's new publication Catching the Light is ready for printing now, and as she mentioned above, we're just waiting for her dad to put the finishing touches to the cover.


I don't know about you, but I feel optimistic about this year - my football team Man City are doing well at the moment and are at the top of the Premiership. I think this could be a big year for them too.


Then there's the Ziggy Bike, I'm just waiting for the weather to get a little better and I'll be out there putting the finishing touches to it and then we'll be off out on it all summer!


The other thing I'm excited about is the possibility of doing some live poetry gigs again this year. It's all very well being a blogging poet, and I've enjoyed my time on SweetTalkingGuy and Proper Joe's, but I'm ready to get back to live performance now. I can't wait!


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