September 2011 Issue 132
ZIGGY BARGE TRIP
Now, it seems that the end of summer has actually arrived and even turned into Autumn what with the continual rain outside. I must admit though, I’m not sorry to say goodbye to August - it’s been a fairly stressful month generally speaking - though it certainly had its moments. One of these was a really peaceful barge trip earlier in the month, when the rain was not absolutely falling! In fact it was even fairly warm and very tranquil, that was the main thing - just being away from the continual traffic. Though despite my initial thoughts that a barge trip would be totally unexciting and even boring, just sailing along the canal in Marple it didn’t grab me at once - in fact it turned out to be really beautiful and relaxing… plus I could also feel the movement of the barge which was lovely. I was glad I was able to sit outside all the time, and feel the countryside passing by - even if I was aware constantly of not being able to see it. I enjoyed this trip much more than the one I did twenty-five years ago in fact - which just goes to show. That time the barge hadn’t been a Ziggy one, so I was carried onto it by a friend. I remember that I’d just had a car crash and so my leg was totally shrouded in bandages… this might well explain some of my bad feelings about barges I suppose.
CAERNARFON BOAT RUN
Another boat trip which I greatly enjoyed took place a few weeks later when I went to Wales with my mum and Brigitte. This boat was a slightly bigger one than the barge, but never the less I was still able to feel the motion of the water especially when another boat passed us. The boat went along the Menai Straits just about up to where it joined the Irish sea and then turned round and went back to Caernarfon Castle. On the way we passed Anglesey which I had always thought was a piece of land sticking out from the rest of Wales - but in fact is an island, just joined by a bridge to the mainland. There was the Welsh flag flying above the castle which I greatly like the design of… a red dragon on a green and white background, really beautiful. Although we walked all round Caernarfon Castle I wasn’t that impressed, I wanted to go inside the towers all around the walls but… no go for Ziggy, which I should be used to by now. That’s the most annoying thing about these beautiful old stone castles… they’re so often Ziggy hostile. I suppose they never used to have Ziggy’s in those days, so I’ll let them off.
TOUCHING THE DRAGON
After the castle we drove over the bridge onto Anglesey, where we had been told about a butterfly house… and as the weather wasn’t that beautiful, we thought that we would stay inside. In fact there weren’t too many butterflies inside the house, but there were quite a few other interesting animals in tanks. Although animals in tanks don’t mean too much to me anymore, I was allowed to actually touch and hold a few of them which made my day. I’ve always really liked lizards, so was overjoyed when I held Tom, a Bearded Dragon who stood very still in my hand, just moving his feet very slightly and looking round. Although I liked Tom very much, I thought the next creature was even better… a snake though not a python or cobra as I would have liked, but only a corn snake. Nevertheless it was lovely, because he sort of kissed me with his tongue which was a very nice feeling, sort of like being tickled. The final creature I held was a soft and furry one… a Lion Haired rabbit which was wriggling and squirming on my lap. I was very sad that I couldn’t see it because I imagine it must have looked so weird with long hair on its head and short hair on it’s body.
We decided to visit the nearby Portmeirion, which I heard was used for filming the cult TV series in the sixties, The Prisoner. I don’t remember much about The Prisoner except for there being a giant bubble in it, we did visit The prisoner souvenir shop… but I was much more impressed with Portmeirion itself which I believe was built in the 1920’s in the style of an old Roman town, with lots of pillars, fountains and paintings all over the buildings of fish, mermaids and other designs. We went for a walk along a costal path almost right down to the sea, on the way passing a statue of Lord Nelson… I thought this was very strange, I don’t know why they had a statue of the chap there. It must be something to do with it being a port, I suppose… but nonetheless I liked the strangeness of having his statue stuck in the middle of nowhere.
STROKING THE LLAMA
Before we left Wales the next day we visited a nearby farm where I could touch some more animals. We had been staying at Porthmadog where my mum has a caravan - although the caravan is actually Ziggy unfriendly, so Brigitte and I had to stay in the town itself. The farm had quite a few animals which didn’t seem to be usual farm animals… such as Llamas, and guinea pigs, both of which I touched. But my favourite was the kid I held on my lap, although I also liked the collie puppy - my mum wanted to take the puppy home but she wasn’t allowed! As it began to rain in earnest, we got back in the car and drove back to England. It’s been so long since I’ve last seen a map of Britain, I couldn’t visualise exact dimensions of where England began or the shape of Wales. I wish that someone would make a map with the borders of the country so they stood out, so that I could feel them. A really good idea would be a globe where countries were heated from the inside according to the climate, so that the deserts were red hot and the south pole freezing… this would be a wonderful way of being able to visualise the shape of them all without sight. Maybe I should patent these ideas before someone nicks them. Anyway, when we returned back home and met up finally with Andy, we discovered he’d been having his own fun time in Swindon which perhaps he’ll tell you about in his column.
NO GO SNOWDON
I was very disappointed that I couldn’t do the only thing I wanted to do in Wales as the steam train that takes people up Snowdon was all booked up. You must know by now my passion is mountains, which was increased when I discovered there was a steam train which goes half way up Snowdon, then the train is shifted on to a rack and pinion system, because of the steepness, and takes passengers right to the summit. I was very excited about this, naturally enough, and it would have been an added bonus to get out of the train at the summit and experience that wonderful sensation of height… but unfortunately I’d left it too late to book one of the two Ziggy spots. I have every intention of making this trip up Snowdon next time, maybe even with Andy!
THE BIRTHDAY BOYS
We’re nearing the end of Beryl Bainbridge’s novel which both Ruth and I are really enjoying. There are five different sections to the novel, each by one of the chaps who actually went to the South Pole in 1912. I don’t think any of them returned… but I’m a bit mystified as to what happened to Taffy Evans as I know that Scott, Bowers and Wilson perished in the their tent. And of course we all know about Titus Oates’s infamous final words to the remaining chaps inside the tent: “I’m just going out side - I may be some time…” Actually, we are just reading the section by Titus Oates, and he’s talking about how much he dreads removing his socks for fear of finding his toes in them- though I suppose it’s no joking matter having frostbite in both your feet, which was why he decided to take his own life rather than keep holding up the other three on the way back from the South Pole. I really like the way Ms. Bainbridge has chosen to use the birthdays as the link between all the pieces… it’s a reminder that all the chaps weren’t just heroes but also common human mortals all celebrating birthdays - and sometimes not even their own.
Still talking of ice and snow, this next chapter of the Raw Meat Story I started last month was set in the Alps though I was prepared for it to move somewhere else completely in the next chapter. Chapter two has now been completed and you can read it on my Weblog - the writer is Rebecca from Melbourne - so I suppose this is a world wide writing project. I won’t tell you anything much about the chapter except its title, so that you’ll have to read it for yourself… and then do feel inspired and confident enough to get in touch with me and carry on the story, to take it whatever way you choose. You can use any of the characters already mentioned on the settings, but you don’t have to… don’t worry about not being an experienced writer, that doesn’t matter. I look forward to hearing from the next writer. You can email me at: nicbat3963(at)aol(dot)com
FRIEDREICH: THE INHERITANCE
This is the title we’ve suggested to the rest of the FA literary group, though whether they take us up on it, is yet to be seen! The title they were talking about using last week was The Inheritance of Friedreich, so it’s only a slight variation but it sounds much better, in my opinion. Rebecca is one of the 27 writers in the group, who are scattered all over the world, but mainly based in Spain. I’ve made quite a few contacts through the project and that seems to be one of the best things about it, there’s such a lot of undeveloped creativity there, though whether this is specifically linked with FA is debatable! Perhaps that’s an unexplored theory, that FA goes hand in hand with creativity… or more likely this is simply a product of being in Ziggy, or just being on the sidelines. Anyway, back to the project – I don’t think they’ve actually published the novel Online yet, in fact I’m not sure if it’s quite complete, but I hope they’re going to take up our suggestion of starting a blog to advertise all the individual writers, in which each writer could advertise their own work. Also Maria, the brains behind the project, could write some background about the novel including links with Ataxia. From this single idea of Maria’s, so many other things have become possible, if we just use the means we have at our disposal – of course I’m talking about the internet.
WHEELIE WOBBLY WALK
Forget the internet for a moment – now the letters WWW have an entirely new meaning. This wonderful name was given to the Ziggy sponsored walk which takes place in a couple of weeks in aid of Ataxia UK. But anyway, I think it’s such a great name, which should attract some attention. This event is going to be held at Dunham Massey on September 24th at midday, so do come along and meet us! As I’ve mentioned before, several of us in the Manchester Ataxia group are in Ziggies, though most people have Cerebella Ataxia and they’re the wobbly ones, using sticks to get around. This is because Cerebella usually attacks later in life, thought the symptoms are similar to FA, both affect the coordination. Anyway, maybe I’ll see you later this month for the walk?
I’ve been advised to be quite honest with you in describing the way I’m feeling about writing in general at the moment, and more specifically The Space Between. I just can’t bring myself to go on and complete the novel, according to the ideas I’ve got in my head, which would take a bit of time and effort to bring to completion… this is my problem at the present time, because I just can’t get up the enthusiasm necessary if I want to bring together all the separate stories going on in the novel. Andy has suggested I just finish the thing right now and leave it, if it’s becoming a drag to write, but this goes right against my instincts as a writer!. Having come this far with the novel, to break off and leave the story incomplete is unthinkable to me, I just can’t do it, but neither can I go on and finish it off properly, so I think what I’ll probably do is leave the novel for a while and come back to it later with renewed vigour.
Part of my reluctance to continue with The Space Between at the moment is because it’s been going on far too long and now that the end is in sight, I need to finish off according to the ideas I’ve got, which will take some work that I just can’t face doing! But writing when I don’t want to write is a total waste of time, as I’ve learned from experience. Of course I want to do justice to the novel and bring it to a natural end… so I think I’m going to leave it temporarily and give it the breathing space I need.
And so, this extract is from the start of a new chapter, making a change from having written about Harriet so much in the previous chapter, I’ve brought back Gustave, who’s just met Harriet at the Freedom Press the previous month. Although it was really refreshing to write about a different character, I’ve spent so long with Harriet it was difficult to remember what was going on with the other characters, which might explain my lack of enthusiasm for continuing the novel. Bringing back Gustave and his opium gave me more ideas about finishing off the novel. I’m still thinking of bringing back the Pissaro’s, but haven’t reached any definite conclusion yet. I’ve always liked the opium link, and I think that would tie in with a way of ending things in one strand of the story. But here I wanted to take Gustave up onto the Tower Bridge walkway, simply because I thought it was such a fantastic place, high up above the road bridge itself, so that you could walk across even when the bridge is raised. It became such a notorious spot for both suicides and prostitution that it was closed down around about 1910, I thought that I could use it in my novel as it was both a piece of history and also an incredible place, so high up that the feeling of being up there must have been like being in another world completely. I can quite easily understand why it was such a notorious spot! As soon as I stumbled on the facts about the walkway, I knew that I just had to use it in my novel.
This piece came about after a hasty rethink I had to have when I realised things weren’t going to work out according to plan. There was no way that Harriet would survive a fall from the walkway into the Thames. I did intend Gustave to jump into the river and save her, so this is only a slight alteration! I toyed with the idea of having Harriet arrested for attempting Suicide – also as part of my original idea but I decided against it as a policeman would have no evidence, so would have most likely have just left Harriet to her own devices. This meant that all my plans for Harriet being incarcerated for the next few years had to change pretty drastically… but in fact this wasn’t a total disaster at all because I was never really that keen on putting Harriet in prison, I just didn’t like it for some reason, and so I was quite relieved to drop it! anyway, judge for yourself how it’s worked out, I’d be interested to hear any other opinions.
PS: TAFFY EVANS
Yesterday we finished reading The Birthday Boys – A brilliant last chapter by Titus Oates answering my question as to what happened to Taffy Evans. Apparently, on the way back from the south pole things began to get pretty hairy for all the men, and they were all in a pretty bad way… the first fatality of the five who actually made it to the pole was Taffy Evans, whose hand seems to have come right off… also he had frostbite in both feet and so it was no great surprise that he died. When I read that I remembered the scene from the film Scott of The Antarctic where he dies and is buried. A tragic end – but an absolutely wonderful book!
THE SPACE BETWEEN
– THE STORY SO FAR
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2011
As 1907 begins, Harriet has just had a final meeting with Georges, who has now gone back to America, leaving Harriet in Angel Ally at the Freedom Press building. Georges has given Wilde’s original manuscript to his wife who intends to sell it. Meanwhile, the other copy of Wilde’s story has been given to Kathleen Bruce by Charles Shannon as a parting gift, though this is not known by Ricketts, who thinks Shannon still has it. when we last saw Harriet she was climbing up on to the walkway above Tower Bridge, now read on…
CHAPTER 7: 1907
As Gustave left the den on that frosty night and turned down the street, he could smell the fumes of opium still clinging onto his clothes and lifting the top of his head so that he smiled to himself despite the cold of the air against his face. The sharp chill of it brought him to his senses a little, just a little… for that sweet smell still lingered all around, and he had no great desire to obliterate it from his memory. He paused for a moment on the corner of the street, listening; he thought he could hear the church bells still tolling, thought he wasn’t sure why. Then a couple of men on the other side of the waters edge called out, “Happy New Year!” and he suddenly remembered exactly where he was and what he had been doing at the den. In fact the sharp clarity of his memories came back to him so vividly that he was sure he could still taste and savour the cigarettes and pipes he had smoked. Even though the fumes still filled his head, lingering in his consciousness and refusing to dissipate, he felt quite clear headed now - sure of where he was going. These Limehouse streets crisscrossed each other as he headed towards Whitechapel, but as he approached the high street he felt his steps turn towards the river with a determination that he couldn’t explain; it seemed all so foreign to him, this strange feeling of determination which gripped him suddenly and guided his steps for him. He had no control over it, no say at all.
Moving quickly along through the streets of Whitechapel, Gustave didn’t pause to consider exactly where he was going; he just knew with a certainty which was quite unnerving that he must go to the bridge… and then go up, go up as far as he could. He couldn’t explain this knowledge to himself or where it came from, it was just there and he had to obey. It didn’t even occur to him that the opium may be influencing his mind, what if it was anyway? He must obey the command. So he thrust his cold hands into his pockets and headed towards Tower Bridge without argument.
As he climbed further and further up the spiral stone staircase, he felt his head begin to clear and he wondered if the height of the air around him had anything to do with this. The pull on his steps became sharper so that it seemed he was being drawn by an invisible magnet. Those winding steps seemed to twist round endlessly, though eventually he reached the open doorway leading out onto the walkway running over Tower Bridge. He hesitated for a moment before stepping out, for the walkway was completely dark and silent – though the wind up here buffered all around him so that it was difficult to keep any sense of proportion or even sanity. He was suddenly frightened, he felt so completely alone… there seemed to be nobody else here on the walkway, or even in the entire world… he couldn’t tell exactly where he was, he was just gripping the iron railing to show him where the edge was… just that, and the wind buffering all around, confusing his senses.
As he moved carefully along, still gripping the iron railing, he was somehow just able to make out her figure lit up intermittently by a weak light from further along the bridge. He could actually feel the warmth of her body as his icy hands touched it, for she was sitting on the railing with her back turned towards him so that she seemed to be leaning back against the wind, supported by it. Without thinking Gustave seized her shawl and her arm before she could lean back any further and fall. Dragging her away from the railing, he shouted, “Are you alright?” But the noisiness of the wind swallowed his words and the woman didn’t seem to hear him. She shook her head in confusion. She seemed to be uncertain on her feet… tottering, unbalanced… and so Gustave placed his arm around her shoulders and guided her back towards the entrance tower.
MORE FROM THE SPACE BETWEEN IN OCTOBER
Welcome to Andy’s bit…
When Nic went to Wales with her Mum and Brigitte, Jack and I went down to Lower Shaw Farm in Swindon for the Summer Activities Week. It was a special week and we met some old friends and made some new ones.
Everybody tells me that I need to get out more often, so we Nic and Kim, my sister went to a new open mic night in a pub in Manchester. But guess what? It was an upstairs event in a little room above the bar. I really should have checked if it was Ziggy friendly before we went. Such is life, I guess.
On the blogging front, I’m taking part in this September’s Haiku Challenge where you simply have to write a Haiku style poem each day and post it on your blog. They give you a one word prompt for each of the thirty days. I do daft things like:
Round and round she sails
Fighting with Don Quixote
At the Moulin Rouge
Kiss me quick
If you really want to read any more of my silly Haikuesque nonsense then you’ll be very welcome over at my blog, but please leave a comment so that I know you’ve been.
MORE FROM URBAN SCRAWL ANDY NEXT TIMETHANK YOU FOR READING RAW MEAT