December 2011 Issue 135
STRAIGHT FROM THE NORTH POLE
I can’t believe this weather - even if it is winter, its such extreme temperature has obviously blown straight down from the pole. It’s made me additionally reluctant to go out and face the cold… I’m sure it’s not usually like this even if it is December. So it’s absolutely no hardship to stay inside by the computer and write Raw Meat… even though it is a little late - sorry about that. I’ve absolutely no decent excuses to make for my tardiness to produce this issue, merely bad organisation of time but I’m sure you’ll forgive me won’t you?
TITUS OATES’ FINAL GOODBYE
Actually, talking of the North Pole makes me think about something my Mum recently told me concerning the South Pole, Scott’s expedition there to be exact. Apparently Titus Oates’ final letter has just been discovered - if you remember, Titus Oates was one of Scott’s team who actually reached the South Pole with him, and then made his infamous exit from the tent on the return journey with these final words “I’m just going outside - I may be some time.” He actually walked out of the tent without his boots, having got frostbite in both his feet which he felt was holding the return members back. It’s particularly ironic that the remaining three chaps starved to death only a few days after - though of course Oates didn’t know this at the time, presumably he thought that they would get back easily without him. I’m intrigued to read the letter and find out who it’s to - if Oates was aware at all of his coming suicide, or whether it was just an impulsive decision… however, I seem to remember having read somewhere about Scott actually talking about how much easier the death of one of their other members of the team had made it for the ones left there to return back to safety. Maybe this story was in The Birthday Boys, which I recently read and would highly recommend as it’s a quite wonderful tale… having read The Birthday Boys recently I was particularly impressed by the final chapter, narrated by the fictional version of Titus Oates, who actually gave the book it’s name because he made his infamous final exit from the tent on his birthday I believe.
I’m continuing to work on a theory about close connections between sanity and dreaming, which was given additional substance yesterday by yet another one of my own infamous sleepless nights. I was woken up, if you can even call it that, shall we rather say disturbed? I felt terrible and couldn’t face getting up to face the world, so finally slipped into the realms of true sleep complete with a very vivid dream which managed to combine within it the knowledge that I was keeping Brigitte waiting… very clever that, how you manage to entangle the two states within each other completely, rather like I do in my fiction where they complement each other perfectly. Indeed, this theory may equally be true of the close connection between sanity and fiction writing, or even creation… which perhaps goes without saying as it’s already an obviously undeniable truth. Back to my own dream – waking up feeling completely refreshed and full of energy, even though I’d only been asleep for a couple of hours, the difference was remarkable. Surely it’s essential to dream, even if you don’t remember in detail the dream itself it must trigger something to release stress and tension and make you feel so much better. The actual length of time you sleep seems quite irrelevant – it’s just that release button that needs to be reached by deep sleep. I remember when I studied psychology A level we were taught that it was essential to reach that point of deep sleep which needed to be achieved by taking at least 3 hours… my experience seems to blow that theory completely, and the annoying thing was that we were taught it to be an undeniable truth of scientific fact. Need I add that I gave up my psychological studies pretty soon afterwards, simply because I was fed up of all the scientific tedium involved.
THE LITTLE PRINCE
Recently I was talking to my Mum about a childhood story I still remember, The Little Prince – I even remember the name of the French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery… which is quite impressive after all these years, don’t you think? I don’t know if anyone else out there remembers the tale, but it concerned a man crashing his aeroplane into somewhere remote in the desert. He was approached by a little boy who claimed to be the ruler of a small planet… I’m afraid my memory fails me at the crucial time. There must have been some reason for him to come to earth – has any of Raw Meat’s readers read this? Please don’t just tell me to read the summary on the internet as I did that the other day but I still instantly forgot it! Somebody somewhere must be familiar with this story themselves…
THE RELUCTANT VAMPIRE
Just to remind you that I'm continuing to serialise The Reluctant Vampire which is one of my earliest novels on my weblog every week. We're currantly up to Chapter Six which should appear on Saturday. So far I've been pleasantly surprised by the amazing response we've had... I suspect the novel has become something of a cult all over the world! My Vampire, Thomas has moved his coffin into a friends shed in Timperley and tells the friend how tired he is of living as one of the Undead... Tune in to my Weblog if you want to read further.
As Christmas becomes more and more of a reality, I suppose I should face the grim truth of it and wish you all a very merry Christmas! See you in Twenty Twelve… That New Year has a wonderful ring to it, don’t you think??
I dithered a bit about whether to print this piece from the beginning and leave out the real meat of the matter, or if that would be too annoying, to start the extract half way through the original piece. I’ve plumped for the latter because I don’t want to annoy my readers! So, you’ll have to use your imagination a bit… this piece is set in Harriet’s kitchen in Angel Ally, when Harriet receives a surprising visitor, Robbie Ross. I thought it was high time to actually write a piece where Ross and Harriet actually confront each other about the manuscript… it was unbelievable to me to discover that I hadn’t done this yet, there is no actual confrontation between the two characters. This seemed absolutely incredible to me - I got Ruth to go all the way back, examining each and every chapter so far, searching for any mention of the manuscript between Ross and Harriet, but there was none, so I went ahead and put that right.
Though it was not without its difficulties, making Ross come to Whitechapel of his own accord – such a thing would have been difficult to imagine of someone from such a cultural background as Ross. So I solved that dilemma by harking back to Killing Time, where the young Ross met Harriet whilst walking the streets of the East End with Oscar Wilde. Such a bizarre occurrence was quite naturally accepted in Killing Time… I don’t know why, I just wasn’t bothered so much about reality in those early days. I wrote Killing Time nearly 20 years ago, I think. Ross actually mentions this early meeting with Harriet once again here and I wanted to make them both remember this actual meeting only vaguely, almost as though it had happened in a dream or as though they were outside the memory, just watching. I wanted this feeling of them sharing such a space in time to be resurrected as something that may actually have occurred… but it could have equally been dreamt or even a story told by someone else. I hope that this makes some sort of sense, though I rather suspect I’m talking to myself, a habit I’ve picked up from living with Andy. Writing this piece was exciting for me because it made me think more clearly about the next book, which still doesn’t have a title, I’m afraid, though I can see one strand of the story will be set in New Orleans, probably at the house shared by Georges with his wife and daughter. As yet this wife and daughter are nameless blanks. They need to be filled out, given some substance and character. I’ve already made some reference to Georges’s wife being quite a hard-headed business woman… though I’m not at all sure about this, maybe I just imagined this! So maybe I’ll just ignore this and start from scratch. I was also slightly uncomfortable about sending Ross over to America, as I’m sure that’s what he would have done, gone on the trail of the missing manuscript if he was so bothered about it, so the reason for my discomfort was because I would have been ignoring history as so much is unknown about Ross’s actual movements. It suddenly struck me, why not use Freddie, sort of working for Ross? The thing is, nothing’s really known about him after he and Ross separated in 1911, which means I could easily embroider a fictional life after Ross. It also fitted in well with Freddie’s acting aspirations that he’d go to America in search of fame and fortune. It’s also exciting to create a more substantial character as I’ve not spent much time on Freddie so far. I’ve always been a bit intrigued by him, precisely because not much has been written about him… even in Ross’s biography, he’s not really presented as a real, substantial person, I think with a name like Freddie Smith he deserves a real character made out of him.
I haven’t yet written the next section so before I do, I wondered if my readers could help with a little historical research? I’m thinking of setting this next piece in Kathleen’s studio in Chelsea, with Shannon taking some photos of the studio to use for his portrait of her. The only reference I have for photography around this time, is in the railway children where the photographer pulls a cloth over his head for taking the picture using a dirty big tripod and flash light. Can anyone tell me if this would still be true in 1907? Thanks a lot for your assistance with such tedious research… I appreciate it.
THE SPACE BETWEEN
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2011
THE STORY SO FAR
By 1907, though Wilde has been dead for some time, his close friend Robbie Ross has been working hard to publish all his work. So he’s excited to discover about the manuscript, which Jack has just told him about and given him Harriet’s address in Angel Ally. Ross has gone there to ask Harriet more about the manuscript, because he knows that Ricketts’ copy has gone missing. Its actually in the hands of Kathleen Bruce who keep s promising to return it. her relationship with Ricketts’ partner Shannon seems to be crumbling fast – she’s just met and become fascinated by Robert Falcon Scott. Now read on…
CHAPTER 7 - 1907
“So tell me, how I can be of service to you now, Mr Ross?”
“Ahhh… it’s something I’m looking for, a manuscript of one of Oscar’s stories, which I’m very keen to find and publish as soon as possible. Before Oscar died I promised I’d publish all his work… this is the last story and I haven’t been able to find it. But now…” he broke off and simply stared at Harriet, turning his hat round and round in his lap with absent fingers. “Do you remember the manuscript inside the box that you took away?”
Dropping her eyes quickly, Harriet felt herself blush crimson. It was several moments before she managed to find her voice, which came out as a strangled whisper, crushed flat by shame.
“Yes, of course I remember, but I’m so sorry about it now. It didn’t work out the way I’d hoped anyway.” She drew in her breath sharply, shaking her head back and forth. “Jack didn’t even want the box after all, he told me he’d thrown it in the river. I didn’t know there was anything inside it – I just took the box because I thought Jack should have it, not Freddie. I’m sorry about the story, or whatever it was… I had no idea. I don’t know anything about it I’m afraid.”
“Well, Jack told me he’d taken the manuscript out of the box and given it to a sailor. Do you know anything about him, Harriet?”
She paused, feeling Ross’s eyes boring into her expectantly. Eventually she spoke in a voice that came out only grudgingly.
“Then he must be talking about Georges. He used to be a friend but he’s gone back… gone away to where he came from.” Still, Ross’s eyes penetrated right the way through her.
“And where is that, Harriet? A different country?” he asked gently.
She raised her eyes to his with great effort, trying her best to hold her gaze steady.
“It’s America… that’s all I can tell you. I don’t know anything else, I’m afraid.
“All right, America, but do you remember the name of the port?”
She shook her head quickly, she didn’t want to remember, to be reminded of Georges’s betrayal. “I don’t remember, I’m sorry. Except…” She glanced up at Ross, feeling that she owed him something, if she couldn’t give him the box itself then she would try to help him. “I think it began with ‘New’… ‘New’ something.”
“Ah…” Ross sat back in his chair, smiling. “Do you think it was New York, Harriet? Does that sound at all familiar to you?”
“No, not New York.” She frowned, looking intently at the darning in her lap. “I can’t remember any more about it. But no, wait… Jack said it was a hot place.”
Ross tapped his teeth thoughtfully.
“Well, you know… Georges sounds to me quite a French name, so… do you think it might be New Orleans he’s from?”
Once again Harriet shook her head, almost on the verge of tears.
“Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know all these places… I’ve no idea. I’ve never been to any of them, I’ve never been out of London. They’re not real places to me.
“That’s alright, Harriet. Thank you very much for the information you’ve given me,” said Ross, still smiling gently. “You’ve been very helpful… I’m sure Mr Wilde would have been very pleased with you. Is there anything else you can tell me about this Georges chap, before I leave? I’d like to speak to him myself.”More from The Space Between in January.
Welcome to Andy's bit...
So, what happened? I hear you ask! Well, I got off to a good start, but after a few days and nights, I started to fall behind on the word count, and after twelve days I had only amassed 12,000 words and I needed to have been doing !,667 per day to fulfill the task. So, one third of the way through the project, I was already 8,000 words behind, and even worse than that, when I reread the first few chapters, I could tell the whole thing was turning into one big rant! So, the conclusion is, yes I failed! For this I apologise to my readers.
On the upside, however, I discovered that writing a novel is a wonderful experience and that it is still something I want to do. Also, I've got a good format for this particular novel and a good set of characters that need developing. But, me being me, I have started two new projects, one is writing a comedy script, with a view to performing it at a local pub, and the other is ghostwriting the memoirs of a celebrity hairdresser, more about that next time.
THIRTY SEVEN VERSIONS
I don't remember if I told you about my poem (s). Anyway, I recently wrote an acrostic poem to the word Constantinople and then I re-wrote it as an acrostic anagram of Constantinople and then again and again and again as an acrostic anagram of Constantinople. Until I ended up with thirty seven different versions of the same fourteen line poem.
MY POEM (s)
My Acrostic poem with 36 different anagrams of the acrostic word. The Acrostic word was Constantinople, I then shuffled up the letters and made anagrams like: Platonic Sonnet and Non Poetic Slant. You can read the complete 37 versions of this poem HERE
More from USAndy in January.
Finally, Happy Christmas to all our readers from Nic, Andy, and Jack!
Many many thanks for reading Raw Meat!