Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

February 2011 Issue125

Nicola's Editorial


You might be forgiven for doubting the truth of my explanation for the early appearance of some of this issue, as I myself doubt the reality of it. We’ll be catching the plane to Tenerife at the beginning of February… finally, after all this time. We’re both looking forward to a little break in the relative warmth, even though I’m told it wont be that sunny, it will still be warmer than here, that’s the main thing. I’m particularly taken, at the moment, by volcanoes, and as Tenerife was formed by an underwater volcanic eruption, I’m extra excited… walking – or rather wheeling – on lava sounds quite freaky… I’ll have to bring part of it home, part of the lava I mean. I just wish I’d been there when the underwater volcano erupted, it sounds wonderful.


Even freakier that an underwater volcanic eruption is the materialisation of my long awaited fairytale Catching the Light. This should be available about mid February, so please get in touch to place your order. My dad’s worked long and hard on illustrating the cover quite beautifully, according to my design, of course! He’s also created a border for the inner pages… I wanted this book to be a work of art, not just your average, but something special. Although the story’s based on the life of Oscar Wilde, there’s an awful lot of pure imagination thrown in. It incorporates some characters from Wilde’s Dorian Grey, in which Wilde saw himself appearing split into all three major characters of the novel… I’ve used this idea embroidered into Wilde’s life. It all seemed perfectly suited to the form of a fairytale… I’ve always loved Oscar’s fairytales, and so was very influenced by them. Copies of Catching the Light will be available at £3.95 so they won’t break the bank… please don’t hesitate to order as many copies as you want.


The conversation with my mum – who is something of a scientist if you remember – progressed from volcanoes onto the formation of the planet. I was fascinated to learn that the centre of the earth is made up of molten iron and nickel which is absolutely red hot, as you can imagine. The thing is, how do scientist’s know anything for certain about the centre of the earth as nobody’s ever been there, it’s too hot! I suppose anything could be down there… or if Hell is really supposed to be there, is this where the idea of it being a fiery furnace came from? Surely not though, because how could people writing at the time of the old testament know anything about the centre of the Earth? Where did the idea of Hell being at the centre of the earth come from? Have I made it up?? Maybe Hell’s just meant to be underground… I’m sure that volcanic activity made people believe that Hell was a red hot place – the idea of hot lava being chucked out of the ground is pretty freaky, don’t you think? Can anybody enlighten me further on how Hell became connected with the fiery furnace idea?


Moving swiftly on to books, we’ve finally reached the end of Eric Clapton’s autobiography… which I’d recommend to anyone, as I found it pretty absorbing. Mr Clapton seems to have a bit of a thing about providing treatment for alcoholics, both physiological counselling and medical treatment, and this is what Crossroads, a clinic he opened in the Caribbean, offers. In the mid-nineties Eric decided to hold an auction where he sold a hundred of his own guitars to raise money for Crossroads… a few of these guitars fetched thousands of pounds each, so as you can imagine there was quite a bit of money involved. I myself had mixed feelings about this action of Eric’s – it seemed to me to be misdirected, surely all that money should be put into a more urgent and needy cause? I suppose though that it’s up to him what he does with his money… and at least he’s giving it away and not just pampering himself. Another interesting thing he mentioned in passing, right at the end of his book, was that he was loosing his hearing… this seems to me to be a really dramatic loss for a musician, and yet Eric only mentioned it almost as an afterthought. Maybe Ruth’s right and he’s exaggerating his deafness, as he says he can hear very little but at the same time he refuses to wear hearing aids, saying he likes the way things sound without them… which seems to be very strange.


So, we’ve made a start on the first part of the Inkheart trilogy and already I can feel myself becoming pretty much obsessed. I particularly like the straightforward way it presents quite involved and strange ideas, not least because the main character’s a twelve year old girl. It could be written for children, but can be equally enjoyed by adults, rather like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials. Another similarity with His Dark Materials is the idea that some of the characters have an animal companion, like Pullman’s daemons. In Inkheart, the character Dustfinger has a sort of horned ferret-like creature in his rucksack. I’m also reminded of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, which also involves characters with strange names and various oddities. Although I don’t feel like I want to say that much at this stage, of course I want to go on and lose myself completely within the book as the characters themselves have done. For more of this issue, keep watching this space.


I make no bones about it, Andy gave me the idea for this piece… although I knew that I wanted it to be about Charles, I didn’t know quite how to write the actual meeting between father and son without making it seem absolutely unbelievable, and so, not fitting in with the rest of The Space Between. But it felt nice to be actually inside Jack’s head for just a while, a totally new sensation, which was much needed, because I don’t think we’ve spent enough time with the boy. When writing this piece I actually realised half way through that it should all be in the first person and so I hastily switched. At the same time, it has to switch back when Jack wakes up. I hope this works as I’m not at all sure about it. Although I wanted his dream to be slightly weird and dreamlike so I was also not so worried about keeping it credible, I also had to be careful to keep a hold of my imagination and not let myself get totally carried away. The important thing I wanted to show here is that Jack still thinks of his Dad, has he really let him down by not following him into art? I’d welcome any feedback you can give in reaction, please do send in your comments.

As there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of actual events that happened historically in 1906 – as far as The Space Between goes, anyway – I rather suspect that much of this chapter will be either totally fictional or else mostly so. I’ve been thinking for sometime of bringing Jack back for a final meeting with Harriet. This may happen in this chapter, though I’m a bit nervous of making this happening without it sounding stupid and melodramatic. I also want to do a piece about Kathleen’s first meeting with Scott which I know happened in this year – but as I don’t know anything else, I suppose I’ll have to read some of Kathleen’s biography. I’m a bit reluctant to do this though – by now I should surely have the confidence to reconstruct their meeting, but at the same time, I want to keep the book based in history, from which I can leap off into fiction. So then, I think a little bit of research is needed. The meeting between the artist and the scientist seems such a chance one, what can have brought these two very different characters together in the first place? It’s not just an intriguing question, but also essential to the trilogy if Scot is to form the basis of the next part. I’m still thinking along these lines – The Space Between seems to be setting the scene perfectly for a further fictional leap.


By 1906 there are only two copies of The Portrait of Mr WH remaining, and one of them has been taken overseas to America by Georges. Jack sailed there with him but returned alone, back to Angel Ally in Whitechapel, where he lived with his mother Harriet. The other Copy is a book made by Ricketts and Shannon and is now in the hands of Kathleen Bruce. At his house in Whitechapel, Jack sleeps and his dream is particularly vivid. Now read on.

CHAPTER 6 - 1906

My Pa looked at me and smiled very gently, his voice becoming so soft and mellow that it was almost drowned by the sounds of the men working all around. But still, the words rang out loud and clear. “Now that we’ve found each other, we must take care not to loose each other again. “

My grin became even wider, as though threatening to crack my face right open, like an egg shell. I thought I may even have laughed aloud, I’m not sure.

“Yes, of course! Stay here with me always!”

Taking my hand, Pa stroked the skin very gently.

“I’m sorry that I missed your birthday… I know you’ve just become sixteen, and I’m sorry I didn’t give you a birthday present. Do you still have those coloured pencils I gave you?”

I couldn’t say anything, I felt I was completely filled with guilt. All I could do was shake my head silently, not even daring to look up into his eyes. He said nothing either, so eventually I tried to speak and explain myself.

“Things have changed quite a lot, Pa... I need to earn money now, so I have to work and not draw so much.” I could feel the intense heat from Pa’s eyes boring right the way through me – I was so filled with remorse and shame, I was barely able to continue. “I – I’m sorry, I really am. I’ve lost the pencils, I’m afraid.”

I could feel the hairs of Pa’s beard bristling with a living energy, the orange glow of his beard pulsating with anger as the emotion flowed through him. I could feel the heat stinging my face, so that I had to step back. Pa’s smile fell away crumbling and falling to the ground as his mouth fell open in an expression of dismay.

“Jack… your not really saying this to me, surely? How can this be true? Once an artist, always an artist, you know.” I continued to shake my head, falling into such a rhythm that it seemed impossible to break.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t know where the pencils are.”

Pa’s shout sliced through the air, and I was frightened – I’d never seen him so angry before.

“How dare you! Those pencils were my gift to you… how could you possibly lose them? Artists never lose pencils… don’t you understand? Don’t you care?”

I was forced further and further back from Pa as his beard burst into flames.

“I’m sorry Pa, I’m sorry! Please don’t be angry!” I cried desperately, covering my face with my hands. Through my fingers I could feel the heat becoming more intense as Pa lunged towards me, seizing me in a great big hug which wasn’t entirely friendly. I began to panic, great sobs of fear issuing from me as I tried to wriggle free from the fire, from him. “No! Please! Go away – go right away!”

Pa’s voice rose in my head, until it completely filled everything, obliterating every other sound of the docks around. I continued to wriggle and fight for breath, as my lungs were filled with smoke and flame… I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t break free, I was so scared, so scared…

MORE FROM The Space Between in March.



Welcome to Andy’s bit…


Nic’s been talking about hell recently and the idea that it is a place, some kind of fiery furnace under the earth. This led me to read about the ‘hollow earth’ theory and how some people believe that a mystical master race live somewhere down there in the bowels of the earth. One theory takes the whole thing a little further and states that the whole universe is inside a hollow earth. Phew, it’s difficult to get your head round some of this stuff.


Then she went on to ask where the four corners of the earth were, I thought that the four corners simply meant the entirety of the earth. However, on reflection we came up with our own theory that the four corners of a spherical earth could only be right in the very centre. Right down there in that hellishly hot place. “Enough!” I hear you cry.


Here’s a click-able link to a little piece I wrote some time ago. The Anagram of Eden .


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So here we are, just back from Tenerife - and it seems to be even more freezing cold and grey than ever, so that I’m wondering if it was worth going all that way to catch just a fleeting glimpse of the sun! But it was lovely to be able to sit outside on the terrace every day, and take long walks along the promenade… even if there was a pretty steep climb down from the apartment which Andy coped with several times… even though I was aware I could hear him panting behind me. The continual warmth was definitely the best thing about Tenerife… as before I found it very dry and barren despite being surrounded by the sea. However this time we did manage to find a green and shady park in the town, which we visited several times - I wondered if they’d imported the grass on a sort of roll up carpet from Spain or somewhere. Though it wasn’t actually hot enough to make me crave going in either the sea or pool just to be warm and feel the sunshine was great… pity we had to come home!


I told my mum how much I wanted to go to the mountains nearby which could be seen I believe - they were pretty high, about 3,000 feet with snow on the summit. As before I wanted to feel some countryside in contrast to the barrenness of the resorts all round the island. My mum is much more decisive than Andy - she hired a car and we drove half way up the mountain, which was as far as the road went. It was high enough, anyway… though still quite warm and pretty rough for Ziggy over all the loose rocks. I had an interesting geology lesson from my mum as I was fascinated by all the different types and colours of volcanic rock all around, I wanted to find one with a beautiful fossil in it… but no such luck. Tenerife itself was actually formed by an underwater volcanic eruption which must have been simply amazing to watch… I wonder if this is where peoples ideas about fiery hell came from?


Apart from our trip to the mountains We didn’t really travel very much anywhere else - it wasn’t really necessary to do so as merely walking to the town or promenade was quite energetic enough for us! However my brother did do an epic nine mile costal walk where he told me he’d seen about twelve lizards running around on the ground. Apart from this I didn’t hear any seagulls which stuck me as very odd for an island. In fact the only animals I had any close contact with were fish, dead on the plate! We sampled plenty of these on the promenade, along with a seafood paella… this was another one of the more memorable events about our stay.
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