August 2011 Issue 131
Now the holiday season is well and truly upon us, I must be thinking of warm places, for I had a dream last night about Spain, or rather the Spanish literary project I’ve been telling you about. In this dream the woman who originally had the idea for the project (predictably, her name is Maria) looked like Frida Kahlo, the surreal artist, very exotic looking, with lots of strange jewellery, a headdress and long skirts. She spoke to me in fluent English but with a beautiful accent. This might well be true, as I’ve spoken to her many times by email, but I’ll probably never know for certain how accurate my picture of Maria is. By the way, the latest news about the FA project’s novel is that it will probably be coming out on the internet, though I’m not sure about the details yet.
So, our little boy is not so little any more, in fact he’s a fully fledged adult. We celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago with champagne and birthday cake of course, and the best thing was to actually have Jack there with us for a while, as he didn’t go out until later! A couple of weeks afterwards, we had another birthday celebration at my mum’s, this time a garden birthday party with all my sisters and brother. I’m still filled with pride every time I look at Jack…
This month we’ve been out and about several places, just day trips in the warm weather. We went to Blackpool one day, which I usually don’t like at all but this occasion was just before the schools broke up so it was reasonably quiet. We spotted a cluster of windmills in the sea, and Brigitte told me they were a wind farm, used to generate electricity. This might not be terribly exciting to you readers, as wind farms have been around for some time – but it was the first time I’d ever heard about one actually in practice, rather than just an idea. So I was quite excited by this, to realise that methods of alternative energy are actually being put into practice at last.
THE FANTASTIC VOYAGE
At Jack’s party my Dad was telling me that he’d just bought the Isaac Asimov’s novel for both of us and he’s nearly finished reading it. I don’t think I’ve ever read the book – I just remember seeing the film which has stuck in my mind, so it must have been pretty impressive! I can’t remember exactly how the chaps manage to shrink themselves so that they can enter someone’s bloodstream, but it’s such a wonderful idea that it has remained in my mind for nearly 40 years.
THE BIRTHDAY BOYS
BUT Mr Asimov will have to wait, because at the moment we’re in the middle of Beryl Bainbridge’s novel about Scott’s journey to the South Pole, and both Ruth and I are greatly enjoying it. So far each chapter seems to be by a different member of Scott’s team. Taffy Evans and Doctor Wilson are the ones we’ve read… I wonder how Ms Bainbridge has worked out the timing, as the team are only at Trinidad, still on the ship. I think she must jump forward quite a bit to hurry them on through the Antarctic… I’m not quite sure. It’s interesting to read about Doctor Wilson’s particularly close friendship with “Birdy” Bowers, as these were the remaining two companions of Scott who all ultimately starved to death. Ruth told me that she thinks Birdy Bowers is so called because he looks like a bird, with a big nose!
As to my own writing, I’ve now completed Chapter One for The Light Fantastic. You can read it on my web-log. Please see RAW MATERIALS for more.. I’ve just heard that someone is interested in writing Chapter Two, but if anyone else is inspired, there will doubtless be more chapters to come.
Variety is the spice of life… and we’re back to Harriet’s confrontation with Georges in this extract. If you want to read more of Chapter One of The Light Fantastic, it’s on my web-log Anybody who feels inspired to write a chapter, please get in touch as soon as possible, especially if you’re a newcomer to writing, I want to encourage anyone to have a go at writing in whatever form they choose, whatever length they choose. I’m waiting to hear from you!
Back to The Space Between, which I was quite unable to stay away from for very long. To slip into Harriet’s shoes again was an easy task but also a painful one, which is perhaps inevitable. I’m having to tread very carefully here because I don’t want to give away too much of the ending and I want to keep readers interested in what’s going on so that they can understand the loss Harriet feels, I wanted to spend a long time building up the atmosphere of the Whitechapel silent night, for I felt this was an essential part of the loneliness Harriet would feel at this point. Harriet’s realisation of her loss is something I wanted the reader to be able to feel completely, in exactly the same way as Harriet did… and this meant that is was necessary to build up slowly to the climax, which is yet to come. The time of year in which all this takes place is very important – it all happens in the space between Christmas and new year, which is also Jack’s birthday. I hope readers will still remember back to the very beginning of The Spark , which opens with Harriet going into labour… and so The Space Between sort of comes full circle.
I found it particularly difficult to write Harriet’s head on meeting with Georges, because I felt things were so much different now. At the beginning of the 20th century there wouldn’t have been much of a life for a poor woman alone, so the wrench Harriet feels when Georges leaves would be a completely negative feeling of loss rather than an anger as you’d expect today when women have much more freedom and confidence to their lives in their own hands and change the shape of them in whatever way they choose. So I wanted to get this feeling across powerfully, but not too powerfully if you see what I mean! Also, I don’t want the novel to actually end here… the story goes on a bit further, and so I’ve got to keep the reader interested and wanting to keep reading.
THE SPACE BETWEEN
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2011
The following is an extract from Nicola’s work-in-progress-trilogy.
There was no way of knowing how many hours she had spent lying on her mattress up there, perhaps it was too late already, perhaps he had gone. Twisting the door handle hastily, she stepped out onto the stairs, wrapping her shawl around her. Her bare feet made no noise as she moved silently towards the very dim light that was issuing from all around the edges of the kitchen door… a flickering light, perhaps just the fire light? She pushed the door very slowly and carefully, willing it not to creak. The silence was very important to her at that moment – to break it would be dangerous, very dangerous indeed. It was difficult to make out Georges’s figure for a while, for he was sitting so still with his head resting on the table in front of him, that he might easily have been asleep… in fact, he was asleep, Harriet realised. She moved towards the table with the same very slow, very silent treads, as though pulled along by an invisible thread… she was so close to him now, that she was able to reach out her fingers and touch the black hairs on his head and his face, the gentle bristles of his beard. She remembered the sensation so vividly that she almost felt the same pain running through her now like an electric current, all the way through her veins towards her heart. And what then? Her heart didn’t know how to react. She pulled her hand away from his face hastily as he began to stir, his eyes flickering slowly open. She took a step back as he raised his head, rubbing a hand across his face.
“Hello, Harriet,” he said, his soft accent touching the words and making them into a lullaby. It was as if all the time between them had buckled and become nothing. Her fingers played nervously with the edge of her shawl; she couldn’t look away from him for a second, should his image vanish. “How are you?”
For a moment Harriet was tempted to laugh, there seemed to be nothing else she could do that could possibly take the question seriously. But her smile was fleeting upon her face, like a ghost smile, disappearing easily as she remembered the reality of their long separation. She shook her head numbly.
“Why did you come back, Georges?”
With a huge sigh, Georges got to his feet and moved over to place the kettle over the smouldering fire.
“I had to… I had a few things to straighten out with Wilf… and with you, of course. I probably won’t be coming back here again, you see.”
“I know. Jack told me.” Her fingers twined the fringes of her shawl tightly around them, so tightly that she thought they might draw blood… and this would be nothing but a relief, to know that she was still alive, her heart still beating, keeping time. “I just don’t understand why, Georges, I just don’t understand!”
His back remained turned to her.
“I didn’t mean it to be like this, I didn’t plan it. Once I got back to America I realised that’s what I want, I’m sorry, Harriet… I’m sorry you had to hear it from Jack and not me, but –” he shrugged, turning to face her. “I couldn’t stand the thought of telling you myself. I’m sorry.”
She kept her eyes carefully lowered so they wouldn’t give anything of herself away, she kept all of her emotions to herself, for he didn’t deserve to see a single shred leak out onto the surface.
“I see. So you just chose to keep me waiting all these years, expecting you to come back.”
“I didn’t choose to do so. There was nothing I could do.”
“Well, you could have told me!” She looked up suddenly. She could feel the anger rush out of her like arrows pointing in his direction. “You could have come back here years ago and told me! You could have written!”
“No, I just couldn’t do that. Harriet, I’m sorry.”
Georges picked up his cup from the table and very carefully made himself some coffee; every movement he made seemed to Harriet so slow and deliberate, as if his actions were already dictated and set out, as if he was an actor playing a part, acting out a script written years before. Still, she could almost feel the blood being drawn from her fingers to the surface… she felt herself falling, falling through space and time. She stared at Georges’s face, and she thought she had seen it all before, back in that room in Whitechapel with the baby Jack lying next to her in the cradle. All the years seemed to peel away from each other like wall paper, curling up and falling uselessly to the floor, smelling of damp and decay like mushrooms in the cellar. Finally Georges put down the kettle after pouring water into his own cup. His eyes seemed cold and hard to her.
“Would you like some tea?” he said with an almost audible crunch, a hard sound of two objects grating against each other. The arrows flew out from Harriet and she felt they must pierce into him somehow. She wanted him to feel the same pain as she herself felt.
“No, I wouldn’t,” she said quietly, turning away from him. The sight of him seemed suddenly unbearable, she wanted no more. Looking down at her feet she realised that her toes were blue with cold, so she moved her feet quickly in order to get the circulation running. Moving once again with resolution, towards the door, an icy sensation of numbness overwhelmed her, it came as something of a relief at the time. She didn’t even look back at him, every step she took upstairs seemed measured and staged, tinged with ice. She dressed automatically, every movement quick, even without consciousness. She laced up her boots with no thought. Looking out of the window over the silence and stillness of Angel Ally, she felt the completeness of her desolation. Turning away quickly, she left the room and passed by Jack’s bedroom door, hesitating before continuing on down the stairs and out of the Freedom Press building.
MORE FROM THE SPACE BETWEEN NEXT MONTH
Welcome to Andy’s bit…
We’ve had some wonderful weather recently and Nic and I have been enjoying it. We went to Dunham Park near Altrincham last Saturday and spent a couple of hours walking round the deer park and the gardens. I think my favourite bit was the water wheel on the old flour mill in the grounds. I’ve seen it running several times and I’m convinced that it could be used to generate electricity, at least enough to charge the batteries on the electric buggy that they use to run people between the car parks and the house. The bods that run it of course tell me that it’s the wrong kind of power to convert to electricity – although it was converted to a saw mill some time ago.
I’ve talked about this idea before, but perhaps it’s too simple. I’m sure that people who drive long distances in their cars must create as a by product a certain amount of electricity which could be stored in a battery and then used to power the lights in their house or other gadgets such as a computer. I also think that all the components to do this are readily available to buy, it’s simply a matter of sourcing them and assembling a product. If any budding entrepreneur is reading this - it’s yours to develop, just remember to send me my ten per cent of the profits. Thank you.
MORE FROM URBAN SCRAWL ANDY IN SEPTEMBER
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