February 2012 Issue 137
SEEING THE LIGHT
I was really glad to see the back of January, which brought absolutely nothing but stress and illness… generally best left completely alone. But having said that February seems to be so far only slightly better… still I suppose the main thing is you can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, if not actually catch it. Talking of which I’ve just decided that Catching The Light is going to be the next book to serialise on my Weblog… following straight on from The Reluctant Vampire and it’s new alternative ending. By the way I’d welcome any comments anyone of my readers could make on this, as you must realise by now how essential it is to me to receive some sort of feedback from my readers following whatever I’ve been serialising on my Weblog. There’s a space at the end of each post where you can leave comments… so please do, I’d really appreciate anything you’d say.
DEATH OF THE VAMPIRE
I was delighted by the impact that The Reluctant Vampire made… it was so exciting to me to realise it was being read avidly by enthusiastic readers from such places as Russia, Australia and even good old Manchester. And the really nice thing was that as soon as I put a new chapter Online people began reading at once… it was almost as if they’d been waiting with enthusiasm. So such a response has spurred me on to follow the vampire with my little fairytale Catching the Light… and then to follow it with the more ambitious novel Killing Time. I’ll say more about this later on in Raw Meat… now, back to my stressful January.
This precious liquid turned out to lie at the heart a lot of my problems… as I said, January was extremely stressful in one way or another, best forgotten in fact. Having said that I’m going to tell you this incredible story about how I cleared up many of the problems I was having with sleeplessness and leg spasms by simply drinking water. A friend actually suggested to me that I had a water infection which was causing the dreadful spasms and many sleepless nights which were rapidly beginning to get to both me and Andy. Ever since I began drinking water all the time I began to sleep much better, and the spasms became controlled as they usually are.
It’s that extreme cold which is beginning to get to me now that February is here and although there’s a glimmer of light on the horizon, it’s still so dark. It’s that horrible feeling that you just can’t face going out at all that’s beginning to piss me off by now. I can’t see any way around the black - especially as there’s no way of escaping abroad in the foreseeable future for me… I just don’t know what to do. I’m trying my best to wait for spring, but it just seems so remote at the moment. I hoped that the end of January would mean a slight raise in temperature… but no such luck. I suppose this cold is nothing compared with the Antarctic, but that’s absolutely no comfort any more. You’d think that this weather would make it easier for me to remember and write Raw Meat, but I’m afraid I’d forgotten all about it because… I suppose I could blame my problems with sleeping, and the confusion which has remained long after the water infection has been cleared up. I’m not quite sure where the source of this confusion lies… sometimes I’m beginning to doubt my own sanity though not sure why. Let me elaborate…
That very special state of sanctuary which eluded me totally for so long during the last month, has at last come back to me. now it’s returned, it brings its own problems… at least as far as coming back to reality goes. Although I’ve always cherished my ability to lose myself in dreams, I now find it’s a struggle to disentangle them from reality so that I’m constantly in a state of confusion… did something really happen, or have I just dreamt it?? dreaming so vividly that it’s quite frightening sometimes when I wake up in the night, and Andy can’t understand what I’m trying to say, I’m quite incoherent… even on occasion in tears! I want to put this ability to dream so vividly to some constructive use by keeping a dream diary, which should make for some interesting reading, I hope.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAN
One of the most positive things that happened in January was my sister Jan’s 50th birthday… so I’m going to dedicate this issue to her, though I suppose it’s a bit late now. Her friend Jim is taking her to Sri Lanka next month, to see a cricket match, though I’m sure they’ll see a bit more of the country than the cricket field. It should be a damn sight warmer than here… which I’m extremely envious about.
THE ALICE EXHIBITION
Although I first heard about the exhibition in Liverpool of paintings related to Lewis Carroll’s best loved story right at the start of January, for reasons I’ve already explained, it was during the last few days of the month that we actually managed to make the train journey, still battling against the extreme cold. Although I was hoping that the exhibition would include paintings directly related to the Alice books, I was actually disappointed to find that they weren’t generally, most of them seemed to have nothing to do with the Alice books at all but were merely painted by vague friends of Carroll. I fount the most memorable pictures there were by Tenniel himself from both Alice books. While I remember vividly in great detail, as I myself copied this illustration from Through the Looking Glass some 20 years ago – The White Knight, which shows Alice walking alongside the white knight on his horse, which is hung with crazy objects, such as turnips, a telescope and a pair of bellows. I still have my copy of the illustration down stairs, and still remember every detail… I loved Tennille’s style, with its simple black ink lines, which seemed to capture that Victorian feel perfectly, I just hope I’ve done Mr Tennille’s illustration justice.
CATCHING THE LIGHTI should make some effort to introduce my fairy tale here, as I’m going to put the first part Online tomorrow… though it’s a bit of a struggle to remember it clearly. I could blame this on the feelings of confusion and forgetfulness that I’ve been speaking of. Slowly it’s beginning to return to me… the setting is a remote Irish peat bog covered in mist all year round. Entering right through the mist, we come upon the palace beautiful on an island, and an assortment of strange characters such as a man made entirely of wood, an elf with green pointed ears and a character with a literally flaming orange beard – no prizes for guessing who those characters are based on! The island is ruled by King Oscar, the gentle giant, along with his beautiful wife, Queen Constance, who has a face like a deer. King Oscar and his friends Robbie the elf, and Charles of the flaming beard go into the nearby woodland and find a secret glade… I’ll leave the rest to you to discover! I was really pleased with this short story and found it really easy to write something which was so completely new to me, as it was so unlike anything I’ve usually written. Though it’s based very loosely on the life of Wilde and his circle, it also involves characters from Wilde’s own writing… and so the whole effect is an entanglement of historical characters, fictional ones and fantasy ones. I do hope I’ve whetted your appetite sufficiently to make you want to have a look at my Weblog. As always, I greatly welcome any comments you can make!
I found this piece quite exciting to write for two reasons – not only did it deal with first my old favourite Scott talking about his forthcoming trip to the Antarctic, but also because we finally meet with the real meaty heart of the novel, the Wilde short story The Portrait of Mr. W H. This was the first time for ages that the story itself was met head on… so to have the beautiful volume designed by Ricketts and Shannon actually in Kathleen’s hands filled me with the same sense of tingling excitement that I remember so vividly when I very first discovered by chance that Kathleen Bruce later became none other than Scott’s wife. This incredible coincidence suddenly had to be picked up on, as I’ve always wanted to set the final part of the trilogy in the Antarctic, though before I had no reason for doing so. So, all that needed to be done by me was to embroider upon the relationship between her and Shannon as there was only a good friendship between them… but whose to say exactly how far their involvement went? as passions always come and go so fleetingly. As a historical fact all that is known about Kathleen Bruce is that she first met Scott in a London hotel and that they were fairly passionately in love initially there could be no doubt. The South Pole expedition came after such a relatively short time and I was seized by such a bizarre conscience that I felt I had to put right then, even though I had and still have very little idea about the final part of the trilogy… I just hope it’s going to come as soon as I begin to write it. This is the most magical thing about writing it just means that you’ve got to act blindly and take a plunge into god knows what… which is really pretty hairy as you will be able to imagine. I’m relying on my imagination to a large degree because I don’t actually know so much about either of them, factually, but it seems obvious that they were drawn together pretty instantly by agreeing to get married the following year… so I’m assuming that they were both besotted with each other… or at least Scott was with Kathleen, judging by the amount of letters he sent her from the Antarctic. I still haven’t yet read Blake’s biography and I still remain undecided whether to do so, or to simply write in my novel trusting only on my imagination it was not so easy for me to see why Kathleen was so taken with the captain as a scientist – they don’t apparently seem to have anything in common… unless I could work on Scott’s obvious obsession with the Antarctic – I could use this single minded obsession as a resource the initial attraction between them. So I’ve used that in this piece, then there was the difficulty of making Scott interesting immediately in Wilde so that I could bring the book into the conversation without sounding too contrived, it had to sound quite natural. As I presumed Scott was obviously a man of some intelligence despite being a scientist!! I still have every intention of going down to Cambridge with my twin sister to visit the Scott museum.
The Space Between
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2012
There are just two copies of Wilde’s short story… one of these has been taken overseas to America by Georges, while the other has been made into a book by Ricketts and Shannon. A few years ago Shannon gave this volume to Kathleen as a seal of their commitment to each other – but since then the passion between them has cooled and Kathleen, keeps forgetting to return the book although he keeps asking. Finally she has found it and laid it aside to remember the next day… But then she receives an unexpected visitor… Now read on:
Chapter Seven 1907 cont.
That evening Kathleen was startled when she heard somebody knocking at the door and wondered if it could be Sarah, having forgotten her key once again. Putting down her cup of coffee, she went to open the door and opened it, allowing the frosty night air to intrude. She stood staring stupidly for some moments, without seeming to recognise the Captain, with his familiar Navy jacket and cap, which he lifted ceremoniously in greeting… but his smile was so very wide that Kathleen was filled instantly with delight at his obvious spontaneity.
“And may I say good evening to you, Miss Bruce? I do hope I’m calling at a convenient time.”
Her laughter bubbled to the surface and overflowed; she shook her head, stepping back and ushering him inside.
“Not at all, Robert – I’m really glad to see you… any time at all would be convenient for me. Do come in – you’ll have to excuse the mess of the place, I’m afraid, as I wasn’t expecting any callers and you can imagine how we artists live.”
Robert Scott followed her into the drawing room but didn’t take the seat, she offered.
“No, that’s alright, I’m afraid I can’t stay too long. I just called round as I’ll be in London for the next few days… I’m giving a series of lectures a the Geological Society, about our forthcoming trip to the Antarctic, which seems more definite now. I just want to publicise the event as much as I can, to try to raise both interest and finance. The trip is set for 1910.”
As he looked at her, his eyes were filled with excitement. She was infected by such great enthusiasm, how could she possibly not be?
“Don’t worry, it’s just lovely to see you again, Captain Scott. May I perhaps come to one of your talks? I’d very much like to.”
“Well, of course… but I thought you might prefer to go to the theatre, as I believe there’s a comedy on which you might find amusing and perhaps slightly more entertaining than one of my lectures.”
“Well, can’t we do both? I like the sound of the comedy… do you know anything more about it?” she asked, touching his hand lightly. “You should stop being so formal with me, please drop the Miss Bruce right away.”
He nodded enthusiastically, his smile returning with equal vigour.
“Of course, if you agree in return always to call me Con, as all my friends do. I’d like to take you to see The Importance of Being Ernest, by Oscar Wilde. I’m a great enthusiast of his.”
“Oh, I’d love to see anything by Wilde.” She stopped suddenly, remembering the book she had just laid so carefully down upon the bookshelf upstairs. “By a strange coincidence, I’m just reading a book of his, The Portrait of Mr WH, which you might be interested in if you’re a Wilde enthusiast. The friend that lent it to me used to know him personally and the story hasn’t been widely published. Would you like to see it?”
Scott’s face lit up.
“I’d be very grateful.”
Without further ado, Kathleen turned and ran out of the room and up the stairs. When she returned with the small red volume, she crossed the room and pressed it into his hand… she was almost overcome with relief at losing such a burden as it had become. She turned away, afraid that Scott might realise what a precious an rare book he held in his hands. She didn’t want him to know – she wanted him simply to take the story. Scott carefully examined the little book, turning each beautiful page with reverence. When he raised his eyes back to Kathleen, they were filled with confusion.
“Kathleen, it’s a beautiful book – you should take great care of it. though I’ll admit I’d love to read the story myself, I’ve read everything else by Wilde I should think. Such a work of art, I’m quite sure you don’t want to lend it to me.”
Kathleen nodded in determination.
“No, that’s quite alright… you should take it. Please, take your time.”
She reached out and took both of Scott’s hands, urging him to close the book – she didn’t want anything more to do with it. Scott closed the book reluctantly, but still seemed slightly hesitant as he placed it carefully inside his jacket.
“Well, if you’re absolutely certain. I’ll return it as soon as I can. Thank you.”
More from Nicola’s work in progress trilogy in March.
Welcome to Andy’s bit…
FEBRUARY HAIKU CHALLENGE
Twenty nine Haiku in twenty nine days is the target for the first of this years Online poetry challenges. I’ve been writing one each day and reading and commenting on the other contributors work as it comes in. When I say Haiku, they are not brilliant, they are more Haiku style, if the truth were told. But as ever, the whole idea of the project is to get people writing and communicating, and to that end it works. I of course have come up with some weird stuff and you can read them all here if you so desire on my SweetTalkingGuy bloggage.
More from Urban Scrawl Andy in March.
Many thanks for reading Raw Meat!!!