Raw Meat .. Nicola Batty's Newsletter.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

October 2011 Issue 133

Nicola's Editorial


To start off this issue here are some photos of some of the animals from my short break in Wales I was telling you about in the last issue. The first one shows the water dragon – Tom, I think he was called. The second is a corn snake and the third shows a collie puppy on the farm at Porthmadog that we visited on another day. I hope you still remember my time in Wales from last month, and are not too confused as these photos are a bit late. (sorry folks I can't make the photo's stay still, call back later and I'll have another go. Andy)


A couple of weeks after my Welsh holiday I took the ferry over to Dublin with both Brigitte and Andy. According to Andy, there was a hurricane nearby, well anyway it was pretty windy even before we’d actually got on the boat at Anglesey. I had been quite excited about the ferry ride but was actually quite disappointed that I wasn’t able to venture out onto the deck because of the wind and rain… and so the entire ferry trip was spent inside, it wasn’t much fun really. The only thing I was definitely aware of was the motion of the boat on the water as it was pretty choppy of course… in fact I believe that Brigitte was a little seasick. When we arrived in Dublin it was still pretty windy and rainy… not a very promising start to a holiday! So we drove straight to the farm on which we were staying just outside Britta’s Bay, which was apparently in either the hills or mountains, I never actually decided which! Andy described them as mountains because of the valleys… though Brigitte described them at another time as like the Pennines or Scottish highlands. I think that we might have some photos which Andy will send with this Raw Meat hopefully, so you can make up your mind yourselves! Well whatever they were the farm was at the base and we drove over them to reach it. We had a little adventure on the way to the farm when we got stuck in a pothole… Brigitte had to phone the farm to come and rescue us!! I think that sort of thing must happen pretty frequently, because they weren’t surprised – they just towed the van out of the mud, once we were back on solid ground it was ok.


Next day it continued to be really windy and a little bit rainy, so that there wasn’t that much we could really do. It was particularly difficult for me to imagine the exact nature of our surroundings, as I remember visiting Ireland before… yet Brigitte described them in comparison to places that I knew from England. I was more enthusiastic when we travelled back to Dublin the day after, as I remembered visiting Dublin a few years ago with Andy. It was also as I remembered it being last time… that is, excessively noisy. I don’t know why but the traffic seems especially loud over there. Although, Oscar’s memorial gardens was as peaceful as I remember it being - Brigitte described them almost like a little park, with his beautiful statue in the middle. I stretched right up and just managed to grab a bit of his foot… he’s lying on his back propping himself up on his elbows… Brigitte described his expression as smug which I could easily imagine! We also went to the house where he was born, which has a glass roof on the back joining it to a building in Trinity college who own the place.


In a street off O’Connell Street in the centre of Dublin, there was a statue of James Joyce looking very cool with his eyes on the sky and a walking cane in his hand. I thought about going to the James Joyce museum nearby which is in a tower, but it was shut… and anyway it didn’t sound very Ziggy friendly. Once again we visited the Writer’s Museum - though I hadn’t remembered it being so difficult to get into, as we had to go up quite a few stairs as there was no lift. I’m amazed that such a thing should be so nowadays, in a public place such as this… Dublin in general seems to be quite Ziggy unfriendly - a bit like Paris in fact.


The final day we spent in Ireland was actually my favourite one, mainly because the excessive winds finally dropped completely and the sun came out making it really warm and very still. This time we stopped on the mountains or hills high up and got out, as I really wanted to experience the feeling of height. We walked along by a river… it was lovely and quiet and peaceful, with hardly anyone about. I thought that I’d have to tell my dad about this place, because he really wants to go to the mountains in Switzerland but he’s not aloud to fly… so this would be a good compromise! Back to Britta’s Bay, which we drove down to from the hills… we finally found a place to stop and get out where we could walk along right by the sea. It was difficult to believe we were right next to the sea, because it was so incredibly still there were no waves, and a complete absence of sound which was quite unearthly. This silence seemed to cover everything so that there was nothing alive… no birds, sea or otherwise. Although I wanted to go closer to the sea it was impossible as it was also Ziggy unfriendly. I had to imagine the sea completely because I had nothing to go on, no sound or feeling. Andy said the water was just rippling calmly - the stillness of this day seemed even more remarkable seeing as it had been so windy a couple of days before.


When we got the ferry home this time it was actually a bit more sunny - we even managed to get out on the deck this time which was great. Although the sea was much calmer this time I was still aware of it by the smell of the salt and just by the sense of it. I prefer travelling this way rather than flying, because you’re just stuck in a plane and have no sense of travelling, actually moving through the countryside or the sea. I really wish that I could sail across the ocean to the pacific or even the south seas, so that I could be totally aware of the change in climate as the boat moved. I’d love to go back to Ireland in the summer, when it’s warm enough to spent more time outside, just in the gardens or farm. I regretted not spending more time outside on the farm itself, as I got absolutely no idea of it being a farm at all… in fact I don’t know if they had any animals at all!


Not long after we arrived back from Ireland, we went down to Dunham Massey, commonly known to us as “The Deer Park” for this event, held by the Manchester Ataxia Branch for Ataxia Awareness Day. To make a nice change, the weather was beautiful, both warm and sunny, so that it was a real pleasure to be outside in such beautiful surroundings. I was really looking forward to getting a good long walk, but was dismayed to hear Andy say it was time to get back in the van after only a very brief walk. Apparently we’d had to give up when the going got just too rough for many of the members of the group. I’d forgotten how completely tiring straight forward walking could be for anyone with Ataxia. Most of the members have CA which is similar to FA but usually attacks one later in life, so they’re not in Ziggy but still have difficulty walking. It’s easier to get around in Ziggy in a way – providing you have a willing pair of hands to push, that is! On such a beautiful day it was a shame to have to go inside. Dunham Massey is a particularly beautiful place, in fact Andy told me that it had a big sign saying that it was the most popular national trust property in the North West of England and that they’re building a new visitor centre there… so it’s well worth a day trip.


Although I thought it quite strange that a band should be playing in a theatre, perhaps this is the done thing nowadays, because there seemed to be absolutely no problem with it as far as access for Ziggy went. The band were really cool, they played a complete mixture of old favourites and songs I didn’t recognise, but appreciated nonetheless. They did a really beautiful rendition of Ocean Rain, but Andy was more keen on the Manchester version of Lou Reed’s Take a Walk on the Wild Side. The audience were particularly appreciative I thought, which was lovely for such an old band… they were going absolutely crazy at the end.


I think I’ve mentioned before that Ruth and I had unearthed my long forgotten novel The Reluctant Vampire from the early 80s, and are currently reading through it. So far it’s a whole lot better than I remember it being. There’s some lovely characters in it, not to mention the very charismatic vampire himself. At this point I can’t remember exactly how the novel ends, only that it’s pretty dramatic. I suppose it’s a bit of a love story, but with a difference. In places it’s written as something you can actually touch, if that makes sense. I’m keen to put it on the internet as soon as my mum’s typed it up as I’d like as many people as possible to be able to read it. The thing I’m wondering about is whether to serialise it on my blog or if readers would find this too frustrating, and would prefer to read it all the way through… in which case, would they have the time to do this? Also, I like the idea of my blog as it would make it more of a two way reading of the novel, where the reader would actually be involved and give feedback. My dad suggests publishing the novel in both ways simultaneously… so what do you think? Any comments you could make on how you would like to read The Reluctant Vampire, would be much appreciated.


No, not Echo and the Bunnymen this time, but a canal boat trip, which Andy and I treated ourselves to last weekend. It was actually a special treat for Andy, because I know how much he’s always wanted to do this particular trip. Admittedly, it wasn’t by barge, but still, it was down the Manchester ship canal all the way to Liverpool. I didn’t actually realise how close Liverpool was to Manchester, it’s been so long since I last saw a map! Mind you, the big boat set off from Salford Quays and Andy said there were at least 400 people on board, so it was obviously a popular trip. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was still aware of the water beneath us, even though there were no waves. The boat stopped at Barton Locks, for quite some time and I had to imagine an awful lot of what was going on, but nonetheless I just about managed to keep informed of the adventure! Although sailing along the canal through the city was a profoundly different experience from my Ziggy barge trip earlier this year, Andy told me roughly where we were and what was happening, so I got quite a good idea of what was going on. My favourite bit was where the canal actually met with the River Mersey at Elsmere Port. This was really exciting, because not only did the light change and become brighter, but I could feel the motion of the boat suddenly as the river is tidal at that point. I wondered at what point did the waves cease, did they intrude into the canal at all?? We continued along the river for about an hour, passing Liverpool on one side and Birkenhead on the other, including Port Sunlight, where Lord Lever built an art gallery for his wife. The boat stopped just before it met the Irish sea and we all got off and there was a short break in Liverpool before the coach left to take us back to Manchester. Both Andy and I enjoyed the day very much and have resolved to do it again sometime!


I believe Andy himself is actually working on Chapter Three of The Light Fantastic, which may follow on from the preceding chapter… though knowing Andy I very much doubt it. But anyway, it should make interesting reading… do have a look at my Weblog when you next get a chance. I’d like to capture someone’s enthusiasm so that they can follow on with chapter four. Don’t worry about having no experience as a writer… it’s those new to writing that I want to encourage particularly. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and seeing how the novel continues! Clink~the~link~here.


You might remember back in the May issue me telling you how delighted I was at making contact with an old friend I hadn’t seen for nearly thirty years, Bill Mason. He used to be lead singer with the band, predictably enough called the Bill Mason Band… who were a Christian band with a bit of a difference. I remember at the time the BMB having an enthusiastic following of young people, as they were sort of punk – well definitely rock anyway. By incredible coincidence the BMB are doing a re-union concert on October 21 at Wythenshawe Forum Theatre… maybe I’ll see you there!


One of the main reasons I enjoyed the boat trip so much was because I felt totally involved all the way through, simply by the boat being completely Ziggy friendly. And this went for the coach as well. There was one other chap in Ziggy, but simply the fact that everything was quite possible to do in Ziggy meant we were not excluded on practical grounds and that made such a nice change!!



Copyright Nicola Batty © 2011

As 1907 begins, Harriet has just been saved from jumping off tower bridge, by Gustave, who has taken her back home to the Freedom Press. As far as they know, Georges has left with Wilde’s manuscript and is unlikely to return. At a new year celebration Robbie Ross has asked Charles Ricketts to get a part for Freddie in the play he’s working on. Meanwhile, it’s still new year in the kitchen of the Freedom Press where Gustave and Harriet have been sleeping by the fire. I was rather stuck at this point – how could I possibly follow such a dramatic scene as the last one on the bridge and keep the reader interested enough to read on… for after this I want to keep the novel going for another 18 months. This seemed a pretty impossible stunt to pull off… but there had to be something I could do which was quite new, like introducing a totally fresh character. I’d been thinking along the lines of the Inkheart Trilogy idea, which I’ve been quite obsessed by ever since I read it. I’m talking about the idea of people disappearing into a book, of course. I’ve already used this device in The Space Between with Adrian Singleton vanishing back into The Portrait of Dorian Gray, so couldn’t I do something else along the same lines? But the thing was, I needed to introduce someone or something from my own novels into The Space Between, and so the solution came upon me. it’s really strange, writing about yourself as a twentieth century character, so you’re mixing your own fiction with past fiction into this current work in progress, so that you become a half-fictional character, being set sometime ago before my novels were written or even thought of. I’m yet to see if it works, as I have my doubts, particularly about introducing myself into a historical novel which might be a little confusing, so it’s a bit of a trial really. It may not work out at all, in which case I’ll have to scrap it, but I just thought that something pretty dramatic had to happen at Harriet and Gustave at this point. As well as this, it was also vital to keep myself interested… for admittedly as we’re so near and so far from the end of the novel, my initial enthusiasm is beginning to wear a bit thin, but I know myself, and I know that I never could resist such a challenge as this. So let’s see if it works… I appreciate your feedback on this one, as ever.


CHAPTER 7 - 1907

Waking with a start from his doze as the front door banged shut, Gustave looked all around him in confusion. For a moment he couldn’t remember exactly where he was, or who was sitting next to him, squashed against him in the armchair, with her head leaning against his chest, staring vacantly into the still smouldering fire. He listened to the voices from the hallway. At first they sounded familiar to his ears, he thought that one of them may belong to Wilf, though he didn’t recognise the woman’s laughter at all. Shaking his head to clear it, he began to get to his feet, but Harriet stopped him, clinging to him like a limpet.

“Please, don’t move, don’t go yet,” she said urgently, “please stay a while longer.”

Laughing softly, Gustave reached out towards the fireplace and picked up the poker.

“Don’t worry… I’m only stoking up the fire, I’m not going anywhere. It’s alright, I’ll stay.”

Harriet watched his movements silently, with her hands clasped tightly before her, almost as if trying to pray. She seemed dazed by what had just happened up on the bridge a few hours ago… Gustave wasn’t sure if she could hear the voices from outside, though of course it might be that she was simply ignoring them, as they had no place in this reality.

Replacing the poker beside the fireplace, Gustave looked around as the kitchen door opened and Wilf’s bald dome gleamed in the dim light as he came through. In his hands he held his woolly hat, passing it from one to the other with quick, anxious movements. He was grinning, obviously a little drunk.

“Happy new year to you, Gustave,” he said loudly, “My, it’s a freezing night out there… I’ll be glad when the winter’s over, I can tell you.” Stepping back, he pulled the woman’s arm who was following close behind him, so that she was forced to move into the light, though it seemed obvious that she would rather remain hidden. Her long dark hair could be seen below the strange trilby hat she wore, and it seemed probably she was drunk as well. There was a fixed smile on her small pale face, which was slightly flushed either from the cold or embarrassment. She stood there awkwardly in her long shapeless black overcoat, which reached almost down to the ground, pulling at each finger of her leather gloves in turn. She seemed nervous, as she stared at Gustave in disbelief and shaking her head very slowly.

“Gustave? Are you sure?” the woman whispered, her voice barely audible.

Gustave shrugged, laughing uncomfortably.

“I… I think so,” he said awkwardly, examining the woman’s face more closely. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met before, have we?”

Reaching out her hand towards him, the woman touched his arm very lightly, almost as if she expected him to vanish in a puff of smoke at any moment. She was still shaking her head from side to side, refusing to believe her eyes.

“Well… yes, I suppose we have, in a manner of speaking. Though I don’t expect you to recognise me.”

Wilf looked quickly from Gustave to his friend, blinking in confusion.

“Well, I’d like you to meet a friend who’s come all the way from Manchester, this is Nicola, Gustave. She’s staying here for a few days,” Wilf announced, smiling easily as the two shook hands formally. “Where did you meet Gustave before, Nicola? It seems an amazing coincidence.”

Still Nicola stared at Gustave, releasing his hand reluctantly, she didn’t answer for quite some time, but eventually took a deep breath, seeming to pull herself together and glanced apologetically at Wilf.

“Gustave’s right, we haven’t really met… only in my imagination,” she said lightly, trying to laugh, but the sound stuck in her throat and quickly died. “Gustave’s familiar to me from one of my novels I wrote a few years back, that’s where I know him from.” She smiled at Gustave, pushing back stray strands of hair under her hat with a self conscious movement of her hand. “I must say, Gustave, you’re exactly as I imagined you would be.”

MORE FROM The Space Between trilogy in November.



Welcome to Andy’s bit…


As Nic mentioned above, I’m attempting to write a chapter for her Raw Meat project The Light Fantastic. I got off to a good start and jotted down a couple of hundred words, and then nothing, I just couldn’t see which direction I should take next. So, I’m going to have another go this week and see where my muse takes me.


We stayed in County Wicklow, not far south of Dublin, in a lovely part of the countryside. The country lanes, were really country lanes, complete with pot holes and grass growing just to prove that they were not busy at all. Wonderful! It was some distance to the coast and we had to cross the Wicklow Mountains in fact to get there. These mountains have dramatic changes of scenery as you drive across them. Sometimes you could be in a Swiss Valley, a few minutes later they resembled the highlands of Scotland complete with heather and bracken. Around the next bend you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in a Canadian pine forest. Another mile along the road and they became like the hilly Pennines with sheep grazing and spilling out onto the track. At one point we came across the place where two mountain rivers met. Not far from there was a couple of lakes, one with a waterfall. Then there were the ancient ruins of a monastic settlement, and as we drove further and higher the land became bleak and stony, and there was evidence of ancient quarrying. Finally we reached the sea.


I had always wanted to travel on the Manchester Ship Canal, and when Nic booked a couple of tickets for a six hour cruise on a Mersey Ferry I was delighted. We left Salford Quays at ten am and arrived at Pier Head in Liverpool shortly before 4 pm. It took nearly five hours to reach the fifth and final lock on the canal, and then another hour to Birkenhead and then a few more minutes across the Mersey to Pier Head. Wonderful day! Thanks Nic!!!

More from Urban Scrawl Andy in November.

Thanks for reading Raw Meat!!!
Go To College Online